Last weekend has arrived. Before long, I’ll be back in Ottawa, moping around the downtown streets in a lonely haze (instead of doing that in Victoria…totally different). I want this Fringe road-trip to end on a good note..I want it to end STRONG. And how do you get strong? I can’t really AFFORD steroids, so…
Well, Hell. I guess I’ll just have to hit the gym. 4 shows in a row oughtta do it…
Yeah, yeah, I was off today for a hearty quadruple-bill at the wasteland of a venue that is the gymnasium at university Canada West. The sun was shining, the wasps were buzzing, and due to some time mismanagement on my part, my tummy was grumbling rather fiercely for the first show of my day, WONDERBAR. One I had missed years ago in Ottawa, I was happy for the chance to correct my mistake, and a mistake it certainly was to miss this show. Written by and stqarring the frankly amazing Celeste Sansregret, and directed by Fringe superheroine Laura Harris, WB is the all-too true story of Katrina, a German immigrant to Canada who, in the late ’80s, fell on hard times. Broken family, lost income, no future. Until she met Rudy, the man of her dreams. Then it got a LOT worse.
Sansregret is completely mesmerizing as strong, but often self-deluded Katrina, from her dizzying highs scarfing champagne in Italian Villas, to the deepest darkest lows in the bowels of a French prison. It’s a story of love, deception and survival that should be packing houses everywhere it goes. If you’re turned off by the 90 minute running time, don’t be. It’s worth every second.
I WAS still hungry after that show tho, so I made a mad dash for some Jamaican patties before boomeranging back for show #2, Andrew Bailey’s LIMBO. I’ve seen messr.Bailey around the Fringe Club stage many times this past week, so knew he had some powerful comedy chops to bring to the table. But LIMBO isn’t entirely a comedy, far from it. The (one assumes) true life story of Andrew himself and his grapplings with dark thoughts, OCD, the occasional possession…it’s a smart story, well told with a hearty interspersing of humour to keep things light. But never so light we forget the point which, for me, is how insidiously mental illness can creep into our lives…even a so-called ‘mild’ case, as in Andrew’s case, can still push someone to the brink. Bailey’s a confident performer, and while confessional monologues aren’t everyone’s cuppa, I’d give this one a strong rec.
Another turnaround viewing, one i’d put off in this Fringe for far too long already…from the long lineup, so had a few others. Must, then, be time at last for my annual dose of loud, raucous introspective poetry courtesy of JEM ROLLS IS PISSED OFF.
If you’ve ever caught Jem in action, you know what to expect, and you get a cracking good faceful of it in this show, featuring such Jem gems as the ibody and BrainBerry, EgoTourism, the Ten Demandments,and the struggle to find that perfect zen state of Pissed-Offedness in the face of what he warmly calls his ‘awful and innapropriate sense of happiness’. Which made me especially smile, because I know that if I’M ever happy again, that is doubtless how I will view the intrusion.
And if you’ve NEVER Seen Jem Rolls..? then get on that Vancouver ferry, gang, ’cause that’s where he’s headed next. And you need to see him in action.
After my much-needed dose of JemRollianism, it was back again for one more show, the buzzed-about RAMBO: THE MISSING YEARS. Brainchild of ex-GI Howard Petrick, R:TMY retells the incredible true story of his reluctant induction into the Army during the Vietnam war, and how he turned that misfortune into the first ever attempt to start an anti-war movement inside an Army base. Playing as himself (where, incongruously, Petrick seems least comfortable onstage) and dozens of other characters that he brings marvelously to life, Petrick’s story is an important one, especially considering the vilification of returning soldiers from ‘Nam. Turns out most of them are just as anti-war as the rest of the populace…they just aren’t allowed to say so. At least, they didn’t THINK they were…Howard tried to change all that, with harrowing and sometimes hilarious results. A VERY good show that’s flying under a lot of radars…get out and pack his last show today! Or plan on catching it in Vancouver, ’cause it’s worth the trip.
A break then, because apparently I think I deserve food sometimes (I don’t, but don’t tell me that…it’s a secret). Had a mighty Bibimbop at King Sejong that filled me but good, then wandered a spell, narrowly escaping some of the grimmer thugs on a dark streetcorner I never should have gone anywhere near (seriously, Victoria, you got some shady-ass characters lurking about after sundown). Finally, my last show of the evening approached, over at the Wood Hall…Bremner Duthie’s WHISKEY BARS.
I’d caught Bremner once before, with his PIG OF HAPPINESS show in Ottawa…had high hopes for this one, and was not let down. Playing to his strengths…his brilliant cabaret voice, passion for the Weimar works of Weill, Brecht and others, and (as I now know) how good he looks wearing only a towel, Bremner weaves a story about a down-and-out singer making one last attempt at regaining his former glory. We get to eavesdrop as he prepares for his comeback show, struggling with fears and insecurities, all while belting out the most beautiful and powerful songs you can imagine. Watching Bremer Duthie in action is always a treat, and he hits every note right in this show. This was his last show of the Fringe (I forget if he’s touring it onward), and he had the audience eating out of his hand. A deserved triumph.
A spot of melancholy Fringe-clubbing then (tho some PeternChris shenanigans gave me some smiles) before I wandered back to my hovel/hostel, already glumly looking forwad to my final day of Fringing. Suppose I had best make it a good one. You lot, feel free to join me…see something you hadn’t expected to see (sure things are SUCH a cliche), hit a weird venue, thank a performer or volunteer, and have fun, eh? Peace, love and soul, Fringers,