Dispatches from the Victoria Fringe 2015. Day Three.

Dispatches from the Victoria Fringe 2015 Day ThreeVictoria Fringe Festival August 26-September 6, 2015. Find all my Victoria Fringe coverage HERE.  Day Three reviews of Almost a Stepmom, God is a Scottish Drag Queen, Camel Camel, The Great Canadian Tire Money Caper, The Most Honest Man in the World and Brain.

This year’s Fringe (and remember, it’s always the luck of the lottery) features a large number of storytellers, several of whom were on my Day Three schedule. I am always grateful to people who are willing to share their experiences, often difficult, as honestly as possible. In some ways their triumphs become part of my life’s lessons—theatrical voyeurism, if you will.

Day Three storytellers were Andrew Wade with The Most Honest Man in the World, followed by Keara Barnes’ Almost a Stepmom, Brendan McLeod in Brain and Corin Raymond’s The Great Canadian Tire Money Caper. For comic relief, I also saw the absurdist Camel Camel, and everyone’s favourite deity God is a Scottish Drag Queen by Mike Delamont.

Reviews for the Great Canadian Tire Money Caper, The Most Honest Man in the World and Brain will be posted Tuesday.

Almost a StepMom by Keara Barnes

Barnes graduated from theatre school and headed to Ireland, the land of her ancestors, where she had visited often as a child, to work.

As is often the case, life intervened in her plans, and she ended up falling in love, and became in the process Almost a StepMom.

Before the show even begins, a glorious rather inebriated harridan harangues the audience from the stage—shouting epithets and insults. Curses fly in a thick Irish brogue. Eyes are averted and patrons make themselves as small as possible to avoid being called out.

Congratulations! You’ve just met “She Who Must Not Be Named”—the former wife of Keira’s paramour and heart throb—Joe. Furious there is another woman in his life, and her daughter’s, she will stop at nothing to ensure life is miserable for the happy couple.

Barnes distills the ups-and-downs of a 3 ½ year relationship into a taut 35 minute drama that reveals heartbreak, revenge and thwarted attempts at creating a new family, as well as self-reflective and comedic moments.

As Aoife, the four-year-old daughter, she inspires hope, against all odds, the relationship will work out; as She Who Must Not Be Named she works furiously to prove otherwise; as Keara, she vacillates mightily—pulled by her love for her new family; as Joe, she is weary.

Almost a StepMom is like drinking a fine Irish whiskey—you don’t need more than a “wee dram” to appreciate the quality. Proof that good things, including Fringe plays, can come in small packages. This is Barnes’ first Fringe show (and play). I look forward to seeing more of her creations.

Almost a StepMom written and created by Keara Barnes
Standing Room Only Theatre, Vancouver, BC
VCM Wood Hall (venue 4)
35 minutes • PG 14+: Coarse Language, Adult Themes • Comedy, Drama, Storytelling
All seats $11

Remaining shows:
Monday August 31, 2015 – 6:00 PM
Thursday September 3, 2015 – 5:00 PM
Saturday September 5, 2015 – 5:45 PM
Sunday September 6, 2015 – 8:30 PM

God is a Scottish Drag Queen by Mike Delamont

Amazingly, from comments made in various Fringe line-ups, there are still people from Victoria who have never had the pleasure of seeing Mike Delamont perform as his seminal character—God.

Now a veteran Fringe performer with multi-year tours on the circuit, from Orlando to Ottawa, Winnipeg to Edmonton, Victoria Fringe audiences last had the chance to see him in 2011. In the intervening years his star continued to climb; Delamont has accumulated legions of Fringe awards and glowing five star reviews everywhere he performs. In 2014 alone 50,000 people saw his shows.

But—you’d better be quick if you want a chance to see him on home turf—this year’s performance of God is a Scottish Drag Queen will be his last in Victoria for 2015. Pre-sale tickets are sold-out and I would advise arriving AT LEAST one hour in advance to nab tickets in person at the venue.

With rapier wit this kinder, gentler God “it was time for a make-over”, skewers everything from Mormons, to Scientology, religion to Noah. Along the way there are jabs at Russell Crowe, hipsters and humans among others.

Have no doubt, this is comedic gold—firing on all cylinders, in perfect command of his material and an attentive and adoring audience, Delamont delivers quips, bon-mots, trenchant social commentary and double entendres galore. Is there is a measure of “jokes per minute”? If there is, this God is off the scale.

More than anything, it’s Delamont’s ability to puzzle over events, social phenomena and history most take for granted that elevates his comedy to the level of genius. When he starts asking questions, sacrosanct notions come tumbling down in gales of laughter.

Do yourself a favour and come to know Victoria’s favourite deity up close and personal.

God is a Scottish Drag Queen by Mike Delamont
Downtown Activity Centre Venue 2
Duration: 60 minutes
Rating: PG 14+: Coarse Language, Adult Themes. Comedy
All seats $11

Remaining shows:
Tuesday September 1, 2015 – 9:45 PM
Wednesday September 2, 2015 – 6:15 PM
Friday September 4, 2015 – 10:15 PM
Saturday September 5, 2015 – 2:00 PM

Camel Camel by Janessa Johnsrude and Meghan Frank

Fringe festivals world-wide spring from the tradition of “salon des refusés”—those rejected from the selection process of traditional juried festivals. Since the Edinburgh Fringe was established in 1947 as a non-juried, non-censored, lottery-selection festival, Fringes have exploded around the world.

I love being exposed to theatre I might otherwise be unable to see—the weird, kooky, quirky, odd and absurdist creations of inventive minds, unfettered by convention.

Camel Camel by the California-based duo of Janessa Johnsrude and Meghan Frank definitely fits the bill.

This strange pair of camel sisters and their world were first mentioned in the poetry of Ukrainian dissident Oleg Navolska in 1923. Hallucinating perhaps, he describes seeing them cavorting in his soup spoon.

Lights up on a bare stage, with one lone screen and two pairs of stocking-clad legs visible beneath a large fan (a common accessory for early burlesque acts). Rapid-fire patter ensues as we’re introduced to a pair of “pervert brothers”—half-man, half-woman—astonished by their own reveal.

Johnsrude and Frank are graduates of the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre; the traditions of classic vaudeville permeate and set up the comedy. Slowly the brothers become the Camel Sisters—swilling booze out of a flask, cavorting, clowning, and fighting with one another for supremacy in their relationship.

Along the way, they meet a worm (described in Navolska’s poems) and enact a bizarre ritual with a dinner triangle and two soup spoons.

What does it all mean? Minds more educated than mine can interpret and decode. For me, it was sufficient to marvel at music, costumes, shadow dance and story as Johnsrude and Frank unhinged from reality to dwell firmly in the world of surreal fantasy.

Complete arcs and linear story telling are not always necessary to create theatre—Camel Camel is glorious proof.

Camel Camel by Janessa Johnsrude and Meghan Frank
Glizzard Gultch
Metro Studio Theatre Venue 3
60 minutes. PG14+: Coarse Language. Sublime Surreal Comedy
All seats $11

Remaining shows:
Tuesday September 1, 2015 – 8:15 PM
Wednesday September 2, 2015 – 6:30 PM
Friday September 4, 2015 – 8:45 PM
Saturday September 5, 2015 – 4:00 PM


Religion had an effect on the actors in three solo shows I saw on Saturday. All describe episodes and impressions from their growing-up years.

The Great Canadian Tire Money Caper by Corin Raymond

Corin Raymond is a singer-songwriter whose career spans over two decades; he was last in Victoria with his award-winning show Bookworm in 2012 (as it turns out, when the events described in The Great Canadian Tire Money Caper were in full swing).
He returns to chronicle the story of how he financed the entire bill–$7333.75—for the recording, editing and mastering of the double album Paper Nickels, in Canadian Tire money.

Raymond admits to having an uneasy relationship to money. Scorned and mocked by his Presbyterian grandmother when he attempted a summer of busking in Ottawa, living from paycheque to paycheque at menial jobs while pursuing his musical dreams, the big pay-off always seemed to be out-of-reach.

Warm, inviting and of-so-conspiratorial, with a flair for gesture and language, Raymond sets the tone of “The Caper” by establishing the parameters of a Canadian folk musician’s life—the tours, the bars, the bandmates, the gigs. Characters like RV (the creator of Don’t Spend it Honey—the Canadian Tire Money, the song that inspired The Caper), James Paul of Rogue Studios and the denizens of the Cameron House (Raymond’s regular performance space) spring to life with clarity.

Beginning with a few stray bills, The Caper quickly gains traction, taking on a life of its own—much to everyone’s delight.

Astonishment and joy abound. With his overt enthusiasm and evident joie-de-vivre, it’s easy to see how this uniquely Canadian event came to be and why people wanted to contribute. Everyone has Canadian Tire money kicking around—I even received some as a wedding gift! Stories far more extravagant than mine emerged.

At the height of The Caper, Raymond found himself at the centre of a media frenzy—with attention from some surprising sources (no spoilers here). Over the course of a year people gave and gave and gave—mostly in small denominations. Here was their chance to build community and be part of something bigger than themselves.

The Great Canadian Tire Money Caper is a testimony to community and perseverance; funny and engaging, it’s proof of the grit, determination and ingenuity required to make art, and a wonderful metaphor for life.

NOTE:  this is a popular show. You are advised to purchase advance tickets (if possible) or be prepared to line-up at least an hour in advance.

The Great Canadian Tire Money Caper by Corin Raymond
Venue 4 VCM Wood Hall
60 minutes. PG 14+. Monologue. Comedy. Inspiring
All seats $11

Remaining shows:
Tuesday September 1, 2015 – 8:00 PM
Friday September 4, 2015 – 6:45 PM
Saturday September 5, 2015 – 2:15 PM


The Most Honest Man in the World by Andrew Wade

Andrew Wade is a graduate of the University of Victoria theatre department, and a prolific emerging and awarded playwright (2011 Vancouver Young Playwrights Competition), as well as regular performer on the Canadian Fringe circuit (William vs the World, The Hatter, and now, The Most Honest Man in the World).

Wade has long prided himself on his honesty and now sets out to prove his hypothesis with oh-so-human results. The Most Honest Man in the World provides a glimpse into the life of a young man obsessed with the word love, and its meaning.

Here he is onstage at five, sweetly singing Refiner’s Fire (“my heart’s one desire is to be holy”) at church, which he loved attending. The only problem, to his mind, came when he had to sing the word “love”. Philosophically, he was opposed to giving voice to a concept of which he had no understanding. It’s extremely profound for a five-year-old, and gives insight into the precocious and intelligent nature of the performer. This lack of understanding permeates his young existence.

Wade admits he’s never memorized his monologue, relying instead on a series of cue cards to remind him of episodes he wants to highlight. Breaking the fourth wall almost immediately, he continues in an easy conversational style, alternating between explaining the set-up of the lie detector which will prove his claim, the science behind it, and life stories.

He compels sympathy with his narration of awkward tales—a first kiss, a first date, a first relationship, a first break-up, summers whiled away playing Diablo—and there are plenty of humourous moments too to lighten the tone (a re-worked Music of the Night from Phantom of the Opera for a high-school sweetheart was especially notable).

As time runs out, metaphorically and literally, Wade hooks himself up to the machine in a last distraught attempt to validate his proof. It’s heart-wrenching to feel his loss and watch as he comes to grips with the fact that not all in life is measureable.

The Most Honest Man in the World reveals great depth of emotion as it delves into the loves and losses of an awkward, often out-of-place young man.

I remain ever grateful to people who are willing to work themselves out onstage for my personal edification. Their life lessons provide illumination for my own dark spaces and recesses, and are often signposts on the path.
The Most Honest Man in the World by Andrew Wade
Venue 4 VCM Wood Hall
60 minutes. PG 14+. Adult Themes. Intense comedic monologue
All seats $11

Remaining shows:
Wednesday September 2, 2015 – 7:45 PM
Friday September 4, 2015 – 5:00 PM
Saturday September 5, 2015 – 9:00 PM

Brain by Brendan McLeod

McLeod has an enviable and deserved reputation as a storyteller and slam poet with over a decade of work to his name. He’s also an award-winning novelist (The Convictions of Leonard McKinley) and musician (The Fugitives) with an MA in Philosophy. To say he has a facility with words and complex concepts, and the ability to easily convey ideas, would be an understatement. This is his first appearance on the Fringe circuit, and if Brain is any indication, audiences can only hope for more.

Charting his first encounters with obsession from boy about to enter middle school to young man in graduate school, Brain is at once harrowing and revelatory.

Inspired by his then-deep Christian faith, what begins as a desire to avoid being targeted as a teen, quickly becomes all consuming. Carefully hiding his secret thought life from his closest family and friends, McLeod navigates the usual stormy waters of adolescence.
Laid out in very straight forward fashion, Brain is compelling in its logic and exposition, even as McLeod spins out of control (at least internally).

Brain is brave and humble theatre–by normalizing his struggles, McLeod provides validation for so many others who are prisoners to their minds. He speaks openly when others can’t. His gentle lessons on the workings of the brain in general will be of great assistance to people who support others as well.

Levity and wonder permeate the performance—with plentiful chuckles at the absurdity of life and the vagaries of growing up, and amazement at the complexities of the brain and its chemistry.

Experience what many spoken word aficionados already know—the sheer brilliance of an accomplished artist.

Advance tickets highly recommended, or be prepared to line-up at least an hour in advance.

Brain by Brendan McLeod
Venue 4 VCM Wood Hall
55 minutes. PG 14+. Adult Themes. Intense comedic monologue
All seats $11

Remaining shows:
Thursday 3, 2015 – 6:30 PM
Friday September 4, 2015 – 8:15 PM
Saturday September 5, 2015 – 10:45 PM
Sunday September 6, 2015 – 1:00 PM

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.


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