Dispatches from the Victoria Fringe 2014. Day Six. Reviews of Oni and The Middle of Everywhere.
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. 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 five days. 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.
ONI by Mochinosha Puppet Company, written and created by Seri Yanai, performed with Daniel Wishes
Since the first flickering shadows on a cave wall, human kind has been fascinated by shadow-puppetry. Traditions world-wide are rich, yet largely unknown in North America.
I’ve long been a fan of this genre and was especially pleased to see a large representation of styles at this year’s Victoria Fringe Festival.
Mochinosha is the puppetry company of Daniel Wishes and Seri Yanai. Rather than performing behind the screen, as in common in some practices, these puppeteers employ a large round disk and project images from the front in full view of the audience, revealing all their secrets.
From the outset, Wishes and Yanai are careful to inform us that this is an adult puppet show, full of sexual images (among them Edo-period Japanese erotic art called shunga). It’s a marvellous set-up since, in the end, the effects they produce are funny rather than erotic.
The story is based on the folk tale Issun-b?shi, a tiny 3 centimetre man born to ancient parents who had been unable to conceive before an oni (demon) granted their wish. This is the adult-version (which is historical).
He sets out for fame and fortune, meets a princess, accomplishes tasks set by her father and battles the oni. Along the way there are many adventures (some more adult than others).
Accompanied by live flute and percussion instruments with plenty of running gags (“shunga alert”, a recurring rolling man) Oni is visually strong with intricate cut outs and historical prints. The playful patter of Wishes and Yanai keeps the tone light, and comedic. Props to the puppeteers for the handling of an unfortunate technical mishap on opening night.
Oni, by Mochinosha Puppet Company
Fairfield Hall, 1303 Fairfield, Venue 6
Wednesday August 27-7:30pm
Thursday August 28-9:15pm
Saturday August 30-3:30pm
Sunday August 31-7:15pm
The Middle of Everywhere by The Wonderheads (Kate Braidwood, Andrew Phoenix and Emily Windler).
The Wonderheads is a physical theatre company specializing in mask performance founded in 2009 by UVic grad Kate Braidwood (BFA ’03) and Andrew Phoenix.
Employing extremely detailed, cartoon-like full head masks (based on larval mask traditions) to create characters with a certain appearance of naïveté and wonder they add carefully blended and exaggerated movements and combine them with the masks to engage audiences immediately. Their mannerisms are loveable and whimsical.
The human heart yearns for adventure, and, thanks to the Wonderheads, we can indulge our inner child—whether we are eight or eighty—follow Winston and Penny, and be completely immersed in their improbable world.
Events conspire to bring Winston and Penny together on a rather ordinary day. He is a peculiarly particular man, setting off to present a paper on particle theory. She is a runaway 11-year-old, determined to save her beloved teddy bear from the clutches of her mother. They meet at a bus stop.
What happens next is chaos theory meets cartoons meets science fiction as Winston (Emily Windler) and Penny (Kate Braidwood) are flown through the time-space continuum, their flights of fantasy controlled by a small transistor device.
From ocean shore to the forests of the Pleistocene, they are confronted by challenges and danger—strafed by bullets on a distant island, hunted by wild animals. Along the way, the duo tip toe through the darkness (lit only by a single beam of light in a chuckle-inducing game of hide and seek with a wild animal) before picking up the endearing yeti-like creature as travelling companion (Andrew Phoenix as Angus).
The displacements start slowly, and then begin to pick up speed—space, a baseball game, and rock concert follow in rapid order, with plenty of winks to popular culture.
The Middle of Everywhere is the Wonderheads most complex piece to date with over 160 sound and 60 lighting cues. From the moment narrator Louise Watson’s voice introduces the particle that started it all you’ll be hooked. Not a minute of this brim-filled show goes to waste. What amazement to be able to carefully choreograph every minute, yet provide it with a sense of abandon and limitlessness. I’d give anything to be able to follow Winston and Penny to the ends of the earth and beyond.
Suitable for all ages. Advance tickets highly recommended as the opening show was almost sold out.
The Middle of Everywhere, by the WONDERHEADS
Metro Studio (1411 Quadra), Venue 3
Wednesday August 27-9:15pm
Friday August 29-5:30pm
Saturday August 30-8:30pm
Sunday August 31-3:45pm
Disclaimer: I am attending the Victoria Fringe Festival on a media pass graciously provided by Intrepid Theatre.