I love the Victoria Fringe Festival! When my kids were growing up, I only attended the odd show here and there, but that all changed in 2006 when my second son moved away to take a job as a historical interpreter at the MacLean Mill in Port Alberni. Without two teenage boys to feed and house, there was suddenly disposable income.
2006 was the 20th anniversary of the Victoria Fringe, and I managed to see more shows that year than in all the previous ones combined. Thus was born my Fringe addiction. In 2007 I began volunteering and attending even more shows. My count for 2011 was almost 40 shows.
In addition, I volunteer for Theatre SKAM, the Canadian College of Performing Arts, Atomic Vaudeville, the Victoria Shakespeare Society, and Intrepid Theatre. My recommendations are based on past experiences either with the company, the actors or the writers of the shows. Please note, I am NOT a theatre critic. Your opinions could differ considerably from mine! The shows are not ranked, but are listed as they appear in the printed Victoria Fringe Festival program.
When in doubt – take a chance! That’s the spirit of Fringe! Feel free to make up your own mind.
Venue 1 – Victoria Event Centre, 1415 Broad Street
Kirsten Van Ritzen is one funny and talented lady. Together with husband Ian Ferguson, she has produced Sin City, a Live Improvised Soap Opera for two seasons (after starting Die Nasty in Edmonton and another Sin City in Toronto). She also teaches stand up comedy classes to newbies.
Now, join Kirsten and a talented cast, veterans of every stage in town as they improvise, based on a Fringe program and audience suggestions
“It’s fast, funny and completely entrancing to watch actors at the top of their game…” from my Sin City review earlier this year.
Venue 2 Downtown Activity Centre, 755 Pandora Avenue
Little Orange Man
Ingrid Hansen of Snafu Dance Theatre does it all – puppets, choreography, music, costume design, acting. This will be the second time she performs Little Orange Man at the Victoria Fringe, and you really shouldn’t miss it for she now lives inToronto and might not be back so soon.
This award-winning and tender show takes us deep into the imaginary (and real) world of 12-year-old Kitt as she tries a dream experiment with the audience in order to re-connect with her beloved Bedstefar (grandfather in Danish).
Little Orange Man appeals to the twisted child in all of us – if we are brave enough to leave our preconceptions aside.
Outstanding Overall Production Ottawa Fringe 2012
Fringe Playhouse Award Vancouver Fringe 2011
Volunteer Choice Award Vancouver Fringe 2011
Pick of the Fringe Victoria 2011
I missed Broken Rhythms by Dyana Sonik-Henderson when it was performed to sold-out crowds at the YOU Show earlier this year.
When I asked for Fringe recommendations, Jessica Hannon had this to say:
— Jessica Hannon (@hannon_jessica) August 16, 2012
Venue 3 – Metro Studio, 1411 Quadra Street
Keep it Simple Productions is a new Victoria Shakespeare company who recently completed Henry IV (Part One) at the Metro Studio. You can read my review here – I was very impressed with the quality of the production, and the evident work-ethic of cast, crew and creative team. I know little about Shakespeare’s history plays and can’t wait to see how they have adapted Henry V to fit within Fringe time constraints.
As artistic director, David Christopher said to me in an interview earlier this year:
What’s new about our company is that we’re trying to do nothing new or innovative. Shakespeare is spectacular without spectacle and fantastic without innovation. We want to do it well – to stage professional level history plays. We hope to appeal to both an academic and entertainment audience.
Venue 4 – VCM Wood Hall, 907 Pandora Avenue
The Human Body Project
Tasha Diamant shows up – naked and unscripted. As a performance artist and mother, she believes the only way to heal the planet is to become vulnerable; the Human Body Project is this vulnerability manifested.
Sometimes the audience joins her onstage.
In 2012 Diamant committed to organizing one Human Body Project a month inVictoria.
Profoundly moving and relevant.
The Wyf of Bath
Who knew a play in Middle English about Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Canterbury Cocktails, would be so popular? Julian Cervello arrived in Victoria last summer, and began to immerse himself in the local theatre scene – he’s performed with Theatre Inconnu, the Greater Victoria Shakespeare Society and Keep it Simple Productions, as well as developed two shows. Canterbury Cocktails was a Pick of the Victoria Fringe in 2011.
The Wyf of Bath, his second show, again in Middle English, tells the tale of the original “Desperate Housewife” – Alison is on pilgrimage and, after the death of her fifth husband, looking for a new mate.
Cervello is an expressive performer and makes great use of mime and physical theatre to convey the story to his audience. His intricately crafted stage-business and properties highlight the action. You’ll laugh at Alison’s antics – people really haven’t change all that much since the Middle Ages!
It is a filthy and explicit, but also a deeply moving account of the life of and times of a medieval everywoman.
Venue 5 – St Andrew’s School Gymnasium, 1002 Pandora
Beautiful Obedient Wife
Another tale of human-trafficking at the Victoria Fringe, told with dark humour. UVic grads Alexa Gilker (writer) and Sandi Barrett (director) were astonished to find pockets of mail-order brides in BC, and chose to use humour to highlight their research.
It’s a unique combination of live music (with local folk band, Carousels), comedy and thought-provoking subject matter.
When Masha’s Ukrainian mother and wannabe-rockstar boyfriend secretly sign her up to be a mail-order bride, they’re hoping the eager Canadian suitor and his generous bribes will be their ticket out of poverty. They never expected he’d actually come to collect his bride, forcing a hilarious fight for a woman who doesn’t want to be won.
This story hits close to home for me. My Polish/Ukrainian grandmother was not-quite a mail-order bride. When my grandfather’s first wife died in childbirth on their farm in Alberta, he sent a letter to the village priest in the Old Country looking for a recommendation for a new wife, and my grandmother chose to come to Canada.
It will be very interesting to compare the experiences!
Inspired by her sojourn as a caretaker at the Boat Basin location of Cougar Annie’s Garden, Kadoski has crafted a tale of a lesser-known Vancouver Island “character”, using projections of historical photos for a backdrop, and under-girding the action with her own repertoire of original songs.
It’s a tale of another time, peopled by individuals who worked hard, in isolation, to maintain their independence on our wild west coast. When I was a child growing up, Cougar Annie was “the crazy lady up the coast”. Now, I’m simply grateful that people have realized how utterly unique her experience was, and how necessary it is to tell her story.
Cougar Annie was remarkable, killing over 70 cougars, outliving four husbands, and running a remote post office and dahlia bulb nursery.
Matthew and SKAM have helped to define the “alternative” in alternative-theatre since the early 1990s in Victoria and continues to collaborate with an entirely new generation of theatre-artist. He’s a mentor to many, creator of Bike Ride, School House Rocks and Fashion Machine Kamp (for kids), and once had the police show up, guns drawn, at one of his site-specific outdoor shows.
Meet Matthew Payne. And Matthew Payne. And Matthew Payne. Matthew Payne goes way beyond Googling himself as he locates and has meaningful conversations with as many Matthew Paynes as possible. From 21.5 million hits to the greatest hits – a show about ego, self and the weather where Matthew Payne is.
Wind in the Pines
(in Japanese with English subtitles)
Sokai Salon may be from Tokyo but actor and producer Ayumi Hamada graduated from the UVic Theatre department. Since then she’s returned to Japan and has been working on a modern version of a classic Japanese Noh play with writer and director Kazuhiro Tamaru. They wanted to bring Wind in the Pines to a foreign audience.
Wind in the Pines was originally written by Zeami, a traditional Japanese Noh playwright. Two women, who died of grief after their lover’s death, linger as ghosts attached to the mortal world, craving the man they loved.
Hamada says “No matter if you are Japanese or non-Japanese, people tend to think that classical entertainment is hard to understand or boring. We wanted to break the stereotype and show how the modern world is linked to the traditional world. Even though the original play was written approximately 600 years ago, the themes of love and desire can be connected to audiences worldwide.”
Venue 6 – Langham Court Theatre, 805 Langham Court
FAMILY FEST August 23-30
There have been kids’ shows at the Fringe in the past, but this year Intrepid Theatre has created a specific family festival with shows geared to children and their families. StoryTheatre, based inVictoria, has been performing acrossCanadafor over 30 years.
Aladdin’s Secret Voyage
by Jim Leard (Story Theatre)
The Great Beanstalk Conspiracy
by Jim Leard (Story Theatre)
The Night that the Knight Learned Wrong from Right!
by Andrew Gillott
The Secret Life of Walter Manny
by Trent Arterberry, Gregg Goldston and Rob Wipond
Tickets are $11 for adults and $7 for children 12 and under. You can purchase munch cards good for 5 shows for $35. Family Fest shows do NOT require a Fringe Visa button ($5).
In addition Fringe Kids is a totally free event in Market Square, Saturday August 25th11am-4pm, and features live performances, crafts, inflatables, face-painting, music, puppets and crafts.
Borg, Cranny, Delamont: Comedy Fun Pack
Who can go wrong with a show created on-the-spot by three of Victoria’s favourite (and mostly) award-winning comedians, and friends? You’ve seen them perform with Atomic Vaudeville, at stand-up comedy nights, as members of Random Selection of Chairs (War of 1812), as “God”, and, in Sin City, Ha!, ReRentless and Money Fast.
As they say so succinctly:
Best case scenario, it is very funny and you enjoy yourself. Worst case, you get to feel superior and mock them for sucking.
Love is for Superbeasts
Mily Mumford is an Atomic Vaudeville regular who recently founded her own company, Determined Illusions. When not performing, she’s a double honours major at UVic. Her comedy is dark, twisted, and informed by many vaudeville conventions. How delicious!
Wouldn’t it be nice to hear a romantic, wholesome, and downright adorable tale about serial killers? From their point of view?….. This couple is cruel, psychotic, and they are here to entertain.
The Damned Girl
Andrew Barrett’s company, Impulse Theatre, is known for their site-specific movement-based creations. Their recent show The Path contained elements of myth and magic, and reflected the duality of life, elements contained in The Damned Girl – a tale of light and darkness, fate and choice.
Two women deal with their polar extremes, and hope to discover where they fit within their world inhabited by a tainted chorus of children, Fate, and an even greater shadow.
Venue 7 – Fairfield Hall, 1303 Fairfield
Awkward Hangouts of History
I’m not yet familiar with the work of local actors, writers and UVic grads John Green and Graham Roebuck, but am intrigued by their premise – four well-known historic figures in two separate real-life incidents.
Imagine what might have happened when Hans Christian Andersen stayed an unwelcome five weeks with his “friend” Charles Dickens in 1857. And, in 1941, was Mussolini ally or threat when he took the controls of their official plane, over theUSSR?
Roebuck’s play Chaos and the Cosmos won Best Play, Best Original Play, and several other awards in the Vancouver Island One-Act Play Festival in 2011. Green won the Young Playwrights’ Festival with his play Revenge in the Countryside in 2006, and was runner up in the same festival in 2008 with Area Code 419: Africa Calling.
Find out why truth is stranger than fiction!