Dispatches from the Victoria Fringe 2015. Day Seven.

Dispatches from the Victoria Fringe 2015. Day Seven. The Victoria Fringe Festival August 26-September 6, 2015.
Reviews of The Untitled Sam Mullins Project, The Old Woman by John Grady and The 11 O’Clock Number by Grindstone Theatre.

Read all of my Victoria Fringe Festival 2015 coverage HERE: 

The Untitled Sam Mullins Project

Sam Mullins is part of the next generation of storytellers who are slowly building their audience across the country and further afield.

An accomplished and award-winning comedy writer with CBC’s The Irrelevant Show, among other accomplishments, he has an easy-going way about him that immediately inspires confidence, breaking the ice with jokes within mere minutes of taking the stage.

Four seemingly-separate truths, gleaned during a comedy-writing exercise gone wrong, form the basis of the show. Here are tales of his most excruciating role at theatre school—in a production so bad the actors have taken a vow never to speak of it again—life on the road as a love-sick Fringe performer, musings on his father and the fleeting nature of life, and finally, profoundly personal and honest revelations about the impetus behind his writing.

Mullins has the enormous capacity not only for fearless self-reflection, but also for gleaning tenuous threads and elements in order to weave them into a cohesive whole. Based in his life, yet transcending the mundane, they remind us of the transformative and healing power of art. His four truths, so openly shared, inspire each of us to begin sharing our own.

The Untitled Sam Mullins Project by Sam Mullins
Toronto, ON
Venue 4, VCM Wood Hall
60 minutes • PG 14+: Coarse Language • Storytelling Comedy Drama
All seats $11

Remaining shows:
Friday September 4, 2015 – 10:00 PM
Saturday September 5, 2015 – 7:15 PM
Sunday September 6, 2015 – 4:45 PM

The Old Woman by John Grady

It’s inevitable; at some point parents age, and children become care givers. John Grady moved from New York to Los Angeles to be closer to his Mom who had recently been moved to an assisted living facility in Northern California.

From stories of encounters with rattle snakes in Griffith Park while out dog-walking (his only solid gig at the time) to re-telling old Irish fairy tales, to days spent counting his mother’s pills, Grady speaks to the unease of being cast adrift from the routine of the regular, whether in his mother’s life or his own. Drawing parallels between her increasingly fragile mental state and his inability to remember an acquaintance, a natural hesitancy begins to emerge.

Taking up pen and tongue against the inadequacies of the system of care and warehousing of the elderly, his observations pointed and sarcastic, Grady asks some very hard questions about the lack of meaningful activity and medication regimes. There’s gentle humour in his characterization of the residents—self-appointed security guards sit waiting at the front door.

Confounded by the inevitability of life, haunted by memories tinged with love and regret, Grady reveals his naked soul. The Old Woman is shattering, beautiful and brave.

Grady’s discombobulated dance solo —where once simple movements deconstruct and become impossible to perform—is grief made visible, technically challenging and unparalleled.

If there is one lesson to be learned from Grady’s oh-so-personal story, it’s this—if you have elderly parents or grandparents, now is the time to talk to them about their lives, before it’s too late and memory fades into oblivion.

The Old Woman by John Grady
New York, NY
Venue 7, Fairfield Hall
50 minutes • PG 14+: Coarse Language, Adult Themes • solo, theatre, dance
All seats $11

Remaining shows:
Saturday September 5, 2015 – 2:15 PM
Sunday September 6, 2015 – 2:15 PM

The 11 O’Clock Number by Grindhouse Theatre

Grindhouse Theatre knock it out of the park with The 11 O’Clock Number.

Victoria is no slouch in the improv scene with at least 6 companies or troupes performing everything from a serial (Sin City) to works “in the style of” (Paper Street Theatre) to improvisation as social action (Whistling Kettle), but no one yet has hit upon improv musicals.

From Edmonton, the home of the original improvised serial Die Nasty, now in its 22nd season, Grindstone Theatre has just completed their 2nd season, the Edmonton Fringe and a trip to the New York Musical Improv Festival.

Company members come from a variety of backgrounds, including extensive musical and theatrical training which is immediately evident at the beginning of the show.

Leader Mary Hulbert welcomes and warms up the audience with a few requests for answers to questions, and then hones in on a front desk clerk at one of the local hotels—the Chateau Victoria. Probing for details of his life—the premise of the show is “an improvised musical based on your life”—she draws out facts about hobbies (dragon boating) and challenges of hotel work (lost luggage, credit card charges, late ferries).

What follows is inspired: a wealthy couple, Mr and Mrs Blanshard (Dan Moser and Mhairi Berg) check in with Bryce (Jordan Ward). Luggage, picked up by bell hops (Nicole English and Mary Hulbert), goes missing. Bryce sings about HIS hotel being the best and the action segues to a pair of Empress Hotel employees (Hulbert and English) gloating over the fine accoutrements of THEIR hotel. As a former hospitality employee (I worked at the Chateau Victoria) with wide-spread connections in the industry I have to admit to a particular bias. Along the way there was an epic dragon boat battle, some whale-watching from BC Ferries (complete with orca and seal vocalizations) and a most satisfying conclusion, as the wealthy Blanshards swoop in to save the hotel.

The cast is adept at pointing at the idiosyncrasies of Victoria—the high cost of high tea, how hard it is to find tickets to certain tours or a coffee shop open after 6pm, Miniature World, whale-watching tours.

Musician Erik Mortimer has a solid grasp of musical theatre styles and created improvised numbers that were up tempo and catchy—I’m still humming “we’re the best, better than the rest”. Although there is no direction per se (it’s improvised, after all), he signalled black out when scenes were reaching their logical completion.

Throughout, the improvisers were attuned to one another and to the audience, and the action rarely flagged. The songs were a combination of silly and inspired.

The 11 O’Clock Number showcases a tight ensemble and is a fine example of the tremendous skill sets needed to successfully pull off both improv and musical.

Word-of-mouth recommendations work—I went to see The 11 O’Clock Number on the advice of a friend, a local improviser and fellow Fringe fanatic.

The 11 O’Clock Number by Grindhouse Theatre
Edmonton Alberta
Venue 3, Metro Studio Theatre
60 minutes • pg 14+: Coarse language, adult themes • improvised, Musical, Comedy

Remaining shows
Saturday September 5, 2015 – 5:45 PM
Sunday September 6, 2015 – 8:30 PM


About @lacouvee

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  1. […] Grady’s discombobulated dance solo —where once simple movements deconstruct and become impossible to perform—is grief made visible, technically challenging and unparalleled. http://janislacouvee.com/dispatches-from-the-victoria-fringe-2015-day-seven/ […]

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