Dispatches from the Victoria Fringe 2017 Day Three

Dispatches from the Victoria Fringe 2017 Day Three

I’m one of twenty three Fringe Heroes who collectively since 2015 have sponsored a Fringe venue, Langham Court.  As a group, we attend one show together—this year, O’ Come All Ye Faithful by Nicholas Guerreiro.

For the remainder of Day Three, I made my destination the Downtown Community Centre (Venue 2, 755 Pandora Avenue) for Vasily Djokavich by Morgan Cranny, Monica vs the Internet by Monica Ogden and Ann-Bernice Thomas and After the Beep by Pamela Bethel.

I’ll have the reviews of Vasily Djokavich,  Monica vs the Internet and After the Beep posted Monday.

O, Come All Ye Faithful by Nicholas Guerreiro (Bragi Theatre)

University of Victoria Phoenix Theatre and Writing Department alumnus Nicholas Guerreiro is among a crew of young playwrights already making a name for themselves locally.  They are fearless and devoted, unafraid of challenge, and surrounded by a cohort of steadfast supporters and collaborators.  Undeterred by the seemingly limited opportunities offered on local stages, they strike out on their own to found companies, creating seasons and events that appeal not only to their own age-range, but also to patrons of thought-provoking, intelligent drama (and devised theatre).  At this festival look also for lolcow by Robbie Huebner, Daddy Issues by Colette Habel (and team) and Monica vs the Internet by Monica Ogden and Ann-Bernice Thomas.

The new generation speaks; are we willing to listen?

O, Come All Ye Faithful

Guerreiro tackles no less than the subject of art, and its importance in O, Come All Ye Faithful.

The Devereaux Museum of Controversial Art (the Dev to devotés) is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week—a haven for art lovers.

Christine the security guard (Anna Emily Watts) is hard-nosed and matter-of-fact, unaffected by the glories that surround her. Still, she can be a soft touch, succumbing to the appeal of rehabilitating foul-mouthed and erratic Rothko (Brett Andrew Hay) a homeless person she finds sleeping in a gallery, and for whom she manages to find a job.   Rothko spouts artistic screed, ad-nauseum, convinced that art has saved his life, pausing to worship the paintings of Mara Irola, particularly the titular “O”—finding in its rounded form, no less than the representation of the feminine itself.

His carefully constructed theories come crashing down when a surprise visitor (Pippa Catling) arrives on Christmas Eve.

Catling is haughty and regal, but completely down to earth—a line is simply a line, a circle—just that.

As the evening progresses the three protagonists battle—what is the place of people and relationships in the world of art? What’s more important? En route to a satisfying conclusion, the three dare to reveal more intimate details of their lives.

Guerreiro, in one short hour, has created complete characters that draw you into their troubled lives while examining complex theories.

Costume and set design by Delaney Tesch convey restrained elegance, particularly in Mara’s artistic black, red and white outfit.

This is the first time I’ve seen director Elizabeth Martin’s work—given the dense nature of the script and the short time frame of the piece, she pulls the ensemble together in performances that do justice to the writer’s intentions.

This review remains vague on certain plot points, so as not to spoil the delicious and unexpected surprises for viewers.

O’ Come All Ye Faithful was part of season at the Student Alternative Theatre Company SATCo (UVic) last year.  Guerreiro also won every challenge during the Times Colonist “So, You Think You Can Write” contest.  Be sure to catch the beginning of this young playwright’s career–he’s destined for much bigger things.

O’ Come All Ye Faithful by Nicholas Guerreiro (Bragi Theatre)
Venue 5: Langham Court Theatre (805 Langham Court)
Duration 50 minutes. PG 14+ extremely coarse language
Tickets $11/$9

Remaining shows:
Sunday August 27 6:30pm
Monday August 28 8:15pm
Wednesday August 309:00pm
Sunday September 3 6:30pm

Vasily Djokavich, Russia’s #1 State Approved Comedian performed by Morgan Cranny

Vasily Djokavich is a lumbering oaf who tugs on heart-strings in surprising ways.  Perhaps it’s the relatability of being a fish out-of-water, perhaps it’s his completely clueless nature. Regardless, the audience’s immediate reaction is sympathetic.  Laughter flows freely throughout the entire set.

An actor and comic with decades of experience and a regular with Atomic Vaudeville and Sin City the Live Improvised Serial, Cranny has created many characters in his time as an actor in Victoria; Vasily Djokavitch is one of his finest.  He was originally a fill-in, someone to bridge the gap between numbers in Atomic Vaudeville skits.  When co-founder Jacob Richmond asked who could do a Russian accent, Cranny stepped up.  This is where I first met Vasily and his daughters and was introduced to their flashlight ballet (Vasily does show off some moves in this show) and his painfully awkward deadpan comedy routines. (Here’s an earlier interview with Cranny—from 2016)

At one point, in discussion with his buddy, co-writer Mike Delamont (God is a Scottish Drag Queen)—and with Richmond’s blessing–it was determined there was enough material for an entire show.

The rest, as they say, is history.  On this cultural exchange tour Vasily has travelled North America from Orlando to Winnipeg to Edmonton, sharing his personal story—how he, by happenstance, was sent to comedy school; learning about Western culture by watching illicit movies; the long road—through Siberia and small town Russia—to fame.

There’s shtick, absurdity, and biting political commentary (which the writers customize for every city—reserving special zingers for Victoria) mixed in with an audience participation (and vodka drinking) game and the afore-mentioned physical numbers—a tribute to his late-wife Svetlana, a former rhythmic gymnast.

Cranny is a seasoned performer with formidable comedic chops and the ability to make a not-so-swift dolt appear eminently believable. Russia may not have won the Cold War, but, in Vasily Djokavich, they have found their secret weapon. Once Vasily has taken North America by storm, can world domination be far behind?

Be forewarned: Vasily is selling out, for the second week of Fringe, I suggest advance tickets or lining up at least an hour in advance to avoid disappointment (at the Victoria Fringe 50% of ticket sales are reserved for door sales).

Vasily Djokavih Russia’s # 1 State Approved Comedian, performed by Morgan Cranny
Venue 2, Downtown Community Centre, 755 Pandora
Duration: 57 minutes. PG 14+ coarse language, adult themes, violence. MultiMedia storytelling  with music
Tickets $11/$9

Remaining shows:

Monday August 28 7:15pm
Friday September 1 10:45pm
Sunday September 3 2:45pm

Monica vs the Internet: Tales of a Social Justice Warrior by Monica Ogden and Ann-Bernice Thomas

They’re loud, proud, intelligent, and they refuse to shut up and go away because some troll on the internet wants them dead.

Welcome to a world where your very existence, every facet of it–from your smile, to your feminist views, to your “whiteness”or lack of it—is criticized. Where every time you state an opinion, someone seeks to, at the very least, minimize or erase it.

Monica Ogden, a former UVic theatre student, member of the Parliamentary Players, partner in NickelPumpernickel and improviser with Paper Street Theatre is a young disabled woman of colour and founder of the YouTube channel Fistful of Feminism.  Ann-Bernice Thomas is the former City of Victoria Youth Poet Laureate, a Youth Slam Champion and VACCS Community Recognition Award Recipient.

With humour and a light touch, via a sprightly ditty and video clip, Ogden introduces us to the (mostly) angry straight white men who subscribe to her channel. The vitriol is over-the-top.

However, in Troll and Real Life, an audience participation game where people guess who made the comment, the issues take on a reality far removed from the computer screen—how would it feel to have every aspect of your physical being examined?  And when she recounts her time in the theatre department and a discussion around the appropriation of roles by young white actors—most people would agree there is still work to be done.

In a world, and at a time (still!) when the word feminist raises the hackles of a fair number, where intersectional and second wave feminist cannot always find common ground, shows like Monica vs the Internet: Tales of a Social Justice Warrior are important, allowing audiences to build empathy and see life from another angle.

It’s not enough to say that Fringe theatre is uncensored, unjuried and accessible—for the voices to be heard, theatre-goers need to come to the shows. It’s not as simple either as “well, if there’s so much hate on social media, why use social media?”  Somehow, together, we need to find a way forward.

In a community as white as Victoria, where theatre (and this is, admittedly, (very) slowly changing) remains predominantly white, those of us with privilege needs must champion the voices on the margin.

Monica vs the Internet: Tales of a Social Justice Warrior is sharp, incisive, funny, well-constructed and devastating.

Thanks to the creators for challenging our assumptions and teaching us that responsibility for taking the next steps in our awareness remain ours.  It’s no longer enough to say “I didn’t know”.

Read my interview with Monica Ogden here: http://janislacouvee.com/monica-vs-internet-tales-social-justice-warrior-victoria-fringe-2017-interview/

Monica vs The Internet, Tales of A Social Justice Warrior, written and Created by Monica Ogden and Ann-Bernice Thomas
Venue 2: Downtown Community Centre, 755 Pandora Avenue
Duration: 50 minutes. PG 14+ coarse language, adult themes. Comedy, Storytelling, Social Justice.
Tickets $11/$9

Remaining Shows:
Wednesday August 30 5pm
Friday September 1 9pm
Saturday September 2 4:15pm

Performed by Monica Ogden
Directed by Ann-Bernice Thomas
Graphic Design by Victoria Simpson
Lighting Design by Emma Dickerson
Sound Design by Tony Adams

After the Beep by Pamela Bethel in association with Theatre SKAM

Coming-of-age tales are legion on the Fringe circuit, ones told from the perspective of women—less so. Despite the Fringe being a lottery, shows written, performed or directed by women are still in a minority.  Imagine then, my excitement on realizing that TWENTY ONE of this year’s offerings fit this category. In 2009 a group of women, among them Lana Schwarcz who is here with Lovely Lady Lump, her comedy about breast cancer, created the hashtag #FringeFemmes to raise awareness. I’ve written an article—here—that lists this year’s Victoria #FringeFemmes.

Pamela Bethel’s solo memoir After the Beep has been in development over the past year with previous appearances at Intrepid Theatre’s YOU Show and Uno Fest where it played to sold-out audiences (I’ve already talked to many Fringe fans who, sad to miss it then, were lined up early to see it this time).

Bethel is methodical and scrupulous in dissecting unlikely source material—her teenage answering tapes. Owing her nature to both father, a packrat, and mother, who had archivist tendencies, she managed to hold onto old tapes that had never been erased when full.  Carefully and scrupulously analyzing the data, she presents colourful pie charts—“calls from mom—4%”, “calls from friends—50%+”.  Using snippets of audio as jumping-off points, Bethel crafts stories to explain the reality of growing up in Vancouver, the child of divorced parents, in the mid-90s.

During the show she remains comfortably seated, speaking to the audience as if to a roomful of friends, her speech calm, pragmatic, and, at times quizzical—puzzling, as adult Pam, over the reactions of teen Pam.  There are stories of first loves, crushes, good friends and first jobs.  Two decades has given her some distance, removed what is often the frenetic and frantic energy of youth.  After the Beep is self-aware reflection, the impetus for which is revealed close to the end.  Here’s the emotional truth of this piece and one I sincerely hope Bethel will be able to explore in further creations—as a young mother, adrift in hormones and buffeted by waves of uncertainty, in the midst of evolving from one state to another, she found the tapes and was reminded of the other time of evolution.

After the Beep is a wonderfully perceptive glimpse into teenhood, filled with gentle humour and performed with love and acceptance.

After the Beep by Pamela Bethel, in association with Theatre SKAM
Venue 2, Downtown Community Centre, 755 Pandora Avenue
Duration: 75 minutes. PG 14+, coarse language, adult themes. Comedic show-and-tell.
Tickets $11/$9

Remaining shows:
Thursday August 31 10pm
Saturday September 2 8:45pm
Sunday September 3 12:30pm

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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