So, as the crushing boredom that has enveloped all of your lives can assure you, the 2011 Ottawa Fringe Festival is over. And I don’t know about you, but I had me a whale of a time (MiCasa pun thoroughly intended). 11 days and nights, 40 new shows seen (plus five repeat views indulged), more beer tickets than I can count, 1 highly unearned media pass (resulting in 1 extra-large guilt trip), and enough good memories of great theatre to last me a good long while yet. Let’s dig in:
FRINGE CRUSHES: Okay, well, no. I mean, sure, I had some of those, everyone does, right? But to be honest, I’d be a little embarrassed about sharing them here so…no. Thanks, but no. What’s next?
SHOWS YOU SHOULD HAVE SEEN (BUT PROBABLY DIDN’T): Some AMAZING pieces of Fringe seemed to just fly right under everyone’s collective radar this year, and hopefully some of you made it out to these gems. Like Duncan Cameron’s VAGABOND, a show he practically had to rebuild from scratch in record time (plus enduring two last-minute venue changes) and it still made me laugh out loud. Or Matt Smith’s brilliantly low-key ALL MY CHILDREN, a straight-up lesson in acting, writing, storytelling, the works. An absolute master at work. Also, a lot of folks seemed not to notice that the DALE BEANER AND THE TURTLE BOY lads, Devon Hyland and Connor Thompson, were back this year with the hilarious SEARCH FOR A REASON FOR A MURDER, and ya done missed out good if you didn’t catch them.
For some bizarre reason, Katie Hood’s wonderful one-hander THE ANIMAL SHOW wasn’t drawing the crowds it should have…easily one of my fav’rits from the Fringe this year. The gorgeous French show LE RIRE DE LA MER wasn’t packing them in neither, despite doing gangbusters in Montreal. Now, I forgive you if you didn’t make it out to Luna Allison’s FALLING OPEN…a 15 seat capacity DOES put a bit of a damper on attendance.
But she has plans to remount it elsewhere, and you can still help out in that regard by donating here. Come on, help the arts out when the Govt is doing their best to hurt them…don’t let Salerno be the ONLY one Fucking Stephen Harper.
FRINGE CRUSHES: …what? Wait, no. I already said no. Moving on.
FAV’RIT ENSEMBLES: That’s better. Let’s see, who were the impressive gangs up there this year? Well, the Sexual Tyranosaurus (aka Sex T-Rex) impressed like gangbusters in their improvised tough-guy action movie CALLAGHAN! Likewise homegrown heroes Crush Improv with their guest-driven SPOTLIGHT ON… show.
Jessie, Vince and Fiona from Piece’o Pie Productions and their best of venue EXS AND OHS made me eager to see more from them in the future. And my wee gangsters from the Ottawa Theatre School proved themselves as killers once again with David Hersh’s mindbending GLITCH…Diego, Greg, Kaitlin and Kydi are gonna go far (Henry too, and I’m sorry he couldn’t be here for this one…they grow up so fast!)
FRINGE CRUSHES: Would you fuck right off? I said NO.
FAV’RIT PERFOMERS: So many joyous and generous ladies and lads doing their thing up there this year, it’s hard to narrow it down, but here are a few of the folks who made me smile with they way they worked their mojo. Gents like Allan Girod of WHEN HARRY MET HARRY, a man physically incapable of making you dislike him. Or Jordan Moffat, doing double duty in PLAYING DEAD and SOMETHING WITH VIRGINS AND CHAINSAWS and staying equally likeable onstage. Pretty much the whole cast of Garkin’s PICK YOUR PATH qualifies, with shoutout to Amanda Klaman as the reluctant protaganist Princess Superman. And Jimmy Hogg, whose CURRICULUM VITAE only got more hilarious the more he veered off-book…and it was funny to start with!
Then there’s still Elizabeth Blue of AM I BLUE, and any doubts about her talent after seeing her show were vanished once I caught her in the secret cabaret show…lady’s got comedy to spare. And Peter Carlone and Chris Wilson (from, natcherly, PETER N’CHRIS SAVE THE WORLD), solidify their spot as two of the most talented comedians and physical performers around.
FRINGE CRUSHES: I’m god-damned warning you…
AWESOME MOMENTS: Ryan Gladstone retelling War and Peace. Sex T-Rex turning into a helicopter. The ‘Taxes’ song from QUESTION PERIOD. A diva is a female version of a hustler. Ham Sandwich. Harry sings his song. Samira and Tania sing their OWN song. Ray Besharah’s beard. Penelope dances away from death. Do you want another? It could be worse. Truthbomb! Leave Lexi out of this! And just how many ways can a zombie puppet DIE?
Oh, all RIGHT! FINE!! You’re not going to drop it, are you? You pervy swine, you LIVE for this sort of business, DON’T you? You make me SICK. Well, FINE. Here it is:
FRINGE CRUSHES: Okay, okay. Where to start? Well, I’ve already said public and proud that the wunnerful miss KATIE HOOD stole my heart from the minute she came on stage at SAW Gallery, and there’s no going back on that. Who’d want to? Then there’s the luminous miss LUNA ALLISON, who, aside from being likely the only girl this year to invite me into her bedroom (her show venue, for those of you not in the know…sorry to disappoint), is charm, talent and grace combined. The gorgeous MARIE-FRANCE JACQUES had me in her thrall for the entire length of Rire de la Mer,and I have a feeling she knew it, too.
I have to admit that KIERSTEN HANLY of My Mother’s Daughter got me caught right in her spell, tough as nails onstage and sweet as sweet potato pie off. And because a strictly heterosexual list would hardly be very Fringe, shoutout to Suckerpunch’s BRENT HIROSE…as if his performance in the show weren’t enough, I then caught him reciting Shakespearean verse in the debates a few days later. I checked afterwards and, sure enough, my underwear was gone. Now THAT’S smooth talkin’ (also, he called me ‘mad Fringe blogger’ on his blog, and I like me someone who can call it like it is). And as for uber-lovely MIKAELA DYKE, well, how can you resist someone who refers to herself as ‘the straightest dyke you’ll ever meet?’ I thought not.
There are a few others that I’m not going to mention, because they don’t strictly qualify…Nadine explained the rules to me, and they only count as Fringe crushes if you didn’t have a crush on them BEFORE fringe started. If you’re not on the list, just assume that’s why. Or, count your blessings, whichever makes you happiest!
FAV’RIT SHOWS OF THE FRINGE: Is anyone even still reading? Here, let’s get THIS over with (just kidding…ya know I’m dying to tell you!!). In no particular order for the most part, but what I think is my definite fav’rit is the last one:
–SOUNDS FROM THE TURTLE SHELL Like my Fringe-buddy Rich Hemphill said about this show, the more you think about it, the more you like it.Cory, Tony and Erin make the simple story of a small-time band striving for their big break into something fresh, heartfelt and really special. Couldn’t be happier for the May Can gang on this one.
– FRUITCAKE: TEN COMMANDMENTS FROM THE PSYCHE WARD Rob Gee stormed the stage with a friendly smile and let everyone know that the hype was well-earned. A stunningly talented wordsmith, with a style that’s so engaging it’s almost criminal. And his amazing stories get inside you and won’t leave for a long while.
– ALL MY CHILDREN No soap opera, but the story of Max Poth and his odd quest to meet the only children of six ex-loves, with a crazy approach and astounding results. 100% original and genuine, Matt Smith is,to repeat myself, a master.
– THE ANIMAL SHOW I keep saying it, and here I go again…Katie Hood’s one-hander about life and love around the high-stress of an animal rescue shelter is a truly wonderful theatrical experience. She’s a riveting performer and storyteller, never dull, often hilarious, and always sympathetic.
– FALLING OPEN From the venue to the brave script to the amazing and generous performance by Luna Allison, I almost have to resort to the cliched ‘unique’ to describe this show. Tho I can also use beautiful, fearless, engaging, dreamlike and unforgettable, so I suppose I’ll forgive myself. I hope this underseen show returns, and soon. It deserves, maybe even needs, to be seen more widely.
– LIVE FROM THE BELLY OF A WHALE
Fuck the hype and the ‘Mi Casa has a new show, it’s gonna be awesome’ blather…Mi Casa had a new show, and it WAS awesome. Nick and Emily prove that their unique (there I go again) brand of theatre, with its mix of songs, mime, daffy dialogue, childlike whimsy, and endlessly inventive lighting is no one hit wonder. Straight to the heart, again.
– ROLLER DERBY SAVED MY SOUL
Having heard some of the updates from the frontlines of the production of this show, I was both eager and anxious to see it, and was like a kid on Christmas when it exceeded all expectations. Nancy Kenny (with team supreme Tania Levy and Nick Alain getting her back) knocked the story of geeky Amy’s rise to Roller Derby glory out of the park, even stealing a few scenes from her own main character as hardcore sis June (hint: don’t offer to carry her bags for her). A crowd-pleasing delight, and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here. And finally…
– DYING HARD
Mikaela Dyke tells the verbatim stories of six Newfoundlanders, direct victims of unsafe Fluorspar mining in the fifties, and creates magic along the way. Morphing into her subjects like a chameleon, Mikaela embodies their stories and selves without once tripping into a caricature, her own self all but disappearing from the stage. An absolute joy to witness, heartwrenching and amazing.
…Awright, that’s it! Fringe is all wrapped up, nothing more to see here. Now I’ve got some thinking to do, some plans to make, some questions to ask. Will I do this ‘Fringe-Coma’ thing again next year (probably not)? Will I go to another Fringe Festival THIS year (Hopefully)? And Will I ever talk about that thing that I haven’t talked about, that I really, really WANT to talk about, in these pages (We’ll see)? In the meantime, don’t be strangers. Share your own lists, fav’rits, crushes, moments and whatever the hell else you got running around in your head. If people are willing to read ME spewing this nonsense, I promise they’ll want to hear from you, too. Til’ next year, Fringers. Peace, love and soul,
Kevin and Winston