Dispatches from the Victoria Fringe 2015. Day Two.

Dispatches from the Victoria Fringe 2015. Day Two. Victoria Fringe Festival 2015, August 26-September 6 in Victoria BC.

Day Two of the Victoria Fringe began, once again, with Venue 6 Langham Court Theatre, for Rob Gee in Icarus Dancing, and Daughter of Turpentine by Leah Callen. I finished the night at Venue 3 The Metro Studio with Bear Dreams by For Body and Light.  (Please note–I’ll have the review of Bear Dreams posted here on Sunday).

Check out my further coverage HERE. 

Icarus Dancing

Rob Gee is a favourite with Fringe audiences everywhere. Arriving as a late entry (and therefore not in the program) at the Victoria Fringe in 2009 with Fruit Cake, this former psychiatric nurse turned performance poet generated substantial buzz. Subsequent shows (Genghis Khan Guide to Etiquette 2010, Smart Arse 2011, Forget Me Not 2013) quickly sold out.

It’s easy to understand why—Gee is an engaging personality, onstage and off. His expressive mug transforms readily from Simon, a psychiatric patient on the lam, to Millie, a lost six year-old.

Over the years, his performances have gone from tremendously inventive spoken word pieces based more on his own life experiences, to character-driven adventures—Forget Me Not was a murder mystery based in an old-folks home.

Icaraus Dancing is a galloping slapstick misadventure that owes much to the inimitable style of the Keystone Kops or Jerry Lewis. Coiled like a spring, Simon—in full manic delusion—thinks he’s the reincarnation of Rameses II and is bound for Egypt to reclaim his throne.

Foiled in his attempt by a worried psychiatrist, Dr Grayson, he finds himself locked up and sectioned (confined under the Mental Health Act). Giving his captors the slip, he manages to collect Millie, a lost six-year-old.

Along the way, there’s an evening of drinking with a group of off-duty coppers, a foiled robbery attempt at the corner store where his room-mate Marcus works, and the glum life-story of Millie’s dad.

Despite the humourous premise, Icarus Dancing is an extremely sympathetic portrait of individuals living with mental illness, and a glimpse into the mind of a person in manic crisis.

Gee carries his audience along for the ride, cheering at every step and hoping against hope that Simon will somehow pull it all off. Comedy and compassion collide in this heart-warming story that careens along with the mind-swerves of its main character.

Icarus Dancing, written and created by Rob Gee
Langham Court Theatre, Venue 6
60 minutes. Adults only. Coarse Language. Adult Themes. Comedy/Spoken Word
All seats $11

Remaining shows:

Saturday August 29, 2015 – 8:00 PM
Tuesday September 1, 2015 – 8:15 PM
Friday September 4, 2015 – 5:30 PM
Saturday September 5, 2015 – 5:30 PM
Sunday September 6, 2015 – 7:30 PM

The Daughter of Turpentine

There are many reasons why I love the Fringe, and one of them is the category of pleasant surprises—the shows that become the sleeper hits, their program descriptions or preview snippets a simple teaser for the breadth of the staged production.  Such is The Daughter of Turpentine—a smoldering tale of love, lust and yearning encased in the form of a fairy tale.

MFA Writing graduate student Leah Callen’s wrote The Daughter of Turpentine as part of her course requirements and it was first produced at UVic’s SATCo (Student Alternative Theatre Company) in 2014.

Chase Hiebert is an adept young director with an enormous visual gift. The stage at Langham Court Theatre is essentially bare—a chair and table the only set furniture—and yet, with astucious blocking and careful almost ballet-like movement his characters conjure the increasing claustrophobic confines of cottage and grove.

Pin (Lindsay Curl) is a young tree nymph, frustrated in her desire for a larger life in the world beyond, held almost captive by her guardian, the over-protective Gabriel (Graham Roebuck). With only her sisters Sweetie (Renée Kilough) and Splinter (Pascal Lamothe-Kipnes) for company, she occupies her time in endless drudgery, painting eyes on Matroushka dolls.

Hidden at the centre of the story is a dark secret revealed to explosive effect in a series of episodes that hold the audience rapt.

Underneath the seemingly sweet exterior of a conventional fairy tale—complete with young male rescuer (Brett Hay as Jake)—lie forbidden compulsions waiting to burst out.

Tensions build between Pin (played by Curl Lolita-like in her enticing ways) and Gabriel (a gruff, angry and haunted Roebuck) until the arrival of Jake (a nonchalant and easy-going Hay) who refuses to be drawn into the feud. Flashes of comedy abound.

Sweetie and Splinter appear as Pin’s alter-egos, or an expression of her desires—egging her on and holding her back all at once.

Much like the Matroushka dolls that are central to the story, with each layer revealed, comes another level of meaning. The Daughter of Turpentine is complex and rewarding theatre—a play to be savoured more than once with its scholarly references to poets and love, and allusions built upon the metaphor of fire.

Venue 6, Langham Court Theatre
50 minutes. PG 14+. Coarse Language. Adult Themes. Darkly Comedic Fairytale.
All seats $11

Remaining shows:

Saturday, August 29th 6:15pm
Thursday, September 3rd 6:30pm
Friday, September 4th 7:15pm
Saturday, September 5th 9pm
Sunday, September 6th 2:15pm


Bear Dreams by For Body and Light
Music & Poetry Ian Ferrier; Choreography Stéphanie Morin-Robert

I owe a debt of gratitude to local performance poet Shayne Avec Igrec for his recommendation of For Body and Light’s first Victoria show at the 2014 Victoria Fringe Festival. It remains one of my top shows for the year—of all that I saw, not just at the Fringe.
Melding words, music, light and dance into a cohesive depiction of a physical reality—the tides of the Bay of Fundy—the results are haunting.

In Bear Dreams, author and musician Ian Ferrier attempts to arrive at the heart of winter. Holed up in Northern Alberta when a promised project cannot proceed he began to muse and write. Further development with choreographer Stéphanie Morin-Robert followed.

As Gilles Vigneault famously sings “Mon pays c’est l’hiver” (my country is winter). To arrive at the heart of what defines us as a country and a people, it is necessary to understand winter. This is a hard thing for a native West Coaster to comprehend. When most people are buried under drifts, and encased in all manner of layers, we happily sport sandals and shorts in December and are, in fact, quite smug about it.

On rare occasions (the Blizzard of 1996) snow will fall for days or hours, and a hush falls over the land.

Ferrier’s soft, gentle voice and repetitive chords induce the hypnotic feeling of sitting at the window, mesmerized as snow falls slowly and the city stills under the muffled whiteness. Time falls away—are we standing on the edge of a glacier thousands of years ago, snuggled down in a cave for the winter, or simply whiling away the hours until the snowplows clear the streets?

Light quality changes with the snow—a luminescent glow pervades. As with their last show, Bear Dreams usesan ingenious lighting technique—a single light bulb attached to a pulley that Morin-Robert and—from time to time—the dancers (Danika Cormier and Joachim Yensen-Martin) manipulate through space and time. For the production at the Metro Studio (where the full scope of the visual aesthetic is beautifully evident) there are several other smaller lights as well.

Cormier and Yensen-Martin swoop and fall in graceful arcs, into and away from one another—their journey into winter a journey into themselves—the answers as nebulous as the snow accumulating outside.

Visually arresting special effects include swathes of flimsy gauze-like material that unravel from pillows to become drifts and snowstorms, ensnaring and cocooning the lovers. Finally, under cover of darkness, ensconced in a snow cave, all is quiet as the Northern Lights twinkle and dance in the sky.

Bear Dreams is a profoundly contemplative rêverie where myth, memory and magic collide. Allow yourself to be carried away, beyond all known signposts and landmarks—unhitched yet somehow anchored to the eternal.

Every performance features a different local spoken word artist.

For Body and Light Presents:  Bear Dreams
Written/created by Ian Ferrier and Stéphanie Morin-Robert
60 minutes. PG 14+. Adult themes. Dance
All seats $11

Remaining shows:

Sunday August 30, 2015 – 7:15 PM
Thursday September 3, 2015 – 8:30 PM
Friday September 4, 2015 – 5:30 PM
Saturday September 5, 2015 – 7:30 PM
Sunday September 6, 2015 – 6:45 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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