A few years ago famousactress Nancy Kenny got a particular bee up her bonnet….a documentary bee, specifically, and it was her Fringe bonnet it was poking around in (I’m going somewhere with this, please stay with me). Being the stick-to-it type of gal she is, Nancy corralled talented pals Cory Thibert (of May Can Theatre fame) and Natalie Watson, crafted a plan, put on her producer hat (yes, overtop her fringe bonnet, she can wear both at the same time because she’s THAT TALENTED) fundraised and fundraised and then fundraised some more, and set out to film her (and many other Fringe artists) adventures on the 2014 Fringe Festival tour across Canada, from London to Vancouver.
The end result is ON THE FRINGE, a feature-length documentary I finally got to see this past week. It is the first true pop-cultural record of the madness and magic that is the Fringe tour, inspired by Edinburgh but distinctly Canadian (in my mind, the most truly unique aspect of Canadian Theatre PERIOD, but never mind me). The film follows not on Nancy but Jem Rolls, Chase Padgett, Stacey Hallal, Robert Grier, Grahame Kent, Morgan Murray, Danielle Spilchen, Martin Dockery, Vanessa Quesnelle and a multitude of others as they arrive in a new town, set up their show, flyer, perform, drink, bunk with strangers, succeed, fail, then pack up, hit the road and start it allover again somewhere else. Trying to capture the essence of fringing is like trying to catch lightning in a bottle, but director Thibert and editor Watson succeed admirably. Their months of footage, painstakingly carved down to just 90 minutes, hit on all the successive highs and lows of this lunatic theatrical rollercoaster lifestyle…performance anxiety, fickle public and critics, financial hardships, friendship (and romance), fleeting fame and much, much more. Special shoutout to the beautiful soundtrack, much of it coming from Fringe artists seen in the film (including some of the achingly gorgeous AIDEN FLYNN score).
I’ve been involved with Fringe as a fan since 2008 and as a performer since 2013, so I’m not exactly giving an outsiders’ perspective here. As a relative insider, this flick gave me all the feels times a thousand. It gave me roaring newfound respect for these fearless artists, and made me all the more driven to join them on this most blissfully Quixotic of quests. Fringe is a very special thing in the world, and it’s beyond time that hard proof was made available to attest that fact. Thanks forever to the team for making this happen.
Now…why am I writing this? This movie isn’t available for rent or download yet, it’s playing at no local theatres for you to run and check out, limited tour screenings like the recent one in Ottawa aside. So what CAN you do? Help them out, that’s what. The filmmaking process is an arduous and EXTREMELY expensive one, postproduction included, and this journey isn’t finished yet. I donated some cash to the project’s early indiegogo campaign years back, and it was clearly some of the best money I’ve ever spent. I URGE you to click on their campaign page link and do the same, if you’re able. I want…no, I NEED my special edition 2-disc blu-ray of this movie, and that won’t happen without some cash. So feel the Christmas spirit, gather up those defunct pennies, and help make a Fringe miracle happen. Because Fringe miracles are pretty much the best kind, I say. Peace, love and soul,