Dispatches from the Victoria Fringe 2014. Day Eight.

Dispatches from the Victoria Fringe 2014. Day Eight.  Reviews of Red Hot Mama (Melanie Gall), High Tea (James and Jamesy), Medicine (TJ Dawe) and Jem Rolls Attacks the Silence.

More information at Victoria Fringe. Purchase tickets at TicketRocket, the Intrepid Theatre box office, or at the venue one hour prior to the show. Don’t forget—you’ll need a Fringe visa button ($6).

The final week of the Fringe is extremely busy and I would highly advise getting tickets in advance for shows you don’t want to miss (or be prepared to line up early). If you like to take your chances (and that is a vital part of the Fringe experience) there are over 50 shows in 11 venues for the final weekend. From puppetry to dance, spoken word to drama, comedy to solo show, magic to theatre for young audiences—there truly is something for everyone.

Read my complete Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival 2014 coverage HERE.

Red Hot Mama, written by Eric De Wall, performed by Melanie Gall

Melanie Gall is the ideal person to re-create Sophie Tucker, last of the “red-hot mamas”.  Gall’s opera-trained voice is deep and rich, her stage presence assured.  She last appeared at the Victoria Fringe in 2011 with The Sparrow and The Mouse (about the life of Edith Piaf and her sister).

Red Hot Mama is a cabaret show that provides tuneful songs and the history of a bye-gone era, interspersed with risqué (by early 1900s standards) jokes and stories.

Red Hot Mama: A Sophie Tucker Cabaret
Tucker was a vaudeville legend who came from humble origins and worked her way up, eventually performing not only across North America (with appearances in Victoria) but eventually in Europe, to royalty.

She was at the forefront of the movement to organize the American Federation of Actors, and when fame arrived, established a foundation to assist others.

Red Hot Mama will appeal to fans of cabaret and musicals.  The soundtrack is recorded—I’m always impressed by singers who can maintain tempo in such situations, there’s a great amount of precision required.

Look for numbers like That’s Why The Lady’s a Tramp, Some of these Days (Tucker’s trademark), Red Hot Mama, He’s A Good Man to Have Around.

Red Hot Mama, performed by Melanie Gall
St Ann’s Academy (835 Humboldt), Venue 7
Upcoming performances:
Saturday August 30-6:15pm
Sunday August 31-9:15pm

High Tea, by James and Jamesy

After causing quite a stir with 2 for Tea at last year’s Victoria Fringe, our favourite “British” duo, James and Jamesy, (Vancouver-based actors Aaron Malkin and Alastair Knowles) set sail once again on a sea of absurdity and imagination to bring us High Tea.

James & Jamesy in: High Tea - Life & Depth
Jamesy (Knowles) is the compulsively precise stay-at-home member of the pair. Every week, he’s visited by his genial partner-in-adventure James (Malkin) for a tea party.

From the moment Jamesy extends a hand and teapot through the curtain, the audience explodes in titters.  Playing with ridiculous notions of self and place, the duo break the fourth wall (a deft piece of writing that pokes fun at the very foundation of theatre and audience) and expand their performance from the stage into the crowd.

Last year I was impressed by their ability to employ a large number of audience members in their improvisation; this year they increased the stakes enormously by effectively engaging everyone. You have never seen such willingness to become birds, mythical creatures and barnyard animals. Thinking fast on their feet, James and Jamesy even found time to make allusions to one gentleman’s beard and red shirt when they singled him out to be God (“didn’t I tell you God and Santa were one and the same”).

The small stage at Wood Hall became, in the blink of an eye, the entire world.  With carefully choreographed physical theatre, Jamesy prances about, to our great amusement, and balances atop his more sanguine partner in a fit of terror at what awaits them.

Clever jokes, asides and references seem in endless supply, both verbally and physically (Titanic references as the ship flounders, the chairs floating away).

If you have a sense of the absurd, and a love of fun—High Tea is the show for you.

High Tea is suitable for all ages.  Children are encouraged to sit at the front.

High Tea by James and Jamesy
Wood Hall, 907 Pandora Avenue, Venue 4
Upcoming Performances:
Friday August 29-9:30pm
em>Saturday August 30-4:15pm
Sunday August 31-8pm

Medicine, written and performed by TJ Dawe.

TJ Dawe’s greatest gift to his audience is his vulnerability—the absolute and total willingness to share wounds and deepest intimate spaces in honest, intelligent and, above all, entertaining discourse—which sets him high in the Fringe circuit pantheon.

Medicine - TJ Dawe
Lest the reader think I exaggerate, the Victoria Fringe 2014 marks Dawe’s 99th Fringe appearance in a circuit that stretches from Orlando FL to Boulder CO, from the Atlantic, across Canada to Vancouver—where, until recent years, it ends.

For over a decade Dawe (a UVic theatre grad) toured, read extensively, and then spent the off season writing his next season’s show.  Touring escapades and his research became material for new work.  Then, in a concerted effort to learn more about himself, Dawe began to explore the Enneagram personality type system and revealed the details in Lucky 9 (2010).  During this time, he was also reading work by Dr Gabor Maté—particularly his theories on addictions, the addictive personality, and ayahuasca—an Amazonian psychotropic plant medicine

Medicine is the story of an ayahuasca retreat. Interspersed in the narrative of the retreat are retrospective storytelling gems from his past—growing up in a stricter than strict Catholic household, going away to university, surviving the Fringe circuit—and brilliantly observed reflections on the absurdity of underlying systems—the qwerty typewriter keyboard, alphabet and names of the months of the year.

Dawe possesses a likeable and unassuming manner; he’s at ease onstage and has a profound ability to elicit deep empathy from the assembled crowd.  By slowly revealing personal details he draws the audience in, with humourous anecdotes of mild teenage rebellion and the struggles of young adulthood.  Above all, there is a deep feeling of being in a safe place. Performer and audience join together on the journey.

What he then reveals is not shocking but rather personal truth—the deep work of an inquisitive mind.

I applaud Dawe’s courage and honesty.  By venturing forth on his magnificent and determined voyage of self-discovery, by revealing his deep painful places, he provides a small glimmer of hope to the rest of us, and evidence that change is possible—slowly and surely, if we ask the important and necessary personal questions, and do the work, we will find the answers.

A bravura masterpiece of solo theatre. Not to be missed. Advance tickets advised or be prepared to line-up at least an hour in advance.

Medicine, written and performed by TJ Dawe

Langham Court Theatre, 805 Langham Court, Venue 5
Upcoming performances:
Friday August 29-9:30pm
Saturday August 30-2pm
Sunday August 31-4:30pm

TJ Dawe appears next in a special one-nigh-only performance of his new work Marathon, to celebrate the opening birthday bash of the 30th Vancouver Fringe Festival. Tickets HERE.

Jem Rolls Attacks the Silence

The Victoria Fringe Festival marks Jem Rolls 96th appearance at a Fringe Festival.  This spoken word artist defines performance poetry for a generation of fringe goers. Long before the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word, and the popularity of the slam poetry movement in Canada, there was Jem Rolls, shouting from fringe stages across the country with a barrage of words that remains unequalled.

His shows are, to my mind, a Fringe rite of passage that everyone needs to experience at least once. Some become raving fans.
Rolls lives in language—the exactitude consumes him. To write about him is to quake in trepidation at one’s inadequacies in conveying the experience of encountering him live.

Musing on life as a Fringe artist and the fickle nature of the audience (Head Smashed In Audience Jump) he explores his role (“you will become the poet-y man”) and tells of the trials (profuse sweating onstage, shouting off his upper lip) before segueing into episodes from his childhood in a small village close to Sandhurst Military College. Rolls’ philosophy is lived—he remains a nomad acutely aware of the social stratification he was exposed to as a child (“you sir are a peasant”) and doesn’t hesitate to prod and provoke with his sharp observations. His rant comparing “New England” and “New Canada” demands attention.

Over the years his poetry has made me sit up and question, entertained me with its lucidity, and moved me with its beautiful construction.

Uncomparable, uncompromising and original, Jem Rolls sells nothing and lives solely through live performance.

Jem Rolls Attacks the Silence
Victoria Event Centre, 1415 Broad, Venue 1
Upcoming performances:
Friday August 29-7:45pm
Saturday August 30-11:15pm
Sunday August 31-2:15pm

Disclaimer: I am attending the Victoria Fringe Festival 2014 on a media pass graciously provided by Intrepid Theatre.

About @lacouvee

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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. […] over seventy.  High Tea is daft, silly, clever and precise. Laughter guaranteed.  Here’s my review of the show from this year’s […]

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