Dispatches from the Victoria Fringe 2016. Day Two.

Dispatches from the Victoria Fringe 2016. Day Two. Victoria Fringe Festival August 22-September 4, 2016.

Reviews of 6 Quick Dick Tricks: A Dirk Darrow Investigation by Tim Motley, Art of the Eight Limbs by Kat Taddei (Vino Buon Productions), Birdwatching by Jack Hayes (First N Last Productions), Space Hippo by Mochinosha the Wishes Mystical Puppet Company.  All at Venue 7, the Roxy Theatre (2657 Quadra Street).  Please note: I’ll post the review of Art of the Eight Limbs on Sunday.

As always, my complete Victoria Fringe Festival 2016 coverage can be found HERE

Be sure to page through since there are dozens of entries–previews, and picks, as well as reviews. I have written 17 previews of shows I will either most likely not see, or will see too late in the festival to write reviews.  I hope to post reviews daily of shows I’ve seen the day/night before–some days are “show heavy” and it may take a day or two to catch up.  My final reviews will be posted Friday September 2nd.


  • The first few days of Fringe are a wonderful way to “front load” the Fringe experience–the last weekend (Thurs/Fri/Sat/Sun) tends to be very busy, and many shows sell-out their advance tickets (although 50% of the tickets are reserved for sales at the venue IF you are prepared to line up well in advance).  If a show you really wanted to see is completely sold out, please–take a chance on a show by an unknown or lesser known artist.  That, to me, is the true joy of the Fringe–the unexpected and pleasant surprises.
  • Don’t forget–you need a Fringe button ($6). One of the guiding principles of the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals CAFFTM is that all ticket sales go directly to the artists.  The sale of Fringe buttons helps Intrepid Theatre produce the festival.
  • Don’t be LATE–the show WILL start without you.
  • Embrace the line-up. Get to know your fellow Fringers. Many a friendship has been made as a result of a casual conversation.

6 Quick Dick Tricks: A Dirk Darrow Investigation by Tim Motley (Melbourne, Australia)

Tim Motley (aka Dirk Darrow) is a consummate professional, with decades of experience touring the globe—on cruise ships, in cabarets, at comedy festivals and now, the Canadian Fringe circuit (he’s been to Victoria on three occasions with NCSSI (Not Completely Serious Supernatural Investigator) which was a big hit at the Victoria Fringe Festival in 2012, winning Pick of the Fringe. He returned in 2013 with The Big Bang Query and again in 2015 with 2 Ruby Knockers, 1 Jaded Dick: A Dirk Darrow Investigation.)

His 1940s private detective persona is slick and slightly world-weary. Through a mysterious time warp he finds himself catapulted from a cruise ship on the Caribbean (where he’s been accompanying a client’s wife and her young son) to the present day where he is called upon to assist the Black Water Academy in an investigation.

Beginning with a deck of cards and willing audience volunteers, he identifies the cards they’ve selected and moves on to other feats of mentalism—words from books, the hand a coin is placed in, names of people’s childhood pets—leaving the audience flabbergasted by his skills.

Throughout he delivers an easy patter, supplemented by glorious cheesy one-liners filled with topical references to midnight denizens of Second Slice, Esquimalt crime families, the rarified academic air at UVic.

Fans of film noir, detective novels, magic and deadpan comedy are in for a treat.  Leave your critical nature at the door and allow naïveté out to play.  6 Quick Dick Tricks moves from gasps to groans to hearty laughs with alacrity and at a pace that will leaves the audience scratching its head in wide-eyed amazement.

Audience participation is a big part of the show—if this is not your forté, be sure to sit well out of reach.

I have yet to figure out one of Dirk Darrow’s tricks—yet, I’m happy to keep returning in the hope that one day, I will.
Tickets: Advance price: All Seats $11+s/c* Door price: All Seats $11
Duration: 60 mins
Rating: Pg14+: Adult Themes
Genre: Comedy Mentalism Noir

Remaining shows:
Sat Aug 27 – 8:00pm
Sun Aug 28 – 10:00pm
Wed Aug 31 – 8:00pm
Fri Sep 2 – 9:45pm
Sat Sep 3 – 2:00pm

The Art of the Eight Limbs by Kat Taddei, Vino Buono Productions, Victoria BC

Kat Taddei is a young emerging playwright to watch—Pick of the Fringe-New Play in 2015 for Two—cementing an already solid reputation with her latest play.

Art of the Eight Limbs is a study in writing—potent and powerful, crackling with electricity in a series of three intertwining monologues, rushing to an explosive conclusion as lives intersect.

All three anonymous characters are flawed eccentrics—an agoraphobic recluse who can barely open his curtains (Alex Judd in a strange and creepy command performance), a straightforward and bullish man who holds out about his insomnia and need to bed women (Arielle Permack struts and preens in a muscular portrayal), a street kid who has finally found a foster home (Lucy Sharples bristles with angry energy).

This particular style of play—intersecting monologues—has become very popular lately (Terminus, Iceland), allowing audiences to sit in delicious anticipation as details of each life are revealed, while attempting to resolve the mystery of their shared existences.  When dialogue is sharp and incisive—as here—the tension is intense, and the release—cathartic.

Taddei plays with ideas of sex and gender—two of the characters are gender-neutral—and this is highlighted by director Chase Hiebert’s decision to cast Arielle Permack as the man.

Hiebert draws every dark and disturbing nuance from the actors, in this fine psychological thriller.

There is nothing worse than revealing the answer to a puzzle—to elaborate further on Art of the Eight Limbs would be a disservice to future audiences.  Strong performances and production values, crisp text, and violence that lurks beneath the surface—waiting to burst out–make Art of the Eight Limbs a compelling must-see.

Tickets: Advance price: Regular $11/ St & Sr $9 + s/c* Door price: Regular $11/ St & Sr $9
Duration: 70 mins
Rating: Adults Only: Coarse Language/Adult Themes/Violence
Genre: Contemporary Monologue Play

Remaining shows:
Fri Aug 26 – 6:45pm
Sun Aug 28 – 6:15pm
Tue Aug 30 – 9:30pm
Wed Aug 31 – 6:00pm
Thu Sep 1 – 8:00pm
Sun Sep 4 – 4:45pm

Birdwatching by Jack Hayes (First N Last Productions), Victoria BC

This is Jack Hayes inaugural play at the Victoria Fringe–Birdwatching was staged in an earlier version at the Student Alternative Theatre Company (SATCo) at UVic.  Hayes is a recent graduate of the UVic Theatre programme where he first came to my attention for his fine portrayals in Wild Honey, The Threepenny Opera, Amadeus.  Fringe audiences will remember him for his performances in two of last year’s shows—Two and The Wyrd Sisters.

Tense and fraught, (due in large part to the jarring and disconcerting sound design of Carl Keys) Birdwatching moves seamlessly between past and present, reality and fantasy, as Nolan (Emma Grabinsky) struggles to centre herself after a recent move from Vancouver to Toronto with her fiancée Tannis (a smooth and sophisticated Rachel Myers).  From the beginning it is abundantly clear that both Nolan and Tannis have issues with their parents—Nolan’s mom, who she hasn’t seen in years, recently died of lung cancer and Tannis clearly rejects any attempt by her dad (Alex Judd) to re-enter her life.  A mysterious Crow (Taryn Yoneda) taunts and stalks her—tantalizing with her dance.  A mysterious stranger (Brett Hayes)—encountered on an insomniac stroll—offers words of comfort and advice.

The actors, very capably directed by Kate Loomer, create and maintain an uneasy sense of foreboding as they move through the humdrum of daily life—unpacking boxes, settling in.  Flashbacks serve to flesh out the story—Grabinsky inhabits her character’s mind and persona with intense sorrow—vestiges of childhood trauma lingering into adulthood.  Sequences with Crow—while fantastical—make perfect sense in this world within.

As her new life slowly unravels, and Nolan becomes increasingly unhinged and tormented, the palpable tension builds to a break.

Birdwatching is compact, thoughtful and exciting theatre with fully-fleshed out characters and an intriguing premise.  Regardless of its fantastical elements, Birdwatching is an exploration firmly grounded in the here and now. Excellent design work (costumes—Delaney Tesch, lights—Nic Beamish, set—Sean Thompson) add to the overall appeal of this production.

Tickets: Advance price: Regular $11/ St & Sr $9 + s/c* Door price: Regular $11/ St & Sr $9
Duration: 60 mins
Rating: PG14+: Coarse Language/Adult Themes/Violence
Genre: Contemporary Psychological Drama

Remaining shows:
Sat Aug 27 – 2:00pm
Mon Aug 29 – 7:45pm
Thu Sep 1 – 10:00pm
Sat Sep 3 – 3:45pm
Sun Sep 4 – 7:30pm

Space Hippo by Mochinosha, the Wishes Mystical Puppet Company (Winnipeg MB and Tokyo, Japan)
Also at the Vancouver Fringe September 8-18, 2016.

A serious fan of shadow puppetry of all genres, I have been in the thrall of Mochinosha, the Wishes Mystical Puppet Company since they first appeared at the Victoria Fringe in 2014 with Oni (a “sexy” puppet show) and then 2015 with Hitodama (a “scary” puppet show).  When my son—performer, musician, composer—Elliott Loran announced he was creating a 24-song soundtrack for their new show  Space Hippo, it would be an understatement to say I was thrilled.

Wishes and Yanai are highly skilled puppeteers who met at the London School of Puppetry in the UK and have taken cross-border and cross-cultural collaboration to the next level—performing their unique shows with a campy and subversive blend of narration in both English and Japanese, in Canada and Japan.

Seated in full view, they manipulate over 200 intricately cut shadow-puppets, twice the usual number, to create the dazzling effects of Space Hippo, eliciting gasps of wonder, chuckles of recognition at political caricatures and cries of dismay from the audience. Sheer magic!

Loran’s haunting, at times Bowie-esque refrains transport us from a world in decline to the outer reaches of the galaxy and beyond.

The world is in decline; no one will listen to the scientists, politicians are in denial. In desperation, and to provide hope to the human race, they seize upon a ridiculous idea and decide to launch a hippo into space to block the sun. Space Hippo is cautionary tale, science fiction adventure (with delightful space aliens, a Food Robot and double-crossing Lizard Man) and fantasy rolled into one. Wishes and Yanai are masters–creating a world, inviting the audience along for a most fantastical journey to the edges of the galaxy and beyond. The visual effects are spectacular, the narration funny, the score a rich and lush auditory delight—filled with tunes, dirges, jazzy numbers and syncopation.  You will cheer, and laugh, and shed a tear or three as Space Hippo becomes a most unlikely hero.

Tickets: Advance price: Regular $11/ St & Sr $9 + s/c* Door price: Regular $11/ St & Sr $
Duration: 60 mins
Rating: PG14+: Adult Themes/Violence
Genre: Sci Fi Comedy

Remaining shows:
Sat Aug 27 – 5:30pm
Mon Aug 29 – 9:30pm
Tue Aug 30 – 6:00pm
Sat Sep 3 – 8:00pm
Sun Sep 4 – 9:15pm

About @lacouvee

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