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Archive for August, 2011|Monthly archive page

Victoria FRINGE-COMA 2011 – Day SIX

In Fringe Fest on August 31, 2011 at 6:24 pm

I’m starting to get a morning ritual down here in Victoria.  Clamber out of my hovel.hostel, shamble down to some local coffeeshop (Serious Cofee, more likely than not) fr a heaping cup of java and perhaps a wee snack.  Then off to Stain for my precious internetting time, and then away to find someplace to splurge on a big lunch.  Maybe some Chinatowning this aft…cookies for lunch with Katie Hood and Kath Greenfield (director extraordinaire of LITTLE ORANGE MAN) yesterday was adorable, but not really filling.

Still, it WAS a spectacular cookie (chocolate and caramel, and big enough to plug a colon or two), and it gave me enough of a rush to get started on some fringing, once shopping and stuffs was over.  Today it was a return to the Wood Hall not far from the hovel/hostel, for AN INCOVENIENT TRUTHINESS.  Brainchild of writer/performer Sharilyn Johnson, and directed by Fringe superheroine Laura Anne Harris, this show tells the tale of Sharilyn’s deep and abiding love for the comedic arts, how it led her to follow the paths of fake news giants Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and a few of the unexpected twists and turns that path brought her to.  Along the way, there’s some steamy fanfiction excerpts not for the faint of heart, disillusionment, and even an internet scandal or two.

The show is staged very simply, with Sharilyn’s straightforward and honest storytelling aided by a few A/V clips along the way.  And this is obviously a labour of love for her, as the events of the story literally changed the course of her life.  I’m afraid the play didn’t really connect with me like I’d hoped it would (I blame myself)…a lot of the dramatic notes in the story sort of fell flat for me.  But Sharilyn’s passion for what she does is impossible to ignore.  And if you’re a fan of comedy, or the Daily Show/Colbert Report, this show might still be something you should see.

A scoot down the street after that one led me to the Fringe Club, aka the Victoria Event Centre for my first actual show in that venue, this time from the lovely lads at HIP BANG improv.  I’d seen them once before in Ottawa a month back, when they went head-to-head with CRUSH IMPROV in some ‘Bout Time action at the Elmdale.  Devin and Tom are Vancouver performers, now on the last few legs of a cross-country tour, and it was good to see them again.  They performed a shorted, non-stop set at the club, taking a single suggestion off the top (in my case, ‘Monsters’…good one) and rolling with it for the next 45 minutes or so.   As with all improv, it had its ups and downs, but I did plenty of laughing…and heck, it’s the parts where they stumble that usually makes the audience giggle the most anyhow.  There was a particularly fun bit about two octegenarians meeting for a glass of Scotch and sicussing the merits of moving to Florida (“You’ll end up looking like a baseball glove”) that had some cool, slow pacing to it.  Devin and Tom are good at what they do, and it was a fine, fun time.  The bar was open too.  Plus.

A final dart out after that, past the Fort Cafe (Mike Davenport’s still selling out?  Check.  Moving on…), and on to St.Ann’s Academy, for THE SPARROW AND THE MOUSE: CREATING THE MUSIC OF EDITH PIAF.  Written by and starring Melanie Gall, who it was nice to see again outside of the airport shuttle bus, and directed by Karen Gall (her sister, I do believe), SPARROW tells the rags to riches story of Edith Piaf, one of the most popular French singers (if not THE most popular) of the early 20th century.  Well, her story, and that of her all but forgotten half-sister Simone, through whose eyes we learn all the sordid details of growing up penniless on the streets of Paris.  It’s a fascinating story, and is told with a very heavy use of song…Melanie can belt out Edith’s legendary tunes with amazing ability, and the show is as much a concert as it is a play.  And okay, I’m a Ramones/Weird Al Yankovic man by upbringing, so operatic French is not exactly my personal music of choice…but Melanie’s got killer pipes, and no fooling.  I could have used a little more theatre to accompany the music, personally, although she still managed a few sparkly costume changes, and when she belts out a tune, she really is still telling a story. The show is very solid, and Mel’s crowd was duly impressed.

Headed out feeling fine…caught a slice at the Brickyard with Ben (whose MY FIRST TIME I’m off to tonite…anyone else for venue 10 this evening?), then finished off the evening back at the club.  By the way, if you’re ever looking for me there..?  I’m the idiot sitting alone, talking to nobody.  Crowds still aren’t my ‘thing’, okay?  But feel free to say hi.   Peace, love and soul, Fringers,

The Visitor

Victoria FRINGE-COMA 2011- Day FIVE

In Fringe Fest on August 30, 2011 at 6:07 pm

I DID have Fish ‘n Chips, thank you very much, and it was tasty as Hell.  Nice one, Old Vic.  You done filled my belly.

Now, I didn’t get a lot ELSE done yesterday, besides picking up a back issue of WRAPPED IN PLASTIC at one of your fine comic shops, because reading decade-old writeups of episodes of TWIN PEAKS is, occasionally, my ‘thing’.  Hey, it killed the time, awright?  Until I finally made the return trip out to Langham Court Theatre (quite a nice spot, really) for another triple-venue-bill…it seems to be the way you just have to do business at this Fringe.  Lord knows the jogs between venues are starting to take their toll.  I came here for a theatrical workout, not an ACTUAL one!

But my spectacular calves aside, the play’s the thing, and the first one of the evening was Monster Theatre‘s HOUDINI’S LAST ESCAPE, by Ryan Gladstone.  Starring Christopher Bange as the legendary escapist Harry Houdini, and Tara Travis as his Wife and partner Bess, the play tells the tale of Houdini’s origins and rise to international fame, even as the seeds for his untimely demise were being sown in prophecy.  A lavish show painted in broad comic strokes, LAST ESCAPE is at times deliriously funny, eerily dark, and always entertaining.  Bange makes a fine egomaniacal leading man, and Tara Travis is wonderful, alternating between defiant sexuality and brilliantl goofiness at the drop of a hat.  And the magic tricks ain’t half bad either.  Add to this the fact that I got picked to be the on-stage assistant for the final, death-defying escape, and what else can I say but Bravo!

Outside then to await the second show…hmm, getting a little chilly out.   Well, never mind, I’ll be fine.  And before long, we got ushered right back inside for more Fringe goodness, this time THE PINK SHOELACES by Meghan Bell.  This one seems to be a local, student-driven production, and due (once again) to the Victoria Fringe’s allergy to programs, I really don’t know much at all about anyone actually involved with the show (although I’m pretty sure I recognized Christie Stewart, doing double-duty from STRUWWELPETER, as the female lead Anna).  It’s a shame, because the cast is pretty strong in this story about the horrors of trying to fit in to High School life.  Anna, the new girl in school, has to wrestle between the popular klatch, and openly mocked Remy, her first new friend in the school (and the butt of every nasty joke the posh kids can think up).  Now, sure, I was disappointed as Hell that this song wasn’t included in the production:

…but there was some lovely accompanying guitar going on, by Director Chris Ho.  Like I said, I was really happy with all the performances, the script was smart, the characters had sometimes surprising depth, and though the show lingered dangerously in afterschool special territory, there was enough originality and wit going on to carry it above.  It’s a good show, with a pleasant lack of easy answers.

Back outside again and…shit, it’s REALLY gettin’ chilly now!  Man, when the sun goes down on Victoria…BRR!  I decided I couldn’t take no more, so I made the jog back to the Hovel/Hostel for a change into some warmer duds, than started hotfooting it back.  Happily, before I could get TOO annoyed at the extra marathonning I was getting in, I ran into the terrific twosome of Katie Hood and Gemma Wilcox, also on their way to Langham and my final show of the night, GIVING INTO LIGHT.  Even more happily, they let me hang out with them!  Talented AND generous, folks.  After getting inside, and listening to the umpteenth time to the official waste of time/pre-show speech, the show got underway.  And this piece, a solo show by performer Alison Wearing, was a perfect gem of a show to end off the evening.

pic by Joseph Samuels

Telling Allison’s story of her journey into Motherhood, which led her to the City, the country, and even as far as Mexico, Alison weaves a stunningly poetic path with such seemingly effortless grace it was like watching a painting, or a sunset.   The script was utterly gorgeous and universal, and Allison’s presence on stage, whether storytelling, singing or dancing,  was never anything less than assured.  She gets into some character work in the later acts that are highly entertaining as well, and…hell, it’s just all bloody marvellous.  It’s a luminous, revelatory show, and I’m probably a better person for having seen it.  Very cool beans.

I parted ways, sadly, with Katie and Gemma then, got a lift back to the Fringe club with  Drew from FORTUNATE SON and Ben from MY FIRST TIME, and proceeded to enjoy Cameryn Moore’s SmutSlam event (Yay Suzanne!  And damn, that story was kinda sorta hot…phew!) before scuttling back ‘home’.    It was a fine li’l day in the Vic, and I’m hoping for even better today.  Why the Hell not, eh?  Peace, love and soul, Fringers,

The Visitor

PS  Only 21 people like me on Facebook, and that makes my borrowed cat Winston very sad.  So like away! Make a cat smile today.

Victoria FRINGE-COMA 2011 – Day FOUR

In Fringe Fest on August 29, 2011 at 7:19 pm

It’s Monday.  Which I guess means I’m back to trying to figure out how to fill these 8+ hour voids of non-Fringing in my Victoria-vacation days.   You’re going to bore me into looking at whales, aren’t you, BC?

Fine, fine. At least I’ve got my trusty Chud to fill a few hours, because if today is Monday that means yesterday was Sunday, and I hit 5 whole shows on Sunday!  Meant to do 6, actually, but ran into a little snag.  Stay tuned.  I got off to a bit of a grumpy start yesterday, tis true (don’t worry, it’s just my natural state), but still hauled myself over to St.Andrews, where a modest crowd was gathered for the early-ish show of STALEMATE by Marcus Stusek, and starring…two…actors?  Seriously, guys, PROGRAMS.  Get with them!  But anonymity aside, we entered the space to two gentlemen in suspenders and bow ties, one black, one red, engaged in a game of chess.  As the show began, a snappy verbal sparring got underway that lasted the whole smart, slightly vicious playtime.  STALEMATE is a shorter piece, but has a nice way of getting under your skin, and contains what may be the most cerebral fart joke I’ve ever witnessed.   Our two leads were solid, and the solipsistic script never gave them any troubles.    A good, fun little show.  Worth it.

Over to the Metro then, one of the more proper actual-theatre venues in the VicFringe, for RERENTLESS.  Starring what appear to be local legends Wes Borg and Morgan Cranny, it’s a straight-up, full-on slacker/stoner comedy with no apologies.  The elderly couple next to me abandoned ship in the first quarter, but the remaining near-full house had a fine, rausous time.  Borg and Cranny are funny fuckers, and they play well off one another in a well-staged production…the KOYAANISQATSI bit is sheer genius.  And yes, the rest of it IS pretty juvenile humour, some easy gags, some over the top, and while that’s not entirely my thing, I did have a very good old time.  And if it IS your thing, then your Nirvana awaits, ladies and gents.  You’ll get a wicked good contact high off this show.

And then…then it was off on the road I go.  Yes, it was time to venture into the wilds of Victoria, risking life and limb to find the lost city of Venue #12, aka the Canadian College of Performing Arts.  After one wasp sting (ow) and 30 minutes trekking, I came across it…Oak Bay.  And folks, let me say, if there ever really is a Zombie Apocalypse?  I’m heading to Oak Bay.  Because the undead hordes will take one look at it, naturally assume that they’ve already long-since conquered this territory, and shamble off for greener pastures.

But sleepy or no, I was here, for a planned triple bill in the venue that time forgot.  First up was a one-woman show (yay!), DIANNE & ME.  Written by Ron Fromstein, directed by Jer Banks, and starring the truly impressive Chelsee Damen, who commanded all of our attentions with a soft voice, genuine charm and one comfy-looking easy chair.  The story of Emma, a young girl fumbling through her first sexual encounters, crossing paths with her ever-attentive Mother Dianne, and making mistakes and missteps that will change the path of her life.  The premise is simple and universal, and the script is smart, funny, and merrily risque in a more than a few places.   Chelsee conveys wide-eyed innocence, but never loses Emma’s strength and wisdom…she’s a natural.  I especially giggled at her renditions of the boys, Kyle (dude!) and Bryan.  So very worth the trip out to the CCPA, I can’t tell ya.  This show deserved MUCH better crowds that it’s getting.  Get moving, you lazy bastards!

Hung about the Bay (tried to sit down and enjoy a coffee, but in THIS part of Victoria the coffee shops close at 6 in the god-damned afternoon..!) until the next act was ready to go, this time a one-manner (also yay), THE DONNELLY SIDESHOW.

Directed by superstar Jayson ‘Giant Invisible Robot’ MacDonald, and written by and starring Gentleman Jeff Culbert, the same team behind the amazing ARCHY AND MEHITABEL.  This one is based on some infamous Canadian history stemming from  Jeff’s own hometown of Lucan, Ontario.  The story of the Donnelly family (aka ‘the Black Donnellys’ of Stompin’ Tom song fame), and their feuds, vilification, and ultimate massacre at the hands of a vigilante mob, Jeff lays the whole sordid tale out for us with word and song, and never fails to engross and entertain.  His empathy with the much-maligned Donnelly clan is palpable, and he explains his case (in the guise of a grown-up massacre witness) with surgical precision.  It’s a joy to watch, the songs are a hoot (Jeff has cd’s by donation…I’m getting me one!), and the Sideshow is a winner.  Jeff’s a great storyteller, so go and get told.  And keep your enthusiasms up!

One last stretch at the Bay, and this time a hefty crowd made it out.  I wasn’t surprised…the hotly anticipated 3rd installment of a Canada-wide Fringe fav’rit, and local boys to boot.  It was time for PETER N’ CHRIS AND THE MYSTERY OF THE HUNGRY HEART MOTEL, and I was pretty stoked.  And my huge expectations (I’ve caught their previous two shows twice each…fanboy!) were met, surpassed, and actually roughed up a little.

With a new introduction (but still some dancing), new characters, insane physical comedic prowess, and music borrowed from the kick-ass SCOOBY DOO ON ZOMBIE ISLAND soundtrack (perfect), the lads present a blindingly funny murder-mystery mindbender that must be seen to be believed.   I’m still amazed at how P&C can so stunningly recreate things like a car crash or a slow-motion knife fight right in front of my eyes, and somehow be both unusually believable and gut-bustingly funny at the same time.  But they do it, time and again, and they floored the joint.  Funny as funny gets.

I WAS planning on seeing one more show that night, but I just couldn’t make it back to civilization in time, so I hit up the club (Cameryn Moore KILLED it on stand-up duty) instead.  Now I’m trying to figger out how to kill the 6 hours between now and my NEXT show…I’m thinking…Fish’n Chips.  What the Hell, it’s a start, right?  Peace, love and soul, Fringers,

The Visitor

 

 

Victoria FRINGE-COMA 2011 – Day THREE

In Fringe Fest on August 28, 2011 at 6:33 pm

So yesterday, that was a pretty good day of Fringing, I gotta say.  And I’m trying real hard to remember all that, and channel it, so I can power through this post, because there’s lots of good stuff to say about some amazing shows.  Just gotta shake off some mean reds, is all.  I should NEVER check Twitter.  Like, ever.  Blah.

But anyways!  I was talking about Fringing a second ago, specifically Victoria-style, and that’s what’s goin’ on.    Got a nice early start of it this Saturday with a leisurely stroll out to…Fairfield Hall, is it?  Nice, quaint little spot, and a great show indeed to kick off the weekend, with sketch comedy duo Charles and CHARLES – A TRIP THROUGH THE MULTIVERSE.  From the inspired beginning featuring a death-match of long-distance Jenga, to the intricacies of retroactive vasectomies and the ghost of Patrick Swayze (or IS it..?), CHARLES is some of the most ridiculously funny sketch action I ever done seen.  I’d call these guys a must-see act without reservation, because if you miss it you’ll never realize just how fucking funny BEOWULF really was.  These Chucks are the goods, folks, and you have to see their timing and madness to believe it.

Took a spot of down time then for lunch and shopping (found me a new Hasil Adkins lp for my collection!) , then scoped out venue #5, St.Andrew’s , for Snafu Dance Theatre’s LITTLE ORANGE MAN, starring Ingrid Hansen and directed by Kathleen Greenfield.  I’d heard good things about this show from the amazing Katie Hood, so I had high hopes.  And Ingrid Hansen pole-vaulted those hopes with room to spare.

On paper, LOM is the story of a hyperactive young girl called Kitt on a mission to help her ailing Grandpa, via dream manipulation and a few snappy song and dance numbers.  Off paper, however, it’s sheer joyous magic to behold.  I flew a few thousand miles to be at this Fringe Festival.  If I’d known how good this show was gonna be, I would have been happy to walk.  LITTLE ORANGE MAN is the kind of inventive, affecting, heartfelt and unique storytelling that you normally only dream about.  Just an utter, utter privilege…Victoria, you should be proud of this one.  Ingrid Hansen is a superstar in the making, or she damn well should be.  This whole trip is already worth it.  Thank you, Snafu.

Back to St.Ann’s for the next show, starring a pair I’d already managed to have late-nite Chinese food with in this town!  From writer/performer Bob Brader, and director Suzanne Bachner, SPITTING IN THE FACE OF THE DEVIL is every bit as brash and bold a show as it’s title would make you imagine.  From the opening line, now one of my fav’rit opening lines EVER, you know you’re in for a harrowing time.  For 80 minutes Bob tells us the terribly true story of his childhood growing up with a harsh and brutal Father, whose anger only hid an even darker, more twisted interior.  And manoman, are you rivetted for those 80 minutes.  Bob commands the stage with an unnervingly easygoing and friendly presence as he relates trials and downright horrors (with the occasional ray of hope and laughter creeping within…it’s not ALL doom and gloom, folks), giving the kind of frank and forthright performance that can’t help but jar you to your goddamned bones.  Lie detectors commit suicide when they get these levels of honesty, gang, and Bob lays it ALL out on the stage for you.  If you’ve got the nerves for it, you REALLY gotta see it for yourself.

He's not kidding...you might want to hold on to something.

And yes, okay,I did feel the urge to lighten the mood a bit after that one, so I figured it was worth the sprint all the way back to Fairfield Hall to catch Yana Kesala’s one-woman tale THE UKRAINIAN DENTIST’S DAUGHTER.   I’d caught Yana’s enthusiasm and winning smile a few times at karaoke in the Fringe Club earlier, so I was eager to see what she could pull off in a solo show.  And the story, a true tale of her Mother Maya’s immigration to America with her family, Dentist father and all.  Flashing between her difficult early life, to her attempts at courtship with a handsome Doctor later on, Yana pretty easily charms the crowd with her portrayal of a spirited young woman looking to mold her life as SHE sees fit.  I found she particularly shone as the younger Maya, and as a strange old woman who bestows a curious gift upon her and her handsome Doctor many years later.  One or two awkwardly long pauses notwithstanding, It’s a charming, sweet and strong show with an eminently delightful star.  Just a damn treat.

I took a nice sauntering stroll back up to Fort street then, with plenty of time to secure a ticket to tonite’s performance of GOD IS A SCOTTISH…

…sorry, what’s that?  Sold out ALREADY?  God dammit.  I guess everybody really DOES love a Scottish drag queen.  Sigh.  Looks like I’m running again!  This time back to St.Andrews, where I just made it in time for the spikey-haired brilliance that is THE BIRDMANN.

I’ve seen him flyering  many a lineup, and was pretty excited to see what this odd specimen of humanity could conjure up on stage.  And there’s no easy way to describe just what it is THAT he did, but to say that it was fucking hilarious, an astounding hourlong comedic vacation into insanity, with nostril-tea, paper birds, knife throwing, and the best bone-dry non-sequiturs since Richard Lewis was alive (is Richard Lewis still alive?  Does anybody even know?).  Australian one-man shows are GOOD one-man shows, I’m coming to realize.  More, please.

Which left room for only one more show…and it was THAT show.  The one I’d been waiting 4 years to see, ever since I first heard about it (after seeing one of his other shows, BOAT LOAD, at the Ottawa Fringe).  That would be one Jayson MacDonald, and GIANT INVISIBLE ROBOT.  And as predicted, even though the poor guy had a cold that nite, he did not disappoint.  From the opening scenes of a kooky little kid watching EMPIRE STRIKES BACK at the drive -in with, indeed, a Giant Invisible Robot, the show barrels into every direction imagineable with a host of characters that Jayson dives into without missing a beat. An arrogant scientist, furious soldier and pastry-loving minx are only a few of the cast, as Jayson crafts the strange but surprisingly heartwarming (and laugh-out-loud funny) story of a boy and his robot.  And yes, the robot DOES have a scene to himself…and it’s the kind of glorious theatre magic that’s so simple, so wonderful, that you’ll never, ever forget it.  Pretty much a perfect show.  So there.

And there was a little more to that evening…bouncy castle in the bar and all, but I think I’m about done with this Chud for today.  Off to grab some real food afore another 6-show day, and then hey, maybe I’ll do this again tomorrow!  Hopefully, somebody talks to me in the meantime.  That might be nice, hey?  Peace, love and soul, Fringers, and I’ll see you in the club,

The Visitor

Victoria FRINGE-COMA 2011 – Day TWO

In Fringe Fest on August 27, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Gotta be quick-smart about this post…on a deadline, as my internet place only opened at 10:15 and I”m seeing a show at 12:15, and the venue is just a shade north-notheast of fucking nowhere.  Thanks for the workout, Victoria Fringe, I may need new shoes before this is over!

So what’s new?  Aside from my near elation at actually fulfilling my promise to myself and having breakfast overlooking the ocean today (okay, the harbour, but I’m from Ottawa, close enough!), and my disappointment at having to miss the invite-only Fringe Brunch this AM (Monkey bread! Sigh.), there’s some Fringing to gush over.  A four-show night last nite, dontcha know?

Started off at someplace called the VCM Wood Hall for THE RETURN OF LOVE by Mur Meadows.  Set in a future where all touching has been outlawed for our own damn good, one romantic soul, Doctor Dipuc, yearns for a return to the kind of intimacy you can only get with a little skin-on-skin action.  The presence of the smoldering Doctor Spencer, a fellow prof at the Lotusland University for Sexual Technologies, and quite a fan of the preferred techique of robotic sexual recreation, may be a factor in Doctor D’s passion.   It’s a smart and satirical show, looking at the hysteria over STD’s and the delicate balance between sex and intimacy in a very fun way…okay, it’s a bit talky, but the direction is solid enough to keep you interested for the most part.  I wish I had some actor names to mention, as all the players were uite solid, but again, Victoria doesn’t seem to care for programs.  Anyone can feel free to drop some of that info here in a comment or something…seriously, are Victora thespains all publicity-shy or something?  Weird.

From there I dashed off to the Langham Court Theatre for a pair of shows…up first was LOVE LETTERS FOR GEORGIA by Ellen McGinn, and Raving Beauty Productions.  This was one of the shorter pieces at the Fringe, but definitely one of the more memorable ones as well.  A beautifully theatrical piece about aging Georgia (an absolutely wonderful Miss Danda Humphreys…and I know that because this time they GAVE ME A PROGRAM, hint hint) having increasingly odd arguments with several Baroque and Renaissance painting that have a habit of coming to life around her, while her put-upon daughter (Rhonda Hemstreet) tries to cope with it all.  Willful Georgia shines as the centerpiece of this truly engaging  show about death, love, and saving baby Jesus from downing (or not).  Props also to Elizabeth Brimacombe and Linda O’Connor as whimsical, pestering saints.  Very great stuff.

Stuck around the venue for show #3 of the nite, STRUWWELPETER, from the gang at Suspicious Mustach Theatre.  A young company from town, the SMT kids put on a pretty terrific, short show, based on the mad 1844 children’s book by Heinrich Hoffman.    Framed around a pair of bored children (Lucas Hall and Christie Stewart)  who stumble upon the book while supposedly packing for an unwanted move away from home, the suspicious tome, labelled ominusly with the words DO NOT READ, proves too much temptation for the kids to ignore.  Delving into the book starts turning all-too real, with a trio of shades (Chelsea Bunyan, Randi Edmundson, and Phillip Van de Ruyt) helping the children live out the stories, like it or not.  With such gems as  Shock-Headed Peter, Little Suck-A-Thumb, the man who went out shooting, and other increasingly dark and grisly tales, things get weird in a flash.  STRUWWELPETER is a nifty and nasty piece of work by some talented up’n comers, who keep everything fast paced and visually engaging so that the time breezes all-too quickly by.  A good, inventive nite out.

It was getting on by then, but I still had a little wind left in me, and decided to see just how quickly one could make it from Langham Court to UVic on foot (answer: 30 minutes, as the Fringer flies).  There was what appears to be a rare late show on…I’m getting the impression that everyone in Victoria really needs to get up early tomorrow, forever…and that show was a personal fav’rit of mine from the OTtawa Fringe, Katie Hood’s THE ANIMAL SHOW.  I happily treated myself to a repeat viewing, and was glad I did.  KAtie’s stremlined and tweaked the show since last I saw, and it flows smoother than ever.  Still packs an emotional wallop, and Miss Katie does some of the best characterizations I’ve EVER seen on stage.

ANIMAL RESCUE, MOTHAFUCKAZ!!!

 THE ANIMAL SHOW is Fringe at its finest, gang, and you should indeed run screaming to go see it while you can.  Me, I’ve gotta wrap this one up and run screaming (or pangting and gasping) to Fairfield Hall, as my full Saturday of Fringing approacheth.  And I can’t wait.  Peace, love and soul, Fringers, and I’ll see you at the club,

The Visitor

Victoria FRINGE-COMA 2011 – Day ONE

In Fringe Fest on August 26, 2011 at 8:15 pm

I made it!

It wasn’t easy, dear readers, oh Hells no…try getting to the airport at 5:30 in the AM and hearing that your travel agents have apparently cancelled your plane tickets without, you know, saying anything about it.  The folks at the Jet of the West managed to get me on the plane out, tho…albeit on the knowledge that I would not officially have a way BACK.  That sounded better than staying in Ottawa, to be honest, so off to the miracle of modern flight I went, for only the second time in my life.  Whoosh!!
…and, a scant few hours later, here I am, on the other side of Canada for the VICTORIA FRINGE FESTIVAL 2011.  And hey, it really does smell like the ocean out here!  Very neat.  I jumped on a shuttle bus to town (sharing it, cool enough, with Fringe performer Melanie Gall, who was knitting and stuff.  Awesome.) , had some of the very plentiful coffee they serve three times a block in this town (and bumped into superstars Cameryn Moore and Katherine Glover…twice the awesome), and checked into my Hovel/Hostel (it’s fine, really…sort of).

Made it out that evening for the Fringe Eve Preview show, with some fantastic dance performances from local troupes, including some ballet and a forklift, because that’s how they rock dance in the Vic.  Caught lots of cool mini-previews of Fringe shows, before being graciously invited out for late Chinese food with Katie Hood (the Animal Show), Cameryn Moore (Phone Whore), Jem Rolls(…is Pissed Off), Bob Braden and Suzanne Bachner(Spitting in the Face of the Devil).  It felt pretty sorta amazing, even IF they did slip some mystery meat into Vegetarian Katie’s Tofu dish…offside, guys, really.

I crashed shortly after a quick trip to the swanky Fringe Club located at Venue #2, pretty much a cozy indoor beer tent.  Really, it’s the ‘beer’ part of the sentence that matters to me, so I’m good indoors or out.  But, I didn’t overdo that first day.  Needed some sleep, for there was Fringing to be done anon!

…which would be the next day, and let’s get to THAT before I lose you all with my rambling.   I spent the day wandering and scoping out venues…took me a good while to solve the secrets of Humboldt street and find the mystical St.Ann’s Academy venue, but I did it!  And, ignoring the fact that it looked entirely too pretty a place for someone like me to ever be admitted within its walls, I returned that night anyhow for my first two shows of the Vic Fringe.  Starting up was one I’d been greatly anticipating…ZACK ADAMS : LOVE SONGS FOR FUTURE GIRL by Perth, Australia’s Shane Adamczak. Part of Weeping Spoon Productions, who put on GREED, the first Fringe show I EVER saw, so they hold a special place in my rotten little heart.  I was dearly happy to see one of that gang again, and he did not let me down.  ZACK is a personal one-man show, telling the story of what I’m guessing is a very thinly fictionalized version of Shane’s own love life, and our eternal search for ‘The One’…whatever THAT may be.  Zack tells his story mostly through a non-stop collection of hilarious songs, with properly heart-wrenching reminiscences along the way, mirroring they way most of US have probably fucked up along the way in our hapless longings for love and whatnot.

Shane’s a foolishly personable cat, so easy to like on stage it’s almost unfair…Hell, even I was starting to fall for him (it’s the accent)  For someone who claims poor luck with the ladies, it sure sounded like the gals in the opening night audience liked him JUST fine. 🙂  ZACK ADAMS is a sweet fun show with killer songs and a lovable schmoe of a protagonist…who could ask for more?  A perfect start to my first Fringe abroad.

Stayed put in the St.Ann’s Auditorium, complaints from my backside notwithstanding (seriously, them seats are a bit of a pain…lovely room, tho), for show no.2 of the evening.  I’ve already mentioned bumping into one Katharine Glover at a coffeeshop, and here’s an interesting sidenote before I get started: if I read a writeup on a website or the Fringe guide about a show, and it doesn’t do anything for me, I may very well give it a pass.  We all would, right?  But if I then meet you in person, and you’re all cool and stuff..?  Then I’m probably TOTALLY going to see your show.  It’s happened before, it’ll happen again, and it happened now with BURNING BROTHELS: SEX AND DEATH IN NEVADA.  I know, as if I needed extra incentive to see a show with sex in the title, right?

Okay, so I didn’t need MUCH convincing…

BROTHELS is Glover’s recounting of the rise of legalized prostituion in Nevada, as far as I know the only place in North America this has happened.  Involving numerous trips through different times and a cast of amazing characters (some of the names escape me right now…no one seems to hand out programs in Victoria, so I’m working off feeble, feeble memory right now), Glover charts the astounding ups and downs of the world’s oldest profession with easy charm and a very sharp grasp of the intricacies of the situation.  Legal, as  she points out, does NOT mean accepted.  Poor working conditions, social ostracism and outright bafflement await those who choose this path.  But the story is amazing to hear, and Glover tells it well, with the aid of a few costume changes and the borrowed voices of some key players in the saga.  At times I wished the show would bump the theatricality up a notch, but that’s neither here nor there.  BROTHELS is a wonderful hour of dark, funny, illicit storytelling that I can happily and heartily tell you to go and see, as close to now as possible.

I was off to a good start, and had to get moving if I wanted to make my final show of the evening and keep the fun going.  I huffed and puffed a little, but made it to Metro Studio for an eagerly anticipated local production, TARA FIRM AND THE LUNAR WAR CHRONICLES. There was a good lineup already when I got there, always a nice sight.

Possibly the only full-on Steampunk Sci-fi epic you’ll see at a Fringe festival for a good long while, Launch Pad Productions’ ambitious story tells the tale of the 1917 war against the Moon (fuckin’ Moonies!) , complete with all the antique-stylee space jargon, retro-chic uniforms and space weaponry you could ever hope for.  Narrated by a hilariously mismatched pair of British Historians, and aided by spot-on audio/video clips of militaristic propaganda spots, the story centers around bombshell Aethernaut Tara Firm (Christina Patterson) of Sparticle Squadron, trying to suss out just what REALLY lies on the dark side of the Moon while fending off advances from all directions…the Moon is a lonely pace, after all. The show has its tongue firmly in cheek throughout, some interesting twists and lots of good laughs.  And yes, there’s some action to boot…Tara delivers a pretty wicked cool uppercut that was a personal highlight of the show for me.  It’s the kind of geeky cool show you can only dream would happen, and how can you NOT take advantage of the fact that someone was crazy enough to try and pull it off? Check it out for a fun romp of a show, and then someone please get started on the fanfiction.

…Okay, fine, I’ll do it.  I AM bored during my days here…haven’t caught on to the whole ‘tourist’ thing yet.  But I’m glad I made it out…the Victoria Fringe is a good time so far (did I mention the karaoke after the shows at the Fringe Club last nite?  Cause that totally happened), and I’m eager for more tonite.  See you there, eh?  Peace, love and soul, Fringers,

The Visitor

Victoria FRINGE-COMA 2011- Preview

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on August 22, 2011 at 12:19 am

I need a vacation.

And no, I don’t mean from this blog/chud…although, let’s face it, this town is pretty much goddamn-well done with me AND my shitty blog, thank you very much.  No, I mean I NEED a vacation.  In the worn-out, can’t see straight and didn’t even know it sense of the word.  I gotta get outta this place, kids.  In fact, I think I gotta get as far away as I can, while still staying in the same national locale ( I hate switching currency).  And it wouldn’t hurt if there was some theatrical event going on wherever I end up, now would it?  How about it, Jambi?

Bitch, I got JUST what you need!

…Ah.  Ah, yes, that would be…perfect.  Yes, I think a two week trip out west to kick it at the VICTORIA FRINGE FESTIVAL would indeed be just the trick.  And the 25th Anniversary, no less (same as Odyssey Theatre this year…coincidence?  Look into it, Jambi).  Sounds amazing…but let’s break it down for the people…just what DOES this ‘Victoria Fringe’ have going for it, anyhow..?  Well…

SHOWS I KNOW ARE GREAT:  No less than four shows I’ve already seen and loved are gonna be appearing at this year’s VicFringe, and I couldn’t be giddier.  There’s Katie Hood’s wondrous THE ANIMAL SHOW and Brent Hirose’s powerhouse THE SUCKERPUNCH, both shows I caught at this year’s Ottawa Fringe.  Last year I had the naughty joy of seeing Cameryn Moore in PHONE WHORE, and she’s also in town to teach BC a thing or two about what goes on when the lights are out.

And then there’s Gemma Wilcox.  Four Fringes ago, I caught her show SHADOWS IN BLOOM at the O-Fringe and suddenly realized what you could actually DO with acting (another show helped with this…more on that later).  It changed my life, and I couldn’t be happier that she’ll be in Vic with the very same show.  I can’t wait to see it again.

PERFORMERS I LUVS:   Aside from Katie, Brent, Cam and Gemma, there’s plenty of other talented folk I’ve seen in other shows who will be in the VicFringe lineup, and I’m so stoked I cannot tell ya. Rob Gee, who just blew me away in FRUITCAKE this June, will be in town with SMART ARSE, hurrah!  And Zack Adams of Weeping Spoon ( makes of GREED, the first Fringe show I ever did see) is bringing his one-manner LOVE SONGS FOR FUTURE GIRL.  My dream is to go out drinking with the both of them, discussing the merits of Brit vs.Aussie teevee

My money's on THE SWEENEY, but we'll see where the night takes us.

AND, there’s Bremner Duthie, the crooner with a name as cool as his voice, with his show WHISKEY BARS (not to mention Colin Godbout with the 2-bill of MUSIC ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS and THE LAST GIG OF LENNY BREAU).  And there’s Gentleman Jeff Culbert, of the divine ARCHY AND MEHITABEL with his latest THE DONNELLY SIDESHOW.  Plus, if you’re still listening, a pair of gents by the names of Peter and Chris are hitting the scene with their NEW show, PETER N’CHRIS AND THE MYSTERY OF THE HUNGRY HEART MOTEL.  Yeah.

That's right, Ottawa. I'm seeing this WAY before you. EAT it!

COOL NEW STUFF:  Familiar stuff is awesome, but new stuff is even more so….it’s awesometastical!  Or at least, it could be. And anticipation is everything, am I right, ladies?

…no, no, I’m sure I’m right.  And listen, there’re some amazing sounding shows that I cannot WAIT to see at the Vic…like GRIM AND FISCHER by the Wonderheads, that’s been getting rave reviews all across the Fringe circuit this summer. Or GIVING INTO LIGHT by Alison Wearing, who comes highly recommended by Toronto (formerly Ottawa) superstar Nancy Kenny, although for a diff’rent show.  Nancy also digs another show, AN INCOVENIENT TRUTHINESS, directed by miss Laura Anne Harris.

…What’s that?  You’re astonished that miss Laura Harris could be so lazy as to only direct ONE show at the Victoria Fringe Festival?  Well, shame on you and ALL of your descendants (reprobates, the lot of them), because she’s ALSO directed WONDERBAR, starring the superhuman Celeste Sansregret.

THAT SHOW I’M FLYING OUT FROM OTTAWA TO SEE: Oh, yeah.  See, back when I mentioned that Gemma Wilcox’s SHADOWS IN BLOOM was a defining moment in my life..?  There was another show that was part of that double-bill.  The other was BOAT LOAD by one Jayson MacDonald, and he’s gonna be in Vic with a show that I’ve never seen, and have only heard whispers about (good fucking whispers)…GIANT INVISIBLE ROBOT.

I’ve never seen this show, but I’m gladly paying airfare from Ottawa to BC to do so.  That’s how good JayMac was in Boat Load, and that’s how high my expectations are  for this, one of his earlier pieces.  And you know what?  I’m not going to be disappointed. So there.

I’ve just hit the point of no return in writing this, so let’s let it go at this.  We’ll ignore the problems with the VicFringe schedule (which WILL be yelled at in future installments, oh, yes they will), and instead hope that they welcome me with open arms.  A nice change yes?  Whatever the case, I’ll be there in a few days, desperately trying to find a computer to write from, to tell you all this shit I’m trying to get across right now…theatre be GOOD, yo.  Check it out.  And if not, well, I guess I’ll checdk it out for you.

In Victoria.

…Shit, I hear they have an OCEAN…

Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

A fan of the Fan

In Theatre on August 21, 2011 at 11:01 am

I’ve only got a short window here…and not only because there’s less than an hour until I have to bolt for work this morning.  Also, because as I begin this there are only two more performances of Odyssey Theatre’s THE FAN, and I’d like to actually get my writeup in while still in the theoretical not-useless range.  So, this will be a quick one…you’re all welcome!

Dragged my mopey butt out at very, very long last, to Strathcona park last nite to catch Odyssey Theatre’s 25th anniversary production of this 18th century Carlo Goldoni comedy.  Odyssey is the only troupe n town doing Mask Theatre for grown-ups, so it’s always a treat to make the scene, and last nite was just what this misanthropic Visitor needed.   Set in the small holiday village of Casa Nuove (a town so small it only has 7 doors, tho in constant use), a pair of crossed lovers start the action underway via a broken fan and a petty brother, and things take a nice farcical spiral into controlled chaos from there.

David Craig directs the show supoibly, keeping everything moving and reasonably clear for the duration.  And the cast is a rare treat…a few of my local fav’rits shine in this one, and a few new faces that I’m gonna remember for a while now too.  Rose Napoli flat out runs away with a good portion of the play as fiery maid Giannina, Andy Massingham and Pierre Brault rock the masks and rake in much laughter as a pair of nitwitted noblemen, and the lady Alix Sideris gets dee-liteful double duty in AND out of Odyssey’s amazing masks (courtesy of designer Almut Ellinghaus…gorgeous stuffs).  All this plus Brad Long, Mike Showler, Robin Craig, Jay Schramek,  Kaitlyn Semple and Nicolas Van Burek (a particularly and gleefully amoral Coronato) makes for one of the sweetest ensembles you’ll catch in town this year.

Well, hopefully you’ve ALREADY caught it, as I’ve already mentioned how pitifully late in the day this review is coming…there’re two family-friendly shows left today (Sunday the 21st, if you’re prompt), so check it out if you got the chance.  It’ll put a smile on yer face and, you may not know this yet, but you need one there.  I sure did.

Also, is that a new stage? I forgot to ask.  Nice set, gang.  Shit, I gotta go to work.  Back later with more stuffs!  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Roller Derby Saved my Soul (Redux)

In Theatre on August 12, 2011 at 3:06 am

First off, I should apologize to the good folks at Odyssey Theatre.  I had totally publicly stated, via the always-trustworthy avenues of both Facebook AND Twitter, that I would be heading out to their show at Strathcona park this fine evening.  And I left the house with every such intention, I promise you all.  But, well, the wind was picking up, and dark clouds were moving ominously in over the skies, and no, that’s NOT a metaphor for my rapidly deteriorating mental state, it’s actual weather that you could see with your face and everything!

You can see them, right? Oh, God, tell me you can see them too!

So, long story, I chickened out ’cause I thought it was gonna rain on my outdoor theatrical parade, and ducked for cover elsewhere.  Sorry, Odyssey, I’ll get you back.

However, there was a helluva silver lining to that ominous cloud, and I found it at good old Arts Court, where the Summer fling event was still ongoing, with tonight featuring the debut of their brand-new FRINGE BENEFITS feature.  The idea s a simple one…take a couple of shows from June’s Ottawa Fringe Festival, give’em a snazzy remount in Arts court for a few shows, and Bob’s your Uncle.  A nice idea far as I’m concerned, and they couldn’t have made a better choice for the inaugural show.  That choice was Nancy Kenny’s ROLLER DERBY SAVED MY SOUL, and I’ll admit, I wasn’t upset at all about diverting inside for its return engagement (I was planning on catching it tomorrow anyhow).

Pic courtesy of Andrew Alexander

Fresh from a smash run at Ottawa’s Fringe (earning an extra Best-of-Venue show in the process) AND a last-minute run at the Hamilton Fringe, DERBY is still growing, changing and entertaining, and even if you did catch it at the Fringe, there’s enough new and improved to warrant the trip back.  My original review is way back here, and while I don’t have too much to add to that, I will say that the additions to the show by Nancy (abetted as before by director Tania Levy, Stage Manager/Sound designer Nick Alain and Choreographer Heather MacDonald), are welcome indeed.  From the inclusion of an almost-set (but still Fringe..!) to a segment explaining the finer points of Derby to the newbies in the audience, small changes that still add to the already very fun show.  Awkward heroine Amy is still adorable, tough sister June is still laugh-out-loud inappropriate, and Nancy makes a funnier drunk every time I see this show.

And okay,okay,  that’s three viewings now for me…I’m becoming a RDSMS fanboy, I admit it.  If I see it one more time, I promise I will wear a Green Lantern tee-shirt under a vest just to see what happens.  If that doesn’t make any sense to you, you have two more chances to find out…DERBY plays tomorrow and Saturday night at 8 pm, for the silly low price of 12 bucks.  Arts Court, baby, be there (and next week, too, when PLAYING FOR ADVANTAGE finishes off the Fringe Benefits double-bill).

That’s it for me…hopefully I’ll be back soon with some Odyssey overdue goodness, some Gladstone tidings, and then maybe something about some Fringe Festival I may be hitting up before too long.  Peace, love and soul, Ottawa,

The Visitor (and Winston)

 

Salamander’s Othello (better late than never..?)

In Theatre on August 4, 2011 at 7:31 pm

I’ve said before on these silly pages, that I really don’t care for writing reviews of shows once they’ve closed because, well, it’s kind of useless then, now isn’t it?  And i feel useless enough in my everyday goings-on, thanks very kindly.  But…still.  I really haven’t been bloggin’ very much of late, and I DID just recently see a dandy show that I’d been meaning to for ages now, and I’d feel plum awful if I didn’t say a few words about it.  Heck, maybe it’ll bring someone some joy, yes?  There’s a nice thought.  And since these folks brought ME some much needed joy on said night, it’s the least I can do to try.

The play in question has actually been running pretty much non-stop since the Ottawa Fringe Festival back in mid-June, in venues varying from an outdoor amphitheatre, various city parks, the Rideau street underpass, and finally, the NAC 4th stage (which is where I caught it on its last day).  That play is OTHELLO, from the hyperactive theatre kids at Salamander Shakespeare.  I’d shamefully put off seeing their latest production for ages, and almost made the mistake of skipping it entirely (it turns out I actually have to save up some money for a trip I’m taking in a few weeks…who knew travelling cost?), but happily talked myself into heading out.

A chance meeting outside with some awesome theatre-folk seemed like a good omen for the evening and we headed on in to grab seats and watch some good old fashioned Shakespeare.  Directed by Eleanor Crowder, this production had a bit of a rolling lead system going on, with the role of Othello changing between Zach Raynor and Pruf Rock, and Grace Gordon and Katie Ryerson taking turns as Desdemona.  For closing night, Pruf and Katie played the doomed couple.  I was pleased to get Pruf Rock, as I was intrigued with the choice of a slam poet like himself as the lead in one of the bard’s most infamous tragedies.  Happy to say it was a wise choice, as PR is a masterful orator who easily commands attention with his words.  Okay, his acting chops are a touch shaky at times, but he brings such an interesting and exciting vibe to the production it’s hardly a concern.  Now I gotta catch me some of his slammin’!

Grace Gordon does wonderfully as Desdemona, very believably devastated by the sudden turn in her beloved husband’s demeanor.  And the reason for that turn, of course, is what may be Shakespeare’s greatest villain of all: Iago.  A practiced liar and master manipulator who destroys lives just for the sake of being an utter asshole, and who has his victims thanking him for his treachery right up until the final twisting of the blade, Iago is a dream role for ANY actor.  Here it is played by Guy Buller, who just eats it up.   With a hateful scowl lurking just aside of every shit-eating grin, Guy nails the performance, seething with palpable hate for pretty much everyone he encounters.  It’s a schadenfreudian delight to watch.

Other performances are just as engaging…Tim Oberholzer has some great comedic moments as fallen hero Cassio, likewise Katie Ryerson stealing scenes as loud and lusty Bianca.  Anna Lindgren shines as Iago’s put-upon wife Aemilia, and Nick Surges gives great laughs as dull-witted Roderigo, another of Iago’s would-be patsies.  It’s a great ensemble, as is to be expected of Salamander.  Lovely costumes, performances, and even the swordfights are pretty damn cool.  They deliver the goods.

I really am sorry I didn’t see this early enough in the run to be of some use…maybe next year, when they come back with AS YOU LIKE IT for their ’12 season, I’ll get off my butt and catch it in the open air like I oughtta.  Not that I mind the 4th stage any…the bar IS a nice touch.

Awright, NOW I’m starting to remember why I have this blog…good news.  I’ll be back hopefully sooner than later with some blather on upcoming seasons, and the best resurrection story of the year.  Until then, keep on filling the cheap seats, Ottawa.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)