Dispatches from the Victoria Fringe 2015. Day One.

Dispatches from the Victoria Fringe 2015. Day One.  The 29th Victoria Fringe Festival August 26-September 6, 2015.
Over the past few years, I have applied my fellow Fringe fanatic Arlene’s advice and stayed in one venue per night.

The start of the 29th Victoria Fringe Festival saw me happily ensconced at Langham Court Theatre (Venue 6) for an evening with Jem Rolls (The Inventor of All Things), Caitlin McFarlane & Vince Leblanc-Beaudoin (I Can’t Tell You) and Gemma Wilcox (The Honeymoon Period is Officially Over). Rolls and Wilcox are veteran Fringe performers, while McFarlane and Leblanc-Beaudoin are new to me, graduates of Langara College’s Studio 58, travelling over the pond from their home-base of Vancouver.

The Inventor of All Things

In the hierarchy of Fringe performers, performance poet and raconteur extraordinaire Jem Rolls is renowned for reaching the 100 Fringe festival milestone (in 2014). His virtuosity with words, and command of the English language, as well as his socialist bent, are legendary. Since 2006 when I first started fringing seriously, no year has been complete without one of his compelling performances.
Ideas fly rapidly, word pictures form and dissolve and the air is electrified. Jem earns his living on the Fringe circuit—performing and then hunkering down after the season is over to write his next show.

For 2015, expect a departure in The Inventor of All Things, a historical narrative chronicling the life of physicist Leo Szilard—the forgotten genius with the original idea for the chain reaction. You’ve never heard of him? Me neither. But, don’t worry, by the end of the evening, you’ll understand a lot more about the inner workings of the atomic bomb, the inherent intrigue and infighting in the scientific community, the militarization of science, and the Manhattan Project. Not forgetting—Martians!

On a bare stage, with a few lighting cues, and the atmospheric notes of Hungarian gypsy music and Big Band wartime tunes, Rolls compels attention as he recounts the inventions and personal life of the eccentric genius who had his breakthrough idea while stopped at a crosswalk.

From brief mentions of visits to the Bodleian Library at Oxford and Szilard’s hometown—Budapest—it is evident that Rolls has spent considerable time investigating Szilard’s life and theories. His skill at distilling the span of a lifetime and complex scientific ideas into a clear, forward driven narrative is brilliant. Alternating between historical and personal facts—the scientist escaped one day before the Nazis closed the border, Szilard was too proud to flush his own toilet—the stories tumble one after the other. Presidents, kings, generals and lovers add interest.

My appetite whetted, I now want to know more about how Rolls became captivated by this intriguing scientific personality.

Further reading:

The Inventor of All Things by Jem Rolls
Big Word Performance Poetry
Langham Court Theatre (venue 6)
60 minutes. PG 14+. Storytelling
All seats $11

Remaining shows

Sunday August 30, 2015 – 9:00 PM
Monday August 31, 2015 – 6:30 PM
Wednesday September 2, 2015 – 8:15 PM
Saturday September 5, 2015 – 2:00 PM
Sunday September 6, 2015 – 4:00 PM

I Can’t Tell You

Lies (little, big and white), half-truths, secrets and excuses are a fact of life. Mining the challenges created when we obfuscate, comedians Caitlin McFarlane and Vincent Leblanc-Beaudoin alternate between talk and game show, sketch and skit, in a fast-paced collage of silly antics.

As loveable goof balls, they dole out boxes of KD—macaroni maracas—to willing audience members, and up the ante with audience participation in a racy game of True or False.

Charting the inevitable consequences of the innocuous white lie, spinning words in a genial spoof of performance poetry (my personal favourite), or performing as father and daughter, variety in the brief sequences keeps the action zipping along.

Aficionados of late-night talk shows and sketch comedy will appreciate the pop culture references and themes.

Audience participation always adds a degree of uncertainty for any performer. Thursday’s opening night Fringe fans were happy to play along as the actors descended into the crowd and began whispering secrets (which then needed to be relayed down the line) in a giant game of Telephone before pulling people up onstage. The results were raunchy, comical, and never unkind.

I Can’t Tell You
written/created by Caitlin McFarlane & Vincent Leblanc-Beaudoin
Langham Court Theatre (Venue 6)
60 minutes. PG 14+. Coarse Language. Adult Themes. Comedic Collage
All seats $11

Remaining shows:

Friday August 28, 2015 – 10:15 PM
Saturday August 29, 2015 – 4:30 PM
Sunday August 30, 2015 – 3:45 PM
Monday August 31, 2015 – 8:15 PM
Tuesday September 1, 2015 – 6:30 PM

The Honeymoon Period is Officially Over

Gemma Wilcox returns with her Victoria Fringe 2009 hit (Best Female Performer–Pick of the Fringe), the first in the trilogy (Shadows in Bloom, Magical Mystery Detour) of the love-life of the central character Sandra.

Wilcox is a joy to watch; with her lyrical and graceful physical presence she paints precise images—the flutter and flare of a peacock’s tail feather fan, a campfire’s flickering flames, tomcat Hawthorn on his nocturnal prowls. Adept at morphing from character to character in two-person conversations, she is as at ease in her portrayals of women (Sandra and her aunt Crystal) as of men (Michael, Sondra’s boyfriend; Tony her uncle; Pete her former lover).

When things turn sour between Sandra and Michael, they head to the farm to celebrate Crystal and Tony’s 10th anniversary. The latter’s gruff and honest assessments of married life are poignant testimony to the challenges of any long-term relationship. Comedic cameos provoke laughter—a foul-mouthed rooster crows at the crack of dawn, and trembling chickens recount their late-night encounters with a fox in the hen house.

Wilcox’s blend of comedy, drama and physical theatre encourages a heart-felt response from her audiences, eliciting gasps of shock and dismay at one particular turn of events and nods of recognition for homespun homilies.

Tragedy surfaces too. Life is complex, with deep secrets and shadows, in this tale of love and letting go.

The Honeymoon Period is Officially Over requires excellent co-ordination of lighting and sound cues. Nowhere was this more evident than in the sequence where Wilcox, as Pete, plays the saxophone and then sings These Are A Few of My Favourite Things as Sandra. Kudos to the stage manager and venue tech.

The Honeymoon Period is Officially Over
Gemma Wilcox
Langham Court Theatre (venue 6)
67 minutes. PG 14+. Coarse language. Multi-Character One-Woman Comedy-Drama
All seats $11

Remaining shows:
Saturday August 29, 2015 – 2:45 PM
Sunday August 30, 2015 – 5:45 PM
Wednesday September 2, 2015 – 6:30 PM
Friday September 4, 2015 – 9:00 PM
Saturday September 5, 2015 – 7:15 PM

About @lacouvee

Community Builder. Catalyst. Speaker. Writer. Arts Advocate.

Passionate about bridging online and offline communities to effect positive change.

I truly believe that one person can make a difference and that we all have our own lives to live, creatively, while respecting the unique nature of others.

Speak Your Mind