Victoria Fringe 2009 Reviews

The Victoria Fringe 2009 takes place between August 27st through September 6th, 2009. Below are the Plank Magazine reviews. View the listings over here.

In slacks, shoes, shirt and beret all black, with guitar in lap, Colin Goubout passably looks the part of a gypsy minstrel, posing for Picasso in '30s Paris perhaps. Plus his playing is blazing good, shot through with passion and very brave, taking on as he does the music (and thumbnail bio) of jazz great Django Reinhardt.

Goubout, however, is so painfully self-conscious and uncomfortable with his audience that he comes off as a bit of an awkward duck in a theatre festival. He has no charisma. No stage presence. No fun.

Two swing dancers, David and...

Looking the part

Victoria: @LIFE explores the exclusive lives of video gamers in an attempt to create a window into their beyond-messed-up “reality”—you know, being a superhero, saving the world, having big breasts . . . that sort of thing. While the premise is very in-the-now, the play fails to engage the audience and doesn’t live up to its potential.

Perhaps these emerging artists misfire in their approach to the subject. The play reads as more of a collage of explanations to the lifestyle rather than the emotionally moving show it tries to be. The detailed references and concrete examples to the game...

@life
Victoria: A clown, Our Heroine, has to defend her sexually charged life when she reaches the Pearly Gates in this fun solo show. Vancouver playwright and actress Colette Nichol plays eight absurd characters—including a prude British grandmother, a Johnny Cochrane-style lawyer and God in need of therapy—but her singing voice is also a winning factor here.
 
And the dramatic moments of A Most Unimportant Criminal are beautiful; despite all the craziness, there are flashes that add a much-needed human touch, like when Our Heroine realizes that she’s just “a lonely girl trying to get un-lonely.” At 55 minutes,...
Colette Nichol is Our Heorine

Victoria: Pete’s a synopsis writer; Anna’s his apparently feisty intern. An updated copy of Anne Frank lands on Pete’s desk; Pete goes loonier than Bugs Bunny on drugs. Throughout the course of the play Pete (who is not too bright, but seems to be bright enough to give the audience lectures about how great he is) procrastinates against his 50-word blurb, without the faintest idea that he could just Google the book instead of reading it, writing the synopsis and be done.

Just for kicks and giggles, let’s add some sheets with shadows, colours and just about everything else you...

Anne Frank is in My Dreams

Victoria: First off, if you want to see a cockroach, a cat, an ant, a hoard of crickets, an army of insects and a dancing, prancing tabby cat with nine lives with different toms, all acted by a scruffy guy in a white-polka dot green shirt, you should go to this show. Second, who really doesn’t want to see a show about a cockroach? The concept is creative genius at its best.

Archy and Mehitabel is a blending of Don Marquis’ work, with the version penned by the actor Jeff Culbert, in which the star of the show is...

Archy and Mehitabel

In the style of High School Musical, Back to the 80’s is a same-old-same-old story about an average guy after a cool girl – the exception being that it’s chockfull of pop culture references custom made to fit a playlist of hit songs from the 80’s. If you were around for the side-ponytail, the oh-so-trendy aviator shades, the neon, you’ll enjoy the nostalgia, probably sway in your seat and clap your hands.

If you weren’t around quite yet, you’ll probably go home in a ready-to-download frenzy. While the play relies on easy laughs and a campy plot, it...

Back to the 80's

Victoria: In the event that Alex Plouffe and Samantha Richard read the reviews here on the Craig, they’ll probably want to know that the seats they chose for their in-audience first scene were the two directly to the left of this very reviewer. The experience comes highly recommended.

Anyway, there is a moment in BOYGIRL that captures its essence in a few simple motions and nary a word. A young woman rummages through a powder-pink box of miscellany. She pulls out a sheet of lollipops, lined up in their plastic bubble packaging. In the other hand: a sheet of...

As the title says: BOYGIRL

Victoria: When a fire tuck, sirens ablaze, pulled up alongside a burlesque venue, the awaiting audience and I figured we were in for something hot. But then reality kicked in; the truck had arrived to aid someone in the townhouses beside the University Canada West venue. And the show? It’s less hot and more edutainment. And that’s okay.

Prairie Fire (Sharon Nowlan) returns to Victoria in not one but two shows this year (the other being Caberlesque!), but Burlesque Unzipped is not a traditional burlesque show: there’s no giant martini glass or twirling pasties. Instead, Prairie Fire takes the...

Prairie Fire

Victoria: Need a way to get hot for the Fringe? Just head on down to the Metro Studio where four sexy performers will weave a musical tale of love, sex, shattered illusions and coming up short in this 75-minute show.

Caberlesque stars Darla Biccum (preferably called Sugarpuss), the fox that heads up the laughs and gives a raunchy Bette Midler-esque performance—definitely the life of the show. Sharon Nowlan (Prairie Fire) is the burlesque queen, the “shiny, sparkly part of the program,” without whom this show would be void of dancing, puppetry and brightly coloured poi; evidently not the...

Caberlesque

Victoria: Upon entering the theatre, we meet Ms SugarPuss who proffers tickles with a boa feather duster, patting every bald head taking their seat, "I don't have time to kiss everybody!" She tells more than enough sausage jokes for any "hornithologist." Guess how many jelly beans make up the jelly bean outfit worn by Ms Prairie Fire, and the winner takes home a bottle of pinot.

Billed a "cheeky romp created by Jeffrey Pufahl, with writing contributions from the cast", CABERLESQUE! is a sexy, saucy, funny, jazzy, fantasy-mixing
tease of fleshy burlesque and show-stopping cabaret harmonies. Pufahl (Max) is...

Forget Gordon, look at these three.

Victoria: The words “marionettes”, “rape” and “substance abuse” in the program description of Collette Suspended set up what could be an hour of perverse, torturous performing. Bizarre puppet orgies . . .  dolls with crass mouths and needles in their arms… definitely a clown or two. One could be lead to expect the worst in terms of disconcerting, disturbing theatre.

If only it had been so dynamic.

Where’s Noonan’s production of Tony Hubner’s three person play is less dark or dirty than a primetime TV drama, and essentially plays out like one, lacking any sharp edge at all. Don’t...

no image for collette suspended

Victoria: You wouldn’t guess it from its boring, humdrum write-up in the fringe brochure, but Fall Fair is most likely the best show you’re going to see this year. Jayson McDonald, who has been a, if not ‘the’, fringe favourite for the past two years is back and brilliant, playing an assortment of characters all converging on the last open day of the local fair.

McDonald seamlessly transitions between fifteen-year-old ‘OMG’ speak, to a half-lobster, to a father dealing with infidelity while taking his daughter on rides, to a stoner, back to the proprietor of the amusement park. With...

Fall Fair
Victoria: Jayson McDonald really loves Victoria.
 
And why shouldn’t he?  Between the success of his last two shows here (Giant Invisible Robot, Boat Load), he’s quickly become a Fringe favourite. His latest work, Fall Fair, should continue that trend.

 

McDonald conjures up a wide array of characters, all of which intersect at various times throughout the piece. From the forlorn owner to a misunderstood carnival freak, McDonald’s talent - and range - is on display once again. Audiences who have frequented his other shows will even recognize some familiar faces, as they are seamlessly integrated into this tightly-knit...
All the fun of the Fall Fair

Watching From Grandma’s Attic, I wanted to feel nostalgic, as it's not only in old age that we look back on our lives. Barbara Eadie plays Bea, an elderly woman who reminisces and connects with her memories through song.

This hodgepodge of isolated memories is slapped together to create a weak piece. Unfortunately the strength of the music does not overcome the weakness of the acting. Some songs such as “Mighty Lak’ a Rose” were beautifully moving and heartfelt, while others like, “I don’t want to play in your yard,” were fun and had a bubbly, musical theatre...

From Grandma's Attic

Victoria: Too late an addition to make it into the hard copy version of The Fringe flyer this last minute replacement show might just be this year's best Fringe success story. After just two shows Rob Gee's Sunday night performance at the Victoria Events Centre was close to capacity, and one suspects the rest of his run will be turning people away at the door. So book your tickets now, get there early, do what (or who) you have to do, but don't miss out on a piece of this Fruitcake.

What makes this show so good? Simply put, Rob...

Fruitcake: this won't hurt

Victoria: Opening night for Full Blast drew in only a modest crowd (though something lured in Atomic Vaudeville’s Morgan Cranny), but the premise seemed promising. It seemed like something madcap and fun! A real spectacle!

No such luck.

At the helm of this mostly one-woman show stands its writer, star and mastermind Mila Johansen. While Johansen occasionally demonstrates a knack for writing middle-aged witticisms, she fails to deliver them. For the first stretch of the show, one might be tempted to credit Johansen with intentionally poor acting, only to wow the crowd once her never-was actress, Cathy (quickly renamed...

Full Blast

Victoria: Meet Comrade Lavrentti Pavlovich Beria (Dennis Eberts). He appears nowhere in official Soviet history, but that never stopped him from bugging Churchill and Roosevelt’s bedrooms at Yalta. Or from sharing their secrets with Stalin over dinner. Opposite this boisterous intelligence kingpin is Anna (Christine Karpiak), a widowed American sent to interview Beria for the Washington Post. Unless, of course, she’s lying about that . . .

They’re hot for one another but not above threatening to kill one another. Somewhere offstage, Uncle Joe plans nuclear war with Uncle Sam. Welcome to Beria’s royally furnished and deceptively tidy office....

Goodnight Uncle Joe

Victoria: There comes a point where most people start to dread their birthdays. For Jackie (Lana Schwarcz), it’s all downhill after 30, a slow downward decay into old age. She diagnoses herself as a “gerontophobic “—one with an intense fear of aging. So, she sets off to conquer this fear . . . by taking a job at a Jewish nursing home in Melbourne.

Starring and written by Australia’s talented Lana Schwarcz, Grandpa Sol and Grandma Rosie is a one-woman show like no other. Using life-sized puppets of elderly folk, a uniquely lit display of chit-chatting bingo-players and stunning shadow...

Granda Sol and Grandma Rosie

Victoria: 4 guys, drug addicts who plan to rob a bank, hang around, backs to audience, smoking, watching videos, channelling Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe, King Kong, 'The Birdman of Alcatraz' and Roman Polanski. The fridge at the edge of the stage is the mother of their world, provider of mayo, hot sauce, beer, morphine - also cold, dark refuge from frenetic violent reality and, most dangerously, each other. 

All crack heads real good, flash knives to measure throats, brandish fat guns to combat moulds of fear that spread like cancers in kidney, lung, stomach, brain. A stylized choreography of...

Living the high life

Written by Lee MacDougall of Canada, High Life was adopted and adapted by the theatres of Japan. It is Tokyo’s Ryuzanji Company that has delivered back to us this complete, polished and intoxicating theatrical parcel about ex-cons planning the robbery that will, finally, set them free.

Boasting four dynamic characters (disturbingly convincing in their roles as junkies) in a sparkling white kitchen, High Life manages a fine balance of splendor and grit. The audience is chuckling at its crudeness one moment—and cringing in silence the next. Pop music is incorporated to perfection here, capturing and contrasting the mood onstage...

High Life

Victoria: Having won over last year’s audiences, Nile Séguin comes out of the dartboard nook and onto the stage with a friendly stand-up act about genocide and racism . . . but with surprisingly good taste. History: Deleted Scenes and Extras takes you from Rwanda to Auschwitz with a shudder and a smile.

First, the venue itself deserves a mention. Though much better than a dartboard nook, the stage at Paul’s Motor Inn is made for musicians more than it is for performers. Right in front of the stage sits the bar, so while the cash register has the...

Seguin appeals to your book smarts

Victoria: To speak in first person for a moment, I’d like to think I saw Imprint the way most of its audience will: without the knowledge of dance to appreciate it formally or the vocabulary to talk about it accurately. Despite my handicaps, however, Imprint was nothing short of spellbinding.

The elements of James Boatman’s natural, percussive original score trickle about the audience as they take their seats. As the lights fade to black for the opening monologue, the birdsong, buzzing insects and knocking wood subtly organize themselves into a more regular beat. The organic character of the sounds...

Imprint

Victoria: A tale of one woman’s battle with the darkness inside her, In and Out of the Dark is Scoli’s journey to reclaim her joy. Shantelle Simone Laundry acts as the judge, darkness and light in this physical performance piece and her quick and fluid movements keep your eye, but unfortunately not your attention. Her oddball, half-mime, half-clown make-up fizzles into absurdity and the over-acting of particular moments loses any tenderness the play might have had.

Despite a beautiful initial concept, In and Out swiftly descends into annoyingness. The power of depression is overturned by sexual overtones, specifically in...

In and Out of the Dark

Victoria: The only "Improvised Theatre" troupe to perform at this years' Fringe, Rosa Parks Improv hail from Vancouver and have been together for about a year and a half; and it looks like things are starting to jell. The very nature of improv dictates that if you go to a RPI show it's not going to be the same show I've just been to, so reviews are a little tricky.

Just so you know, this show is "long form" improv, a vastly superior style of the form compared to the gimmicky "bar" improv with which many of us may...

Rosa Parks: Paul's amorous feelings have been stirred

Victoria: Rosa Parks Improv mark their Fringe debut with a show that is tough to pull off - long form improvisation is difficult to sustain - and they mostly hold it together.

The unfortunate (yet almost always necessary) part of putting forth an improv show of this nature is having to explain it and prepare the audience.  It would have been refreshing to see them find an innovative way to get the suggestions they needed from the crowd and just go.

After the initial introductions, the foursome (one of whom is Impromaniac alum Briana Rayner) work their way through...

Rosa Parks

Victoria: Growing up in Canada, I had many friends who were born here but whose parents were not. My best friend of over 30 years falls into this category. Even with all the time I spent at his house growing up, I didn’t get as clear a picture of what being raised in a home where language and cultural barriers exist as I did when I saw Japanglish.

Yumi Ogawa brings a very personal story to the Fringe this year with this one-woman show.  It’s billed in the program as a “comedy/dramatic/solo” piece, and it falls into all three,...

Japanglish

Why aren’t you in line to see Japanglish right now? Yumi Ogawa’s touching and hilarious one-woman (-girl, -man) show about growing up with language and cultural barriers at home is one of the top performances at this year’s Fringe, and it would be a shame if you missed it.

While it might seem as though Vancouver actor Ogawa wouldn’t be able to pull off distinct impressions of her mother, father and younger self all within one scene, she manages her transitions seamlessly after a little while, disappearing entirely into her characters with each switch. Her impressions are never strictly...

Japanglish

Victoria: Don't let the words "Performance Poetry" frighten you away from seeing Jem Rolls' one man tour de farce. Imagine, instead, a mythical hybrid of John Cleese and Eminem spewing out a rap line of observational humour with such speed and verbal dexterity that it'll make your head spin.

This is Rolls' "Leastest Flops" - a collection of his "most unhated material" - a whirlwind tour of world history lessons, spoonerisms, pessimism, philosophy, language, life, the universe and everything. The man is relentless.

My only complaint is that Rolls works himself up so much that his final piece was almost...

Jem Rolls givng you what you least hate

Victoria: Anyone who’s attended a show at the Fringe this year has seen Jem Rolls—if not on stage, then out on the street, spreading the good news of his own show. But he isn’t the only one talking about his best of performance, Leastest Flops—everybody seems to love it.  His out-of-the-way venue boasted the longest line-up I’ve seen yet this Fringe. Maybe it’s because of the buzz, or maybe it’s because everyone felt personally invited to be there.

A Fringe performer since 2003, Rolls is offering us a string of what are apparently his most popular verbal pearls, from...

Jem Rolls is used to more stars.

Victoria: If you’ve heard one too many politic stabs, or taken in an ounce too much of obscurity this Fringe, then stay out just a little bit later and go meet Lavignia. Vancouver’s Tara Travis plays the entire playful cast in this storybook adventure directed by Ryan Gladstone, but she simply sparkles as the eight-year-old giantess.

Poor Lavignia has reached 8’3’’ already, and wants nothing more than to be “graceful, elegant, and beautiful—just like everyone else.” Like many children, her imagination gets her in trouble, but ultimately brings great reward. Travis skillfully brings one entire world to life within...

Lavignia

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