Victoria Fringe Festival 2016. My local picks.

Victoria Fringe Festival 2016. My local picks.

In 2006 I celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Victoria Fringe Festival and got truly bitten by the Fringe bug.  I saw many more shows than originally planned, and had so much fun I decided to volunteer the following year (and did so until 2014 when I switched to reviewing).  Over the years I’ve met many Fringe artists and followed their careers—both in Victoria and further afield.

Even before social media became mainstream, I was sharing news and tips about the #yyjfringe, publishing my first “picks” post in 2010.

As always, these are some shows to consider for your viewing pleasure, based on artists whose work I admire.  That said—Fringe is about taking risks.  I highly encourage people to take a chance on artists who are unknown and emerging—it leads to very pleasant surprises.

These picks are listed as they appear in the Victoria Fringe Festival programme, per venue.

A reminder:  patrons need a Fringe button ($6) to attend shows.   It is good for all shows.  Proceeds benefit Intrepid Theatre, producers of the Fringe, and help defray the costs of producing the Fringe.  ALL ticket sales go to the artists.

HINT:  50% of tickets are reserved for advance sales.  Some of the more popular shows will sell out of advance tickets, particularly near the end of the Fringe.  50% of tickets are available at the door although it may mean lining up well in advance.  If you have decided on your schedule, it is well worth buying a 5-Show Munch Pass ($57) that you can even share, and which will allow you to pre-book tickets with no service charges.

Victoria Fringe 2016

Venue 1, The Victoria Event Centre, 1415 Broad Street

An Improvised Quentin Tarantino 2: The Playful 8

Paper Street Theatre was still a young company in 2013 when they took the Victoria Fringe by storm, flyering the crowds in their distinctive bad-ass black attire and sunglasses.  Audiences responded to these dark and comic tales—a different show every time—by awarding them “Pick of the Fringe”.  In the intervening years they’ve celebrated their 5th anniversary (April 2016), opened a studio, and honed their skills.  Look for female protagonists as Paper Street revises Tarantino’s revisions of classic Westerns.

Sure to be popular—grab your tickets early!

Pick-of-the-Fringe winner Paper Street Theatre is back with a double barrel of Tarantino – this time against the backdrop of the Old West. Led by master improviser Dave Morris this cast of foul-mouthed cowboys will spin a completely improvised yarn based on your suggestions. Get ready for epic showdowns, epic violence and epic laughs. “Dave Morris is a master of his art.” – TIMES COLONIST ????

The Jupiter Rebellion: A Zach Zultana Advenure by Jeff Leard

University of Victoria Phoenix alum Jeff Leard got his start in children’s theatre with his father’s company Story Theatre—and subsequently turned the experience into the hilarious The Show Must Go On.  A perennial Fringe favourite for shows like Sperm Wars, Gametes and Gonads, he has since paired with writer Ron Fromstein to develop the character of Zach Zultana, space miner.  The original story Zach Zultana: Space Gigolo toured the Fringe circuit in 2015.

Leard is a master of physical comedy—appearing onstage with little more than a chair, and creating multiple characters (and sound effects) with ease.  What he can do with an arched eyebrow and an “air” hair flip is joy to behold.  Expect to see space tropes fully employed for all their cheesiness.

Best of Fest: Calgary Fringe
Review: (Liz Nicholls—Edmonton Sun, as seen at the Winnipeg Fringe)

Venue 2, Downtown Activity Centre, 755 Pandora Avenue

Winnie the Pooh & Tales of 100 Acre Wood by Outpost 31

Local playwright David Elendune has made a name locally for adapting classic stories—1984 by George Orwell, Casino Royale by Ian Fleming (seen at the 2015 Victoria Fringe).  Now, he tackles the iconic character of Winnie the Pooh.  Elendune has assembled a wonderful team, including director Ian Case and actors (Ellen Law, Ian Simms, Kelly Hudson, Melissa Taylor, Emily Case) known to Victoria audiences for their performances at the University of Victoria Phoenix Theatre, Langham Court Theatre, Theatre Inconnu, Atomic Vaudeville and with Kate Rubin Studio.  A kid-friendly show although advised for children over 6.

AA Milne’s endearing children’s classic about the adventures of a Canadian-inspired bear comes to vivid life for Christopher Robin against the backdrop of World War II during the London Blitz- Directed by Ian Case & adapted by David Elendune, the artistic team behind last year’s popular “Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale”.

Little Orange Man by Snafu

Ingrid Hansen is now a Fringe “star” and much of the acclaim has come from this quirky and heart-breaking tale of a little girl and her grandfather.  Told with puppets and found objects, this whimsical story will take you deep into the mind of a curious child.  Last seen at the Victoria Fringe in 2011, and the prequel to Kitt and Jane, this remains one of my all-time favourite theatrical experiences.  Hansen’s ability to co-opt the audience into her adventures is astonishing.  Little Orange Man appeals to the child in each of us.

Best of Fest Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver

Meet Kitt: a fearless eleven-year-old Danish girl, as she undertakes a massive dream experiment and entrusts a group of strangers to help fight her darkest battle. Shadow puppetry & dark Danish fables. “It MADE ME LAUGH UNCONTROLLABLY, it made me cry” – Bloody Underrated “A MUST-SEE”- Monday Mag. *****- OnStageOttawa

Venue 3, Metro Studio, 1411 Quadra Street

Sky Corner, by Hannah Ockenden, Joanie Papillon, Natalie Shaw

I’m intrigued to see what these three young multi-disciplinary artists, grads of the Canadian College of Performing Arts, have created by combining their expertise in voice and movement.  Papillon and Ockenden were busy over the summer with the Greater Victoria Shakespeare Festival while Natalie Shaw recently appeared in Escape From Happiness (Langham Theatre) and the searing If We Were Birds (Theatre Inconnu).

Sky Corner is a collaboration of three new works, each with a different theme and message but connected by their ethereality and passionate cores. Movement and voice are combined to bring this fresh album to life and offer ponderings on why we’re here, where we’re going and what it is that we do in-between.

Venue 5, Langham Court Theatre, 805 Langham Court

Effie & the Vampire, a Lesbianistic Musical by Dragon Monkey Theatre

Sometimes, you just need to boo and hiss! Local director Wendy Merk (Escape from Happiness, If We Were Birds, Lady Audley’s Secret (Fringe 2014), The Penelopiad) has adapted a Victorian melodrama to Fort Victoria in the 1890s and promises-there really is a vampire.  Acclaimed pianist Robert Holliston accompanies a cast comprised of Langham Court and Theatre Inconnu regulars while Sylvia Hosie has provided her choreographic expertise.

Enjoy singing along, booing and cheering your favourite villains and heroines in this gay 1890’s musical set in Fort Victoria.  Iron-willed Lady Rockland has a huge crush on Lord Carnsew, but he’s been promised to her daughter, Lady Margaret. Meanwhile, the beautiful servant Effie secretly adores Lady Margaret ! And what’s going on between Floozie McSwill and Bridget the housekeeper?

[title of show]  by Urban Arts

Originally presented at the 2011 Victoria Fringe, where it won Pick of the Fringe, Urban Arts is BACK with  [title of show].  If you love musicals, you’ll love this irreverent love letter to the genre.  With some of Victoria’s finest musical theatre talent.

[title of show] is a postmodern homage to the grand tradition of backstage musicals like Babes in Arms, Kiss Me, Kate and A Chorus Line.

A Quiet Season by Enigmatic Events

Chris Rudram, the founder of Enigmatic Events, is a board gamer and events geek.  He originally founded Enigmatic Events with the idea of producing murder mysteries and games nights—the idea evolved into an interactive murder mystery Murder by Midnight at which I had the most fun I’ve ever had with a complete group of strangers.  I’m particularly intrigued by the premise of A Quiet Season—its apocalyptic setting, the idea challenges will be chosen by the audience—thereby mixing improvisation with theatre and story-telling.  A Quiet Season will appeal to fans of role-playing, post-apocalyptic fiction and improvisation.

Venue 6, Fairfield Hall, 1303 Fairfield Road

by Tribal Writes

Joyce Kline presented an earlier version of Bowser at the Reader’s Theatre Festival at Langham Court Theatre in the spring.  The winning combination of seaside backwater (have you been to Bowser?), jaded ex-stripper and cheeky seagull puppet had me nodding in recognition and agreement.  As an actor, Christine Upright is the ultimate chameleon, so completely immersed in her characters as to be completely unrecognizable.  (She’s doing double duty this Victoria Fringe—taking on a second role so diametrically opposed to this one–in The Old Lady’s Guide to Survival by Bema Productions).  Ian Chaprin’s seagull (created by master puppeteer Tim Gosley) is astonishingly life-like. A slice of life with hidden insights.

In the backwater of Bowser, BC, a cheeky seagull becomes an ex-stripper’s unlikely confidant as she recalls the loves and losses in her life. “Christine Upright is terrific in this funny and touching one-person (with seagull) show.” – Ian Ferguson

Me, the Queen, and a Coconut by Andrew Bailey

From his very first Fringe show, Scrupulosity, I’ve followed Andrew Bailey’s story-telling over the years, prizing his dedication to honesty and truth in his monologues.  Bailey is matter-of-fact even when revealing difficult details. Above all, he has the ability to laugh at himself as he finds the nuggets of humour in life’s situations.

At twenty-two Andrew Bailey lived and worked at Windsor Castle amongst knights and royalty. Now he’s touring Fringe festivals. This is the story of where things went wrong.

“Is there such a thing as theological coming-of-age comedy? There is now, and it has a coconut in it” -The Edmonton Journal

Winner of multiple Best of Fest, Pick of the Fringe and Critic’s Choice awards in Victoria, Vancouver and Toronto.

Driftwood by Hawk Mom Productions

Three of Victoria’s sharpest theatrical voices, emerging playwrights Robbie Heubner, Melissa Taylor and Ian Simms, have assembled a team of artists in the ultimate collaboration.  They originally requested submissions—10 minute monologues about a “break” (loss, mishap, bones, break-up)—and then grouped them thematically into three separate shows that are sure to resonate with audiences by the very nature of the material.

Have you ever taken a break from someone significant in your life, be it physical, emotional or otherwise? Hawk Mom Productions presents Driftwood: a storytelling series where a variety of Victoria artists recount a time when they were adrift — possibly lost, possibly free, definitely personal.

Venue 7, the Roxy Theatre, 2657 Quadra Street

Birdwatching by First and Last Productions

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.  I look forward to his Fringe playwriting début.

Nolan is being watched. Only, the past and present have gotten so foggy since she moved from Vancouver to Toronto, she can’t tell whether the eyes on her back are real or imagined. Birdwatching moves seamlessly between dance and dialogue as Nolan struggles to ground herself in the here and now.

Art of the Eight Limbs by Vino Buono Productions

Kat Taddei won Favourite New Play at the Fringe in 2015 for her play Two, a tale of two versions of one character, inhabiting alternate realities.  Art of the Eight Limbs brings together the stories of three eccentrics in a causal chain. Kat’s writing sits of the edge and probes the hyper-reality of contemporary lives—it’s sharp, probing and insightful.

Art of the Eight Limbs was originally produced at the Adelaide Fringe by fellow UVic grad Blair Moro.

Don’t. Get. Comfortable. “psychologically penetrating” – ADELAIDE NOW “a thought-provoking piece that delves into the dark side of human nature… bewildering yet brave…” – GLOBAL MEDIA

The Lion, the Bitch and the Wardrobe by Sharon Mahoney

For years busker and performer extraordinaire has plied her trade world-wide on the street and stage, in festivals and cabarets.  Now, she reveals her inner world in The Lion, the Bitch and the Wardrobe.  This is a return engagement for a show first seen at the Victoria Fringe in 2014.

After more than 15 years touring, Mahoney found herself before a most terrifying nemesis—crippling anxiety she dubs “the lion”.

What’s an inveterate performer—on the edge of 40—to do to conquer this fear but write a Fringe show.  Assisted by director Trent Baumann (aka The Birdmann) and Atomic Vaudeville’s Brit Small, Mahoney bares all.

Site A, Congregation Emanu-El, 1461 Blanshard Street

The Old Lady’s Guide to Survival by Bema Productions

Featuring two of my favourite actors—Christine Upright (also appearing in Bowser) and Wendy Magahay—as two “little old ladies” who are very different.  Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Mayo Simon.   Bema’s production of The Best Meal You Ever Ate (also featuring Upright) at the 2015 Fringe attracted sell-out crowds.

Two very different women, Netty and Shprintzy, cope with two very different kinds of diminished capacity only to discover that another capacity – their capacity to love – has been greatly enhanced. An entertaining and engaging play that will touch all generations.

Site B, 2% Jazz Coffee (1701 Douglas Street)

Café Soap Operas! by workingclasstheatre

Who isn’t interested in the idea of a live episodic sitcom?  Join a group of café regulars as the live out life.  workingclasstheatre was formed in 2009 and has been performing in Victoria since 2014 where they have gathered a devoted following. I admire the entrepreneurial spirit of founder Tristan Bacon.

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