Victoria FRINGE-COMA 2011 – Day NINE

Ow.  I think maybe I should not have had QUITE so many apricot beers at the Mint after Fringe Club the other nite…I’m still tryingto shake it off.  Still, we must soldier on, and on, and…and, hey, did I ever see some good god damn shows his friday!  Let’s start with the start.

Or, rather, thee starte, to be all cutesy and stoopid about it, because the first show of ye daye was CANTERBURY COCKTAILS by the man himself, Geoffrey Chaucer.  Delivered entirely in its original middle English by performer Julian Cervello, he and director David Burke have indeed set themselves a daunting task: how to sell a Fringe show with a surfeit of dialogue that, for the most part, you’re almost certain your audience will NOT understand.

Ha! Chaucer scoffs at your lack of comprehension!

It turns out to not be such a problem, happily, as Cervello is a pretty feckin’ skilled storyteller, and his great presence and animated antics while delivering his complex dialogue (all quite spot-on, as far as I could tell) drive the gist of it home even when your ears doth fail ye.  Very funny in places, and always entertaining.  An excellent start to my night’o Fringing.

Up next was next door at Metro Studio, and one of the most buzzed-about shows on the Fringe circuit this year…and from the sold-out house, I suppose i wasn’t the only one to hear the buzzing.  How nice that dialogue free shows in full face mask still sell out in this day and age.  Yep, it was finally time for the Wonderheads’ GRIM AND FISCHER, by Andrew Phoenix, Kate Braidwood and Nathaniel Justiniano.  Starring Phoenix as the titular grim, apparently Death himself come-a-calling, calling for one elderly Mrs.Fischer in particular, played by Braidwood.  Together, they play an alternatingly cute, creepy and downright goofy cat-and-mouse game, as our Mrs.Fischer tries to outwit (or outfight)  death.

Raging against the dying of the light has never been so endearing.

G&F pretty much earns its hype, at least for me…Phoenix and Braidwood sell their silent characters, whose positively gorgeous masks seem like actors unto themselves onstage.  There’s a bit of silliness with a third character (landlord?  Something?  I could never quite figger it out) that doesn’t hit home so much, but the bulk of the play is sheer delight.  My heart was seriously in my throat for the entire final act.  A necessary reminder that theatre can be so goofy, so personal, and so goddamned beautiful that you’ll never forget it.  Gold.

Stayed around in that venue on an emotional high for a piece that has a personal resonance for me…it was one of the shows from that first Fringe of mine, Ottawa ’08, that instilled in me the sheer maniacal love for all of this that, well, here I am in fucking Victoria!  And the lady responsible for this amazing bit of theatre actually knows my NAME now!  Too, too cool.  I was overjoyed to see the lady miss Gemma Wilcox in action again, with that same show, SHADOWS IN BLOOM, and to a very deservedly packed house.

SHADOWS, a sequel of sorts to one of Gemma’s earlier pieces THE HONEYMOON PERIOD IS OFFICIALLY OVER, is about Sondra, a divorcee about to turn 30 who’s just moved to London to be nearher on-again off-again boyfriend Pete.  Aiding and abetting Sondra’s occasionally frantic journey are zen neighbour Flora, grumpy little Louise, crazy Kate, a sultry singer, snooty waiters, a flamboyant chef, doomed lobsters, and clashing houseplants…all played perfectly by Gemma herself, stepping fluidly from one to the other so smoothly that by the end of the show you’d swear there had been at least a dozen people on stage.  Still the masterpiece of storytelling and acting that I remember.  This is how it’s done, folks.

I only had the energy for one more show that night (with HUGE apologies to Miss Rosie Bitts, whose show I was very much planning on seeing late-nite), and there wasn’t much new around, so I treated myself to a second helping of GIANT INVISIBLE ROBOT.  As expected, it went down just as awesome the second time, and this time I started noticing some of JayMac’s clever layering throughout the show.  And Robot’s monologue still breaks my wee dark heart.  Fringing doesn’t get any better than this.

Yes, it IS worth a look.

Stumbled off to the hilariously overcrowded Fringe Club afterwards, where the Atomic Vaudeville gang were entertaining with some local aid…at least I get to see a FEW minutes of Mike Davenport’s ‘God’ on stage,so I don’t feel so bad about missing his show.  This somehow led to me eating waffles with scrambled eggs and salsa with Ben, Al, Shane, Rose, Chelsee and Suckerpunch, but that’s another mad, mad story.  And I need some breakfast, gang.  So I’ll see you all out on this, the final weekend of Victoria Fringe…don’t miss anything you’ll regret, yeah?  Peace, love and soul, Fringers,

The Visitor

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