Dispatches from the Victoria Fringe 2014. Day Three.

Dispatches from the Victoria Fringe 2014. Day Three. Reviews of SEVEN, The Princess Rescue Force, The Anthropocalypse, Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl, Improv Club-an Improvised Chuck Palahniuk.

My Victoria Fringe Day Three was full of shows by artists (Broken Rhythms Dance, Robin Gadsby of New Blood Theatre, shayne avec igrec and Johnny McCrae aka 2 Dope Boys in a Cadillac, Dave Morris) I’ve come to know and appreciate over the past few years—some due entirely to a first encounter at the Fringe.  The exception was Rebecca Perry (Redheaded Coffee Shop Girl) who is a good friend of my son in Toronto; her show has been garnering significant buzz there and across the Canadian Fringe circuit.

Fringe Tip:  I’d advise getting tickets in advance for the final weekend of the Fringe if you are set on seeing a particular show.  If you’re happy to take your chances, there are 55 shows—in a multitude of genres—at this year’s Victoria Fringe Festival. You’re sure to find something that will appeal—even at the last minute.  Read all my Victoria Fringe 2014 coverage HERE.

Broken Rhythms is a contemporary dance company founded by choreographer Dyana Sonik-Henderson. Since SPARK at the 2012 Fringe, this company has hit a chord with audiences in Victoria and Port Alberni, winning numerous Pick of the Fringe awards.  Sonik-Hendeson calls her style rhythmic contemporary—incorporating jazz, contemporary, hip hop and animalistic influences.

I’m not a big dance fan, and know little about the genre so the Fringe presents an ideal opportunity to take small risks in extending my viewing habits. Broken Rhythms presents accessible pieces that draw my attention completely for an hour.

SEVEN is the physical representation of the seven stages of grief as postulated by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. Sonik-Henderson relates that choreographing this piece helped her to come to terms with her own grief.  What a daunting task! During my own grief journey, I was unable to even put words to paper, and can’t begin to imagine the challenge of creating a physical language to deal with the turmoil a person feels.

There are extensive program notes (including a description of the seven stages) with musical references. People who feel a need to understand intellectually would be advised to read the program before hand as it may help them to frame the dance sequences.  Not having done so, I allowed the music and dance to wash over me, and sat in quiet anticipation as each picture presented itself.

Many of the pieces are choreographed to the music of Finnish contemporary accordionist Kimmo Pohjonen—an artist who has revolutionized the instrument. Sounds are haunting and unusual—a metaphor for the un-anchored states of grief.

A wild beast roars and rumbles and my heart leaps in recognition of this all-devouring state.

Grief is endemic to life, none of us escapes its grasp, yet in our contemporary society we seldom talk about it. Nor are we often prepared to empathize with the grieving.  SEVEN is a gentle way to introduce people to the concepts of grief—one that never seeks to burden or over-whelm.

Upcoming shows:
The Metro Studio (1411 Quadra Street), Venue 3
Monday August 25-7pm
Friday August 29-7:15pm
Saturday August 30-6:45pm
Sunday August 31-5:30pm
Tickets: $11/$9 through Ticket Rocket, at the Fringe Box Office, or at the venue.  Don’t forget your Fringe Visa button.

The Princess Rescue Force by New Blood Theatre, written and performed by Robin Gadsby, takes us on a hero’s journey. An earnest young knight—Sisyphis–must accomplish the mission of rescuing a princess in order to be granted the title of prince, and earn his tights. He’s accompanied by his fellow recruit—a cynical French-accented Guy.

Over the course of an hour, every thing we ever knew about fairy tales roles is up-ended.  People and situations are not what they appear to be. Try as they may, Sisyphis and Guy are constantly stymied in their attempts to do good and reach their quest’s end.

Gadsby is a bold and talented performed who morphs convincingly and energetically between 16 characters (including the two horses—Stanley and Horse).

The script is replete with running gags, innuendo and topical pop culture references (twerking, social media) as well as numerous twists and turns. The Princess Rescue Force is a fine example of a twisted fairy tale for adults.  The audience laughed often and knowingly to the many jokes and references.

Advertised as a 14+ show that may not be suitable for small children (title notwithstanding).

Upcoming performances:
The Victoria Event Centre (1415 Broad Street), Venue 1
Sunday August 24-6:30pm
Saturday August 30-9:30pm
Sunday August 31-7:45pm

Tickets: $11/$9 through Ticket Rocket, at the Fringe Box Office, or at the venue.  Don’t forget your Fringe Visa button.

The Anthropocalypse by 2 Dope Boys in a Cadillac (Johnny McRae and shayne avec igrec) is a spoken word mythic tale, described by its creators as a psychedelic talk opera.

One of the primary tenets of Fringe festivals is boundary-pushing; it’s a chance for audiences and artists alike to experiment.

Spoken word has a flavour all its own—one that is not to be confused with the reading aloud of “page” poetry.  Combined, as it is in this full-length piece, with aspects of performance art, it can reach dizzying levels of word-imagery.

Johnny McRae and shayne avec igrec have performed The Anthropocalypse across the Pacific Northwest region as they toured from small town to small town where the themes explored would hit a particular nerve.

Join them as they tell the tale of François de Cadillac, a French dreamer, who ranged far and wide across North America before settling in a small mountain range called the Cadillacs.  There his descendants cultivated a sacred plant, used for its fibre and medicinal properties, and passed the ancient art of water-bowling from uncle to nephew, until their peaceful world was destroyed one day by intruders bent on annihilation. Barely escaping the flames, and separated from one another, Johnny and shayne are forced to make their way in a world as-yet-unknown to them.  The ensuing poems and spoken word pieces describe this harrowing journey.

Imagine that you lived in the Amazon and were suddenly set down on the rushing streets of Vancouver.

Moving throughout the venue, they explore voices—Every Body Has A Voice—and declaim—The Revelation Will NOT be Tele-vangelized.  At times Johnny plays back-up with his water-bowling to shayne’s tone poems.

The narrative arc completes on a happy note despite the grim theme of coming doom.  Accompany the 2 Dope Boys on the journey by first suspending disbelief.  Every seemingly disjointed bit combines to form the charm of this piece.  If you’ve ever “tripped-out” on the sheer beauty of life, you’ll understand where these two congenial characters are coming from, and the sentiments they express.  Life is small beauties and infinite horror.

Upcoming performances:

Victoria Event Centre (1415 Broad Street), Venue 1
Monday August 25-6:15pm
Friday August 29-6pm
Saturday August 30-7:45pm
Tickets: $11/$9 through Ticket Rocket, at the Fringe Box Office, or at the venue.  Don’t forget your Fringe Visa button.

Confessions of a Redheaded Coffee Shop Girl by Rebecca Perry

I’ve been reading positive reviews about Rebecca Perry’s show since the 2013 Fringe circuit.  She performed here briefly in an off-site venue then, but I missed her.

First jobs aka McJobs is an interesting Fringe genre—in the past we’ve heard the hilarious stories of TJ Dawe’s summer in a British holiday hotel (A Canadian Bartender at Butlin’s), Greg Landucci’s time as a dishwasher (Dishpig), and followed Andrew Bailey’s stint as a caretaker at a local church (The Adversary). There has even been another coffee shop saga.

In Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl, this Toronto-based actress and singer brings the story of Joanie Little to life with such sincerity, heart and plausibility that audience members were questioning her about plot points after the show, wondering how one of the characters had managed to pull off a feat. Was it embellished truth or fiction?

Joanie graduates from university in 2008 with a major in anthropology and a minor in earth sciences, and despite her best efforts at job-hunting, is reduced to working at Gabe’s, the local coffee shop. Undaunted, this perky and upbeat young miss does field work with the only subjects at her disposal—the customers she serves daily.  With quick wit, perfect comedic timing, and great sympathy, Perry conjures up an array of coffee-lovers—from harried jogger, to burly construction workers, local moms and imperious business men, she nails their character traits perfectly and then ascribes animal characteristics to them. The portrayals are funny and never mean-spirited.

There’s a great “can-do” attitude to Perry’s theatre-making, and it shines during the musical interludes, whether it’s a slow, romantic cameo in Zing Went the Strings of My Heart or the playfulness of cheesy throwback There’s An Awful Lot of Coffee in Brazil (aka The Coffee Song).

Fans of old movies and musicals will appreciate the retro sensibility in the play, while young people will understand, all too well, the current job market.  If you’ve ever had a job with a regular customer base, you’ll laugh out loud, for Joanie’s customers are your customers.

Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl, written and performed by Rebecca Perry

Victoria Event Centre, 1415 Broad Street, Venue 1
Upcoming performances:
Monday August 25-8pm
Saturday August 30-2:15pm
Sunday August 31-6pm

IMPROV Club: An Improvised Chuck Palahniuk, Dave Morris

My first introduction to full length improv was in 2010 when Dave Morris presented Dave Morris is an Asshole (a title guaranteed to generate some Fringe buzz). Up until that point, I’d seen improv, but it tended to be games, and some long-form.

He followed up with Photo Booth in 2011 and, with his company Paper Street Theatre, in 2013 won Pick of the Fringe for An Improvised Quentin Tarrantino.

Morris is a master improviser, teacher of improv, storyteller and magician. His ability is so well-honed through hours of practice that audiences remain unconvinced that his plot points are NOT worked out in advance.

For his latest foray, he ventures into the dark and macabre world of Chuck Palahniuk, the creator of Fight Club.  Fear not, if, like me, you I know nothing of Fight Club, beyond the title. Morris put the audience at ease with a simple explanation of the author’s style and then proceeded to ask for a job suggestion (the night before it had been mortician)—and chose taxidermist.  A question to the crowd—“who here has any taxidermied animals”—yielded surprising results since one person admitted to having not one, but three—a squirrel, duck and bat.  Morris turned this into comedic gold as he set the three animals up on stands, and then proceeded to work on his current project—a recently deceased dog, the beloved pet of the next door neighbours.

I’m the kind of person who watches movies between my fingers when the plot gets especially gory. Morris was so convincing at pulling out entrails that I was peeking more than I wanted to. There were plenty of “yeews” from the audience too.

Over the next 60 minutes he managed to introduce several customers, fill in his own personal back story (orphaned at 6 and living alone in the family basement), and conclude with a surprise dramatic ending when his father returned.

Morris’ improvised story-telling plots are often more complex and well-thought out than fully rehearsed productions.  Saturday was an excellent example.

Dan Godlovich provides moody and creepy improvised musical background.

Fight Club: An Improvised Chuck Palahniuk, by Dave Morris
Victoria Event Centre, 1415 Broad Street, Venue 1
Upcoming performances:
Monday August 27-10pm
Saturday August 30-5:45pm
Sunday August 31-4pm.

Morris has a definite following and I would highly advise getting advance tickets if you are set on seeing his show.

Disclaimer: I am attending the Victoria Fringe Festival 2014 on a media pass graciously provided by Intrepid Theatre.

About @lacouvee

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