Dispatches from the Victoria Fringe 2017 Day Four

Dispatches from the Victoria Fringe 2017 Day Four

For the fourth day of the Fringe I went to see one of the most provocative artists I know, Tasha Diamant, in Naked Ugly Dancing, and then spent the rest of the day camped out at Venue 1, the Victoria Event Centre for Holly Brinkman’s A Woman’s Guide to Peeing Outside & Other Adventures, Enigmatic Events in Jukebox Drive and Sean Proudlove in The Taxi Driver is Always Listening.

I’ll have the reviews of A Woman’s Guide, Jukebox Drive and The Taxi Driver is Always Listening posted on Tuesday.

Naked Ugly Dancing by Tasha Diamant, the Human Body Project

The very concept of the Fringe is risk-taking, both on the side of the artist and for the audience. Over the years, however, the Fringe circuit, in my opinion, has lost some of its edginess—quirky, kooky, weird and unconventional have given way to professionally produced and polished presentation—this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the quality of work is amazing, and on a regular basis, Fringe shows are among my top ten of the year, but sometimes, I miss the work that challenges my pre-conceived notions and biases, forcing me to dig deep, and think.

What’s a middle-aged woman doing, dancing naked?  When Diamant began The Human Body Project as a performance art piece in Lethbridge Alberta in 2006 she was attempting, in the only way she knew how, to create a conversation, and action, around the state of world.

She believes that showing her vulnerability will allow others to do likewise, and that healing and change will occur.

Now, over ten years later, and having survived Stage 4 ovarian cancer, she’s back—dancing up a storm, “I’m alive and I can do something”—it’s a message repeated in various venues at this year’s Victoria Fringe, leading me to realize the importance of audience as witness.  You don’t have to agree, you don’t have to appreciate the artistic merit, you don’t have to “like” it, but sometimes, the ability to witness another’s struggles, reality, triumphs and failures is, as John Aitken of The Gift states “powerful medicine”.

So often, when confronted with work to which I had a visceral reaction I need to go deep within to confront the part of me that’s mirrored in the piece.

In performing Naked Ugly Dancing, Diamant holds space, a space where her ideas can be explained, the history of The Human Body Project explored, and questions answered.

Performance art is an under-appreciated discipline in Canada; in Victoria most people will never get an opportunity to experience work of this nature. Everyone should take the chance once to sit with the questions that Diamant raises about the state of the world today.  It’s not “theatre” as defined by most, but it is necessary.  Under our various guises and disguises, who are we, and what does it mean to be human?

As with The Human Body Project, Naked Ugly Dancing remains profoundly moving and relevant.  Although there are many solemn moments—how could there not be given the state of the world, the nation, the city—the performance is surprisingly life-affirming, with moments of laughter.

For years I have strongly encouraged Fringe-goers to come and experience Diamant’s work for themselves.  Take a risk!

My interview with Tasha:


Naked Ugly Dancing by Tasha Diamant, the Human Body Project
Venue 2: Downtown Community Centre, 755 Pandora Avenue,
Duration: 75 minutes. Adults only: coarse language, nudity. Improvised performance art

Remaining shows:

Monday August 28 9:15pm
Tuesday August 29 7:45pm
Saturday September 2 12:15pm

A Woman’s Guide to Peeing Outside & Other Adventures by Holly Brinkman

(Fictional) Author Holly Brinkman presents a book talk to a horde of fans, moving seamlessly into a story about her inspiration—a moment high on the mountain on a perfect powder day.  And while those in the audience may not have shared that particular experience, any woman-identifying person has their own tale to tell of peeing outside. The conceit allows a feeling of sisterly solidarity to permeate the room.

Moving easily through a narrative that covers a period from early childhood in a tiny Kootenay community to life as a university student in far-off Montréal, Brinkman is assured in her delivery, with a sardonic and observant wit.  She recounts the freedom of being set free to wander, as a small kid, naked if she chose; of joining the first co-ed Cub Scout troupe in Canada and the awesome bush craft skills acquired; before seguing into teenhood and the inevitable celebrity obsession.

Brinkman was a theatre nerd, and at one time even planned on being an actor—her years onstage as a teen are evident in the dramatic staging.  A Titanic-themed cameo is particularly funny. A Woman’s Guide to Peeing Outside was originally developed with assistance from Intrepid Theatre’s YOU Show, and director Andrew Barrett, before touring to the Montréal Fringe.

Brinkman lends a modern feminist lens to her stories, reflecting her slow awakening to the notion of gender fluidity while remaining even-handed in the messaging.

A Woman’s Guide to Peeing Outside will resonate with anyone was has ever lived in a tiny community where everyone knew their name, or longed for the anonymity of the crowd, pledged eternal love to a celebrity or had their heart broken by a cad.

Bold, modern and unabashed, this coming-of-age tale strikes a chord across the generations.

A Woman’s Guide to Peeing Outside and Other Adventures by Holly Brinkman
Venue 1, the Victoria Event Centre 1415 Broad Street
Duration: 55 minutes. Adults only: coarse language, adult themes. Storytelling, comedy
Tickets $11

Remaining shows

Wednesday August 30 5:15pm
Thursday August 31 9:30pm
Saturday September 2 7:45pm

Jukebox Drive by Enigmatic Events

Chris Rudram, the founder of Enigmatic Events, is a Fringe fan who has taken, as many before him, the next step in the evolution of the committed—going from Fringe billet and occasional reviewer to helming a Fringe show.

Outside the Fringe, his company produces murder-mystery and game nights and events.

At the heart of all his work is a fascination with gaming, and randomness.

Jukebox Drive is improvised theatre with a twist—the audience choses a beginning and end song (from a selection of fifty) for a road trip.  In between, Spotify randomly generates the soundtrack.

The night I attended the trip began to Logical Man and ended on Jolene (with a twist). The cast of four—Amy Culliford, Bill Nance, Jonah McKeen, Natasha Guerra—is joined most nights by a guest improviser, in this case, Brooke Cameron from Paper Street Theatre (who are performing War: Improv is Hell in the same venue).

In the space of fifty minutes the ensemble created a road trip that took two sisters from Vancouver to Halifax, with strange and humourous encounters along the way, including flashbacks to family drama at Christmas, and a surprising revelation of a cancer diagnosis which became the impetus for the trip.

Culliford and Guerra created believable sibling bonds, moving between light and dark moments, highlighting the utter absurdity experienced when one is dancing on the edge of death; McKeen simmered with resentment as the n’er-do-well, underachieving brother; Nance’s non-sequiturs provided comic relief and Cameron’s caricatures of a shopkeeper selling urns and a taciturn Maritime mechanic were genuinely funny.

Jukebox Drive was an emotional satisfying drama with funny vignettes, regional accents, and a surprisingly touching resolution (between mother—also Cameron—and daughters) that brought tears to my eyes when, Jolene having ended, technician Emily chose Israel Kamakawiwo?ole’s ukulele version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow to close the show.

Surprisingly, only one of the actors ever remembers seeing One Week with Joshua Jackson.

My interview with Chris Rudram: http://janislacouvee.com/jukebox-drive-enigmatic-events-victoria-fringe-2017-interview-chris-rudram/

Jukebox Drive by Enigmatic Events
Venue 1: Victoria Event Centre 1415 Broad Street
Duration: 50 minutes. PG 14+, coarse language. Improvisation, music, drama
Tickets $11

Remaining shows:

Friday September 1 9:15pm
Saturday September 2 9:30pm


The Taxi Driver is Always Listening by Sean Proudlove?

Sean Proudlove has a wealth of tales and a polished presentation style that combines storytelling and stand-up with video snippets, slides, and—a rap song! There was also a surprise racy “bit” that has to be seen (no spoilers).

Proudlove has been performing comedy since the late 1990s, produced shows, appeared on CBC’s The Debaters, at Just For Laughs and filmed a Comedy Now television special; you can catch him locally at Heckler’s on a regular basis. He’s also a taxi-driver, on the night shift, which has provided material to mine for comedic and seamy nuggets of helping people acquire crack, passengers’ drunken exploits in the back seat and the cardinal rules of driving a cab.

The conspiratorial nature of the delivery, letting his audience in on the sordid secrets of the denizens out-and-about in the wee hours, adds to the excitement generated by constant laughter, while the ultimate story he should not tell definitely seals the deal.

Somewhere in all this material, surely, there’s a book to be written.

While taxi driving is often on top ten lists of most dangerous jobs, Proudlove has used his wits to analyze the danger and his observational skills in the service of joke-making.

The line-up was long and the house packed, so be sure to get tickets in advance.

The Taxi Driver is Always Listening by Sean Proudlove
Venue 1, Victoria Event Centre, 1415 Broad Street
Duration 55 minutes. Adults only, coarse language, adult themes, comedy
Tickets $11/$9

Remaining shows:

Wednesday August 30 9pm
Friday September 1 11pm
Sunday September 3 7:30pm



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