I’m dragging this out. There’s no question really, the Fringe was over, like, a week ago now. Even I don’t write THIS slow. Yeah, I’m dragging it out. What of it? Thanks to a $700 plane ticket and a 2-week vacation, I’ve managed to artificially extend my beloved Fringe experience into September, but this is where it ends. No more extensions, no more shows, no more frantic jogs between venues until next summer…Fringe, folks, is OVER.
…Unless you’re in Vancouver or San Francisco, then you may choke on my bitter, bitter envy, you fiends.
But yes, I made my first ever Fringe road-trip this year, out to beautiful, sleepy Victoria BC, and she was well worth the voyage. Spent 13 lovelynights in just the most beautiful Hostel I could have hoped for…
Took in 45 performances (counting one non-Fringe show), made lotsa squinky new friends (Facebook and otherwise), walked about 3 and 1/2 marathons, drank 20 or 30 pots of coffee (it’s all there is to drink in Victoria), incurred 1 angry wasp sting, and bought one shiny new netbook for multipurpose bloggery. But it wasn’t all fun and games, Fringers, OH no. There be a dark side to the Victoria Fringe. And let’s get that out of the way first, shall we?
REGRETS, I HAD A FEW…
Now by this I certainly do not mean to bash the Victoria Fringe itself (certainly not after they treated me so nice, and after I drank a gallon or two of the grain alcohol they had posing as Vodka at the afterparty). Although…let’s take a moment to talk about the venue selection, hey? Now, I appreciate that I’ve been a little spoiled here in Ottawa, where the bulk of the venues are all within a 10-15 minute walking radius of one another (that little spoiler Luna Allison this year notwithstanding), AND the bulk of those venues are actual theatres to some degree. But, Holy Christmas, Victoria. You’re really gonna make me walk literally a half an hour for a converted gymnasium or church with terrible acoustics and wooden folding chairs? Besides the fact that it makes scheduling this thing like plotting an escape route from an Escher print, the consensus on the grapevine seemed to be that the remoteness of the venues was genuinely hurting a lot of the performers. If it wasn’t a ‘sure thing’ a lot of people just were not making the trip. And that sucks. I’m not sure what’s to be done about it, of course, but…well, here’s hoping something CAN be done. Because the quality of shows at this Fringe was BRILLIANT. I hate that people weren’t getting out to a lot of them, for something as silly as commute time.
…And here endeth any and all bitching about the VicFringe gang…Ian and Janet, the Victoria Fringe Overlords, are lovely folk indeed, and took this humble blogger in with open arms. But aside from venue-lag, I had a few other downsides to my Victoria Fringe experience, out of anyone’s control but myself. And I’m not talking about my daily, near-suicidal sluggish strolls through downtown, lonesome and despondent, wondering why God hated me so…nah, that’s just the day-to-day life of a blogger, friends. Once the shows started up, all was well with the world again. But I couldn’t see everything, sad but true. And there are a few shows that I especially regret not catching.
I was SERIOUSLY supposed to go and see THE FABULOUS MISS ROSIE BITTS. I’d met Rosie herself on a few occasions during the Fringe, and she was absolutely delightful in all respects. I suck for not getting to her show, and you Nanaimo Fringe cats had better treat her right! I also totally meant to get to THE TIRADES OF LOVE out at Point Ellice house, because site-specific theatre is usually pretty cool theatre. And if GOD IS A SCOTTISH DRAG QUEEN hadn’t sold out a thousand years in advance every time, I for sure would have been there. At least I caught Mike Delamont at the Fringe club doing his schtick, so I don’t feel TOO left out. I heard great things about THE SMELL OF THE KILL, and was also bummed that LIZARDBOY never even made it into Victoria at all (although its replacement show, RED, was dynamite). The HUMAN BODY PROJECT I heard raves about at every turn, but I chickened out. I’m plenty vulnerable enough day to day, thanks, I couldn’t handle a stronger dose just yet. And of course, there’s that one show I was told not to miss…but I did see the next best thing. No more need be said (winks, nudges).
Enough negativity! Let’s get to the good stuff, and there was a lot of it. Let’s start with something simple enough:
A few dynamite duos and more graced the stages, gyms and barnyards of the Vic Fringe this year…supahstars PETER’N CHRIS (aka Peter Carlone and Chris Wilson) were back introducing their third mad comedy-adventure show, while my own new discovery CHARLES, aka Charlie Stockman and Chuck Armstrong outta Seattle, left me beggin’ for more at Fairfield Hall. I sure have to mention Carol Lee Sirugo and Jon Kaplan of THE HYSTERIC, who put on a fantastic multi-character dark period comedy, as well as Tara Travis and Chris Bange of HOUDINI’S LAST ESCAPE.
The mostly local crews from shows like LOVE LETTERS FOR GEORGIA, STRUWWELPETER and SONNETS FOR AN OLD CENTURY did nothing but impress. And Improv gangs like HIP.BANG! and SHLONG FORM IMPROV also put on great shows, as well as doing a lot of double duty at the Fringe club late-nite. Kudos. And Andrew Pheonix and Kate Braidwood from GRIM AND FISCHER? Forgetaboutit.
FAV’RIT SOLO PERFORMERS
Plenty of solo shows here at the Vic Fringe…including some 17 one-woman shows. Oddly enough, I didn’t hear word one of the kind of kvetching I heard all around the Ottawa campfire this year, namely that there were ‘too many’ one woman shows at our Fringe. For the record, this year in Ottawa..? There were 6 one-woman shows.
Which leads me to the sad question…are people in Ottawa retarded, or do we just hate women?
But I’ll take care of THAT query another day. Today, I’ll just regale ye with a list of the performers who wowed me with the way they kept me rivetted on stage, all on their lonesome, the reason I fell in love with acting, theatre, and Fringe. There were plenty of performers I’d caught before in one show or another…Katie Hood (THE ANIMAL SHOW), Jeff Culbert (the DONNELLY SIDESHOW), Cameryn Moore (PHONE WHORE), Gemma Wilcox (SHADOWS IN BLOOM), Jem Rolls (…IS PISSED OFF), Brent Hirose (the SUCKERPUNCH) and Rob Gee (SMART ARSE), for instance. I didn’t see Cam and Brent again this time around (and I’m regretting it a little, believe me), but the others certainly all delivered the goods. And Jayson MacDonald, who I’d caught in BOAT LOAD years ago, and finally reunited with for GIANT INVISIBLE ROBOT, lived up to all my expectations. But then, as with every Fringe, there were the new crop! And by new, I mean NEW! Like, BIRDMANN new.
The Birdmann (who has a real name, but I like to pretend he doesn’t) is a revelation of a performer, a man like no man indeed. Proof positive that mad genius grows in Australia, as if Shane Adamczak (ZACK ADAMS: LOVE SONGS FOR FUTURE GIRL) wasn’t proof enough. Then there’s genial Bob Brader of the red-hot one-manner SPITTING IN THE FACE OF THE DEVIL, lighting the stage up with unassuming brilliance.
And the ladies..! I’m on record (and will do so again here) as saying that one-woman shows are my personal fav’rit form of entertainment, and there were great examples in Victoria, and lots of exciting names to look for in the future. Names like Chelsee Damen of the sleeper gem DIANNE & ME, or Kirsten van Ritzen in ALL MY DAY JOBS. Stephanie Henderson tearing it up in THE TROUBLES, Celeste Sansregret tour-de-forcing things in WONDERBAR!, or Alison Wearing simply GIVING INTO LIGHT. They were all fantastic In fact, this leads quite nicely into that old classic category…
FRINGE CRUSHES (VICTORIA 2011 EDITION)
Now, we’re going by Thornhill rules for crushes here, which means that you had to have developed the crush DURING the Fringe itself. Which means I will NOT be mentioning a certain performer who I may or may not have bought a silly present for, in a poorly thought out (but still endearing!) hopeless romantic gesture. Yes? Yes. Ahem. On with the business at hand..?
Well, I haven’t been able to resist a Tara since season 4 of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, so why start now? From Tara Firm (aka Christina Patterson of TARA FIRM AND THE LUNAR WAR CHRONICLES), perky Lunar adventurer extraordinaire, to darlin’ Tara Travis of Monster Theatre’s HOUDINI’S LAST ESCAPE (she’s funny, talented, and about 9 feet tall…how could I resist?) , this Fringe had my Tara-fetish covered. Then there’s my fav’rit venue manager of them all, who I actually got to dance some with at Paparazzi on closing nite, the lovely and uber-perky Heather from Langham Court. Sigh. We need venue managers in Ottawa, so I can crush on THEM, too.
And the Visitor don’t reserve his love for the young’uns, no sir. The lady Miss Danda Humphreys, shining star of LOVE LETTERS FOR GEORGIA, done stole my heart right quick. But then, the wunnerful Yana Kesala of THE UKRAINIAN DENTISTS DAUGHTER makes a good case for the younger generation.
And then, of course, there’s MY FIRST TIME costar Ben Wert. Because we gotta have some bromance represented on the crush list, even if we kept it platonic. And even if he’s no Bremner Duthie, who looked smashing in a towel for the first half of WHISKEY BARS. Rrowr.
But that’s enough for the fanfiction crowd…it’s getting near the end, I’ve been writing for way too long, and I’ve gotten WAY too reacquainted with my bottle of Jameson’s already. So let’s wrap this one up with a bright shiny bow, and give it a snappy title to boot. Something sharp, like…
…yeah, that’ll do. And remember, that title is accurate. These are MY Fav’rit shows, not ‘the best’. Anyone who says they know which shows are ‘THE’ best is either deceiving themselves or trying to deceive you. So what WERE the ones I came away pining to see again, and hoping will make the long trek to Ottawa Fringe? (Note: I’m not including in this list shows I’ve already seen in Ottawa, like ANIMAL SHOW, SHADOWS IN BLOOM, PHONE WHORE or SUCKERPUNCH. So there.) Well…
– CANTERBURY COCKTAILS
Julian Cervello’s daringly retro one-manner, told entirely in Chaucer’s original middle English, yet still managing to be wholly engrossing, funny, and charming for a modern audience. He’s a helluva storyteller, and I hope more people get to see this wonderful show.
– PETER ‘N CHRIS AND THE MYSTERY OF THE HUNGRY HEART MOTEL
Okay, after the first 2 times, P+C aren’t exactly new to me, but they still manage to yank as many laughs out of their audience as they damn well please in this, the murder-mystery installment of the series. Ridiculous, nonsensical brilliance.
– ZACK ADAMS: LOVE SONGS FOR FUTURE GIRL
I’m a little biased, on account of Weeping Spoon Productions made the first Fringe show I ever saw, but Shane (aka Zack) delivers with his one-man musical lament to all the girls that got away. The music is wonderful, the emotion is real and heartfelt, and Zack Adams is the Spider-Man of bittersweet comedy-romance plays. You heard me.
– CHARLES PRESENTS: A TRIP THROUGH THE MULTIVERSE
Or whatEVER the name of their show was. Charlie and Chuck were the freshest new comedy duo I’ve hoped to see for years, and if there’s any way they can see fit to bring their game of correspondence jenga to Ottawa, I’ll thank them for it.
– SPITTING IN THE FACE OF THE DEVIL
Bob Brader, with the direction of the amazing Suzanne Bachner, tells the most calmly terrifying true tale you’ll ever hear. Punch-to-the-gut acting and no-nonsense writing combine to deliver one of the strongest experiences you’ll ever have at the Fringe. Also, Bob and Suzanne are TOTALLY cool.
– GRIM AND FISCHER
It got raves up and down the Fringe circuit, and I’ll happily parrot that line here. G&F is full-mask theatre with a tongue-in-cheek quirk, and a tragic honesty that may not catch you until it’s too late. Skilled actors in an unforgettable play.
And the final two, who combine to show that, while size may in fact matter, it’s all relative…
– GIANT INVISIBLE ROBOT
I’d been longing to see this show since BOAT LOAD in ’08, and it was worth every bit of wait and travel. Jay Mac tells the improbable tale of a tragically shy little boy and his only friend, a literal Giant Invisible Robot, as he grows into adulthood. Along the way we meet a variety of characters trying to understand or destroy the GIR, with hilarious results, but the strange heart beating at the center of this play never gets too far out of sight. Utter joy.
– LITTLE ORANGE MAN
Starring wunderkind Ingrid Hansen of Snafu Dance Theatre, and directed by Kathleen Greenfield, LOM is everything that’s good and lovely about theatre. Inventive, exciting, funny, heartbreaking, interactive, smart, unpredictable, and even a little bit educational. This is the kind of play you’d punch through stone walls to see, if you knew what was good for you. Beautiful, wonderful, and I’ll never stop wanting to see it again. Love.
…And, that’s it. That’s the whole story, except for a few random moments in my Fringe Victoria experience. Which is where I’m leaving this one. With my love to all of you who made this what it was, and with this one, final list…
– MY FAV’RIT MOMENTS
Bee…Bee…Bee…WASP! Music won the day. Late nite Chinese with Jem, Bob, Katie, Suzanne and Cam. Volunteering for Houdini. Jaffacakes. Do you wanna Fuck, or do you wanna Fight? I finally met Jayson MacDonald. Sunglasses. Mortality! Walking to Fairfield Hall. San Juan Benny at the Flying Otter. The offer’s on the table. Shock Headed Peter. Gemma Wilcox knows my name! Late nite West Coast Waffles. Spapp! Netbook. That’s a stupid way to do it! Pumfrey’s rule. The first time you contemplated suicide…and changed your mind. And OHMIGOD LETS GO RIDE BIKES!!!
Peace, love, and soul,
The Visitor (and Winston)