Dispatches from the Victoria Fringe 2018. Day One.

Reviews of Kalamazoo by Bema Productions, The Session by things falling apart theatre company, Reminiscences of Reconciliation by Logan Keewatin Richards and Fool’s Paradise by Anna MacAlpine (Blue Elephant Theatre).

Lindsay Delaronde, the Indigenous Artist in Residence for the City of Victoria, opened the 32nd Victoria Fringe Festival with a performance and enjoined those present at the preview in Centennial Square to “hold space” for the artists, to view their work with “an open heart” and to see it as “more than entertainment”.  She reminded us all that there are “learnings and teachings” to be found in every one of the 47 shows in this year’s festival.

Over 70 years have passed since the worldwide movement of the Fringe had its humble beginnings in Edinburgh (1947) as a response to the juried Edinburgh International Festival—work is chosen by lottery and is un-juried and un-censored.  Quality varied, although in recent years the Fringe circuit has become increasingly sophisticated and polished. Fervent fringers tell apocryphal tales of fringes past, of performances seared in memory for their rawness, of artists discovered, stories revealed in surprising fashion and the thrill of finding experiences connecting performer and audience. It’s a treasure hunt for theatre-lovers.

Since 2006 when I re-discovered the Victoria Fringe Festival (in its 20th anniversary year) I’ve been an enthusiastic supporter—I’ve volunteered, provided my “picks”, written previews and interviews, been a “Fringe Hero”—sponsoring a venue with a group of like-minded individuals—and, in 2014 started reviewing (no stars!).

I encourage people to dig deep, read reviews, talk to fellow fringers in line-ups, and, ultimately, to make up their own minds about a show—perhaps to get a little uncomfortable and see something they might not think they’d even like. After all—where else are you going to have the opportunity to pick and choose from among this rich a theatrical buffet?

I “cheated” and saw Kalamazoo by Bema Productions at their preview. Day One included The Session by Toronto-based things falling apart theatre company—dedicated to telling the stories from the African-Canadian-Caribbean diaspora—Reminiscences of Reconciliation by Logan Keewatin Richards, this year’s recipient of the Indigenous Artist Program, and Fool’s Paradise—a queer historical drama—by Blue Elephant Theatre.

Kalamazoo by Michelle Kholos Brooks and Kelly Younger is the story of two seniors searching for love after the death of their respective spouses. Peg (Angela Henry) is an Irish-American Catholic with conservative views about sex outside marriage and a passion for birds; Irving (Ira Shorr) a dashing, outgoing, more liberal Jew who’d like to date a shiksa (a non-Jew) in order to see the world from a different viewpoint. Encouraged by their children to take up online dating, they navigate, with trepidation, the pitfalls of the questionnaire.

Character is revealed quickly and humourously with two interspersed monologues as the action pivots back and forth between Peg and Irving, seated on high stools, behind separate computers.

Regardless of age, everyone wants to put their best self forward—the conundrum for Peg and Irving is in finding the balance between who they were in their previous marriages, and who they are now.  How do they embrace the future?

Kalamazoo recounts their tentative attempts at finding common ground in a series of vignettes that quickly take them from steamy first date to long-term commitment.

Director Zelda Dean keeps the action lively and light—the script demands ready banter between the lovebirds and occasionally dips into more serious territory. Shorr and Henry are engaging and funny, knowing when to hit the pause button for graver moments.

Chris Rudram’s sound design wonderfully recalls bygone favourites; Ann Marie Arneson spices up Peg’s attire with a fantastic array of hats and Irving’s with bright coloured shirts; Alf Small’s functional set accommodates the many changes of locale; Annie Weeks’ lighting is versatile—taking the audience from the intimacy of a Mexican restaurant to bright sunlit shores for a metal detecting expedition.

Kalamazoo by Bema Productions
Site B, Congregation Emanu-El, 1461 Blanshard
Tickets $11
Duration 55 minutes

Remaining shows:

Aug 26 Sunday 02:00 pm
Aug 27 Monday 07:00 pm
Aug 28 Tuesday 07:00 pm

Aug 29 Wednesday 07:00 pm
Aug 30 Thursday 07:00 pm

The Session by Tien Providence (who also directs) features Rais Clarke-Mendes in a harrowing and engrossing psychological drama that recounts the life of a young woman Leslie-Hayden Burke.  Incarcerated for a crime as yet unknown to the audience, she badgers and teases her unseen interrogator—a psychiatrist attempting to unravel the reasons for her felony. By turns coquettish, sexy, shrill and childish Clarke-Mendes prowls the stage in fits of anger, pique and bewilderment at her predicament.

Neglected from birth by an emotionally distant mother, Leslie-Hayden fights back, ultimately leaving the family home for life on the streets, with its predictable and attendant dangers—falling into sex work as an answer to her economic uncertainty before the relative freedom of being a kept woman beckons.

Clarke-Mendes fills the space with her spite and rage at the unfairness of life, slowly unravelling in a brutal climax that is chilling in its immediacy.

The Session provides a window into the heart and mind of a child, cast-off by family and society—never truly likable, Leslie-Hayden has her reasons and in the context of the play, they make perfect sense.

Fans of drama will appreciate this complex story, brought to life with incredible verve by a talented early career artist.

The Session by Tien Providence, produced by things falling apart theatre (Toronto)
Venue 4, VCM Wood Hall (907 Pandora)
Tickets $11
Duration 85 minutes

Note:  The Session is playing on the beginning and closing weekends of Fringe (see below).

Remaining shows:

Aug 24 Friday 07:00 pm
Aug 25 Saturday 07:30 pm
Aug 31 Friday 09:30 pm
Sep 01 Saturday 02:15 pm
Sep 02 Sunday 02:15 pm

Reminiscences of Reconciliation by Logan Keewatin Richards takes the audience forward to 2049 before dipping back to 2018 and further into the far reaches of time.  In a rambling non-linear narrative, punctuated at times by the beat of his drum, Richards combines myth, storytelling, history and personal anecdote to imagine a hopeful world beyond the present day—one where people, reconciled, live together happily and sustainably on the land, governed by aboriginal law, one far from the difficult reality of most Indigenous people in Canada today.

Musqua (Bear in Cree) and his side-kick Coyote deliver glimpses of humour accompanied by stark truth telling. “Out of sight, out of mind” Richards states emphatically after hiding behind a curtain for several long minutes—a visual reminder of how far most Indigenous populations are from mainstream concerns.

In a contemporary society that doesn’t work for so many of its citizens, Richards’ future is enticing. The question now is what will it take to get there?

Reminiscences of Reconciliation is a gift, a tender offering of the heart, one seeking witnesses and allies. In early stages of development it will grow slowly over time as Richards becomes more comfortable being solo on stage. (He’s currently an ensemble member of Sing Your Joy young adult chorus and a local Toastmasters group). This is a brave first step.

Reminiscences of Reconciliation by Logan Keewatin Richards
Venue 4 VCM Wood Hall, 907 Pandora Avenue
Tickets $11
Duration: 45 minutes

Remaining shows:

Aug 26 Sunday 03:45 pm

Aug 28 Tuesday 08:15 pm
Aug 29 Wednesday 06:15 pm
Sep 01 Saturday 12:45 pm
Sep 02 Sunday 05:00 pm

Fool’s Paradise is a period love story featuring a cross-dressing, swashbuckling opera singer and petty thief—Julie d’Aubigny “La Maupin” (Julie McGuire), a fascinating woman who lived during the time of the Sun King and refused to adhere to strict societal laws.

When an excited Camille (Chantelle Potier) returns from Paris, she rushes to tell Mathilde (Hanna Seinen) about hearing La Maupin sing and encountering her after. Mathilde is transported back in time to the convent where she first met Julie and fell in love.

Anna MacAlpine (weaves the exploits of this intriguing character into a seamless story focusing on the brief love affair—the audience learns of an early marriage, a liaison with a powerful count, and heated arguments and duels.  It’s heady stuff—and all the more fascinating for being true.

McGuire is forceful and brash in her portrayal of Julie, Seinen as Mathilde, quietly resigned to the inevitabilities of her provincial station. In a particularly sweet interlude the two sing Au près de ma blonde in rich harmony. Sophie Chapell is a conniving Countess, bent on putting Julie in her place while Potier is pious and meddling as Sister Isabelle and febrile in the role of a gossipy young girl.

Elegant music and costumes (design Annie Konstantinova) add to the charm of Fool’s Paradise.

Herstory is often neglected—Julie d’Aubigny cut a broad swath in the society of her time and deserves to be more widely known to contemporary audiences.  MacAlpine doesn’t spare the details of a character who had her more unsavoury side—McGuire revels in swearing up a storm and bragging about her exploits.

Fool’s Paradise by Anna MacAlpine, produced by Blue Elephant Theatre
Venue 6, the Roxy Theatre 2657 Quadra Street
Tickets: Regular $11 / Student & Senior $9
Duration: 60 minutes
Ages 16+. Mature content and coarse language.

Remaining shows:
Aug 25 Saturday 04:15 pm
Aug 26 Sunday 05:30 pm
Aug 28 Tuesday 08:15 pm
Aug 31 Friday 07:45 pm
Sep 01 Saturday 02:00 pm

Written and Directed by Anna MacAlpine
Designed by Annie Konstantinova


Julie McGuire…………………………………………………….. Julie d’Aubigny
Hanna Seinen.……………………………………………………………. Mathilde
Sophie Chappell…………………. Countess/Mother Superior/Ensemble
Chantelle Potier.………………………. Sister Isabelle/Camille/Ensemble


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.


  1. Soooo funny, I recommend watching it if you want to have an afternoon of laughs


  1. […] forget to check out reviews from Day One (The Session, Reminiscences of Reconciliation, Fool’s Paradise), Day Two (Water People, Fado, […]

  2. […] forget to check out reviews from Day One (The Session, Reminiscences of Reconciliation, Fool’s Paradise), Day Two (Water People, Fado, […]

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