Another year, another Fringe…over? Say it ain’t so! But alas, the final set has been struck, the courtyard is just a yard again, and those pins on your shirt just make you look silly now. But hang on…Fringe isn’t over ’til I SAY it’s over! And as long as I’ve still got one more post to mine out of the 2012 festival, the show goes on. So come on along and let’s look back at the tale of the 16th Ottawa Fringe Festival:
– RANDOM THOUGHTS: Loved the courtyard food from BOHEMIAN KITCHEN this year. Nice variety, very affordable, and always served with a smile. I hope this gang will be back in the future. What I hope will NOT be back…? Arts Court Library. Not now that Tess Mc Manus (and she deserves a medal for this) introduced the easily superior Courthouse, right next door, as a venue this year. Okay, there’s fewer seats, but you can actually SEE from all of them! Let’s say goodbye to the worst sightlines in the fest (not to mention noise pollution from the courtyard), okay? I see no down side here. Although on the subject of venues, I hope we’ll be able to reacquire a fifth ‘main’ venue for next year…52 shows was great, but I could stand a little more, know what I’m saying? Be it SAW Gallery, Alumni Auditorium, or maybe make one of the regular BYOV’s like Cafe Alt an official venue. Five is a nice round number. All I’m saying.
On another note, it was pretty grand seeing so many familiar faces from my road trip to the Victoria Fringe Festival last year, visiting our wee capital. Chris Bange (from HOUDINI’S LAST ESCAPE) brought us THE FAT GUY SHOW, Howard Petrick was here with the great BREAKING RANK! (formerly titled RAMBO: THE MISSING YEARS), Katherine Glover of BURNING BROTHELS was here with DEAD WRONG, Melanie Gall had her latest MORE POWER TO YOUR KNITTING, NELL! and Ingrid Hansen took her LITTLE ORANGE MAN on the road. It was great seeing them all again, and made me feel all cosmopolitan and shit.
– THANKS!!! Before I get going with the post proper, I want to thank a few folks who, well, I desperately need to drown with praise and gratitude. I’ll start off with a HUGE shoutout to the Team Supreme, my flock of Angels at TEAM VISITORIUM – Fiona Currie, Amanda Klaman, Danielle Savoie, Grace Gordon, Kiersten Hanly and Nadine Thornhill. Together, we got each and every show at the Fringe reviewed on this site with three days to spare…honestly, I wasn’t sure we were gonna make it, but the gals brought some serious reviewing game with them, and made the Visitorium look pretty damn good in the process. I owe you all, ladies (Still working out the logistics of a dinner party, gals, stay tuned!)
Speaking of the blog, thank you to all the folks who stayed tuned in to see what we were up to. Traffic on the blog easily hit an all time high during the festival, averaging more than 500 hits a DAY. I also have to say a big thanks to my boy
Jason Vaughan, who designed and printed up my super-sweet bizness cards that I occasionally littered the courtyard with. More people making me look good! I kinda love it.
And a special shoutout to volunteer, superfan and photog Jan, who gave me multiple rides home during the festival and saving me plenty of cab cash. While I’m at it, thanks to the millionth power to ALL of the volunteers and staff who made things run smooth. All love to Natalie Joy Quesnel, our beloved Fringe overlord…she works HARD to make Fringe this good. Worship her accordingly.
– MISSING IN ACTION: Even with my final total of 45 show viewings, I still missed some shows…9, to be precise, and I apologize to all of ya. I’m especially sad I missed Troupe de la Lune’s version of Lawrence Aronovitch’s EX CATHEDRA, and I heard cool things about TRASHMAN’S DILEMMA, too. And aside from not managing even one trip to the regular LATE NIGHT CABARET (shameful, I know), I even missed out on the SUPER-SECRET CABARET this year! Gakk! I’m still living that one down. And of course, there were some Fringe superstars who you always hope will hit up your little town, but didn’t make it in this year…Jem Rolls, Jonno Katz, Amy Salloway, Jayson MacDonald…another time, sigh. But the one thing I really missed at this year’s Fringe..? Miss Nancy Kenny, now lost to the wilds of Toronto…this is my first Ottawa Fringe without her being around! More on her later, tho (foreshadowing!).
But now, it’s time to get to what we came to get to…Fav’rits!
– FAV’RIT SOLO PERFORMERS: A tough call, because there were SO many, and so many were AWESOME. Wee Tess Mc Manus was endearingly Irish in the wonderful DONKEY DERBY, and John Grady wove a beautiful spell with his storytelling in FEAR FACTOR: CANINE EDITION. On the high-octane end of the spectrum, Martin Dockery’s hilarious and demonstrative WANDERLUST kept me rivetted, and Jeff Leard gave one of the best physical comedy performances I’ve ever seen in GAMETES AND GONADS (*note: this show wins the award for most-commonly mispronounced title. It’s ‘Gam-Eats’, folks, not ‘Gameeties’, or ‘Gamitties’. Runner up: Wolves>Boys, aka ‘Wolves are Greater than Boys’, which I most commonly heard referred to as ‘Wolves versus Boys’, or ‘the Wolf-Boy Show’)
Katherine Glover was pitch-perfect in the unflinching drama DEAD WRONG, and Sean Sonier was just flat-out impressive as the ape Red Peter in A REPORT TO AN ACADEMY. Mark Shyzer knocked multiple roles out of the park in FISHBOWL, and Kathi Langston was incredible in MABEL’S LAST PERFORMANCE. And what to say about Dylan George in LOVEBUG LOUIE, Ken Godmere in VERNUS SAYS SURPRISE, Ingrid Hansen in LITTLE ORANGE MAN…Sorry, I’m going on and on a bit here, but SO MANY GOOD SOLO PERFORMANCES!! It makes me a happy Visitor. Final shoutout to Jonah Allingham for his dynamite piece IN WAVES…ya done good, lad.
– FAV’RIT ENSEMBLES: Big kudos to the two major dance ensembles, Caithream Celtic Dance Fusion for the delightful A MACSUMMER NIGHTS DREAM, and Pollux Dance for the sexy and fun HETEROLLECTUAL. The comedy trio that is Lady Business rocked it with I’M NOT CRYING IN THE BATHROOM, I’M CRYING IN THE SUPPLY CLOSET, and the Glassiano mob gave their all in the mad comedy FALLEN: THE BOOK OF SAMAEL. Cory and Tony of May Can Theatre were solid in WOLVES>BOYS, and Bear & Co. made a seriously fun debut with the incestuous classic ‘TIS PITY SHE’S A WHORE. Much love also to the cast of the charming, sleeper hit 100 FIRST KISSES, and Mado Manseau and Sean Sonier in THE OPEN COUPLE.
– FAV’RIT SHOWS: Holy shit, are we here already? I’ve been kinda dreading this bit, as it’s gonna be really hard to choose and sort. A lot of quality shows that measure up really well one against the other this year. Take the ordering/numbering of this list with a grain of salt, folks, it’s all good stuff. And just to get it out of the way, here’s a show that I’m taking out of the official running, only because I already named it my fav’rit show of the Victoria Fringe LAST year, and it seems weird to put the exact same show in again…but otherwise, it totally would have been right at the top again:
LITTLE ORANGE MAN from Snafu Dance Theatre. Ingrid Hansen’s Kitt is an impossible character to forget, and the quaint theatre space in the basement of St.Paul’s is just as perfect a venue for her manic, brilliant tale as I imagined it would be. The classic hero’s quest told through the eyes of a hyperactive child seeking to contact a loved one via dreams, Little Orange Man is theatre that will resonate, affect, and change you forever. Endlessly inventive, perfectly endearing, magical as all get out. Pure joy.
WHITE NOISE from Twisted by Design Theatre. From out of nowhere, this expressive and powerful meditation on the controversial suicide of Nadia Kajouji rocked everyone who saw it, and rightfully so.
THE OPEN COUPLE from Theatre Sasa. Mado Manseau in one of the best performances of the Fringe, and amazing direction from Jodi Sprung-Boyd made for one helluva show, based on the script Dario Fo never wanted you to see.
A MACSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM by Caithream Celtic Dance Fusion. Tremendous fun from a talented team of dancers, this all-girl celtic retelling of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was entertaining as Hell, and I’m glad I was there to see it.
100 FIRST KISSES from Slattery Theatre. Mark MacDonald’s ode to first love was sugary sweet Fringe fun, simple and perfectly staged, and pretty impossible to dislike. Would have liked to see this one again.
LOVEBUG LOUIE IN A BLESSING FROM THE CURSED by Theatre Sasa. Dylan George and Jodi Sprung-Boyd created maybe the most memorable of all Fringe characters with the height-challenged Louie, not to mention a set that boggled the mind.
SPACE MYSTERY…FROM OUTERSPACE! From Dead Unicorn Ink. Stepping up their game from last year’s PLAYING DEAD, DUI rocked the joint with their rollicking film noir/50’s sci-fi mashup.
DEAD WRONG from Katherine Glover. Tough subject matter, stark staging, one great performance and exactly zero easy ways out made this one of the must-see shows at this year’s Fringe. The fact that so few did is, quite frankly, a mystery.
WOLVES>BOYS from May Can Theatre. Another company on the rise, Tony and Cory improved on their fan favourite SOUNDS FROM THE TURTLE SHELL last year with this nifty , layered story about two friends (or are they a wolf pack?) in a graveyard. PEI is gonna LOVE this shit.
– TOP THREE!
DONKEY DERBY by Tess Mc Manus. I’m a sucker for a one-woman show, and Tess’ sweet and smart tale of a painfully fearful Irish girl had me from the opening Feck and Shite. Charming, honest, and with a memorable performer at its heart, this is a beauty of a debut rooted in personal history and culture.
HETEROLLECTUAL: LOVE AND OTHER DUMB IDEAS by Pollux Dance. An insanely entertaining dance ensemble piece from the wickedly talented Pollux gang, taking us from first flutter to aching breakup with increasingly amazing moves and choreography. This is the dance show to make you a fan of dance shows. And finally…
VERNUS SAYS SURPRISE by Emanate Productions. With one magic word, Ken Godmere makes Fringe history with this brilliantly simple story of a doting Grandfather trying to buy the perfect present for his granddaughter, and the incredible trials he goes through to do it. Set to a painfully orchestrated soundtrack, which I’m immensely proud to be a part of (bias alert), and featuring the kind of to-the-second timing Nasa only WISHES it had, VERNUS is absolute theatrical magic, bringing the best of mime and storytelling to the stage. He’s touring the country with this show…listen for the sounds of jaws dropping province by province as he goes along. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.
Okay, now that the preliminaries are out of the way…time to get on to the REAL stuff. Which means *shudder*…
– FRINGE CRUSHES 2012!!
Keeping in line with the solidly established Thornhill rules of Fringe-Crushing, here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
1st mate Patty Stream in SPACE MYSTERY…FROM OUTERSPACE! Sure, Marissa Caldwell was the femme fatale, but it was Sylvie Recoskie’s P.Stream who kept things running smoothly, with a smile on her face…and quite frankly that’s my kinda gal.
Kathi Langston in MABEL’S LAST PERFORMANCE. What, a performance like that ISN’T going to get my attention?
Jess Preece. I’ve known Jess for a while now, but she’s never served me beer before. And by golly, I like that in a woman.
The girls of FALLEN: THE BOOK OF SAMAEL. Because there ain’t no girl like a Glassiano girl. Jen, Rebecca, Rana, Sophia, and Jacki? You’re the goods. And don’t take any shit from Martin or James, okay?
Pollux Dance. At first I was just going to hold myself to the girls, but who am I kidding? Theyr’e ALL hot as fuck, and they know it. Though I DO lean towards Ana, who danced with me one on one at the closing night party. Hope to see this gang again, and soon.
– FAV’RIT MOMENTS: You don’t Fuck with Titus. I’m afraid of the boys! It’ll get you used to the dirt. Paddy McCullagh bought me a beer. The Yoga sketch. Put your clothes on, boys! Ingrid used my quotes, squee! Incest makeout. Can we see the dessert menu? The bear is fucking MOVING. Dancing to the bagpipes. Little Lady kissed her toe at me! Good cunting, Captain. Hi, George. 1..2..3..1…2… Odin! Science, and lasers. Rideau and Sussex. He’s Ash. You are a good donkey. I was Cat’s Crush. I think you’ve done enough. Hamish…sit. Surprise!
And NOW it’s over…Fringe 2012. Although I suppose, if you REALLY want more, you could always go to the Sam Mullins/Peter’n’Chris double bill at Academic Hall tomorrow night (TINFOIL DINOSAUR and MYSTERY OF THE HUNGRY HEART MOTEL for a measly 20 bucks). And if THAT isn’t enough, I SUPPOSE you could go check out Nancy Kenny as she remounts ROLLER DERBY SAVED MY SOUL for one night only on Monday the 2nd of July at the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama. Also, she’s totally taking that show on tour next year..? And if you’re not a jerk, you can help her out with that via her amazing new website at NancyKenny.ca. Donate, and maybe God will forgive you for that thing you did last year. Maybe.
That’s it for me tonite…thanks again to my Team Visitorium 2012, you did SUCH a good job I can’t tell ya. I’ll be back next Fringe…and, well, a lot sooner than that when the next shows start playing around town. Sometime later this week, really. Now I’m off, to finally watch those FRINGE MINUTES I’ve been ignoring for weeks, and find out who Octavious Fringe really is. Until next Fringe, Peace, love and soul,
The Visitor (and Winston)