by Colin Thomas
As I write this, I have seen 25 performances at this year’s Fringe: 12 in Victoria, 13 and counting in Vancouver. And I’ll see a whole lot more before closing night of the Vancouver Fringe, which is this Sunday, September 17.
2017 is an excellent Fringe vintage. Allow me to recommend some of the finest productions.
For reviews of the best shows that travelled from Victoria to Vancouver—Six Fine Lines, Hyena Subpoena, The Birdmann and Egg: Birdhouse, and Beaver Dreams—check out last week’s Fresh Sheet.
And, as we head into the final weekend of the Vancouver Fringe, here are four more performances. May they delight you as much as they delighted me:
Yay bodies! Yay sex! Yay pooping!
In Multiple Organism, Chloé Ziner and Jessica Gabriel from Mind of a Snail Puppet Co., celebrate all the glorious weirdness of being embodied. And they throw in a generous spin on gender norms to boot.
In this wildly risk-taking and welcome new show, they tell the story of an objectified artists’ model who falls into the toilet with a couple of toothbrushes, and… Just wait. It’s worth it.
Their theatrical techniques are terrific. Using overhead projectors, they create a kind of wacky shadow puppetry. Like regular actors do, they also play characters, and, in a fantastically surreal device, they use their bodies as projection surfaces.
There is a kind of genius in the combination of abandon and skill that Ziner and Gabriel bring to this piece. Before this, I didn’t understand Mind of a Snail’s popularity. But I get it now. I am a Snailhead.
At the Firehall Arts Centre. Click here for showtimes.
Ain’t True and Uncle False
God, we’re fragile. God, we’re beautiful.
In Ain’t True and Uncle False—which, I guarantee, is one of the finest and most original shows you’ll ever see—solo artist Paul Strickland introduces us to his friends and relatives from the Big Fib Trailer Park. The main employer in Big Fib is the pea-punching plant, where locals make regular peas black-eyed.
The homespun inventiveness just keeps coming. In stories that are announced as if they are revelations from the Almighty, we hear about Will, the boy who lost his hand—simply misplaced it—when he was 7, and the conjoined twins who were born a year apart. Underlying all of this, there’s a touching meditation on temporality and decay, on dementia and death. In celebrating the trailer park, Strickland is also trying to preserve it.
“When the peculiar becomes familiar and safe, that’s when you know love,” Strickland says at one point. Just before hearing that line, I had written in my notebook, “I feel safe.”
At Performance Works. Click here for showtimes.
A Night at the Rose Coloured Discotheque
Hey kids! Let’s make this show a hit! Because that’s what it deserves to be.
In A Night at the Rose Coloured Discotheque, writers and performers Dylan Archambault and Arggy Jenati satirize the hollowness of gay club culture and explore the ennui of unfulfilled artistic dreams—while creating a very, very good time for the audience.
Instead of preaching, they dance their pants off as club kids Jorge and Toasty, who are, essentially, clowns. Jorge is desperate to find a husband so that he can pattern his life on the apparently blissful existence that Neil Patrick Harris shares with his spouse and their twin boys. But, as Jorge points out, it’s easier for him to find penetrative sex than somebody to go for coffee with. And, romantically, Jorge tries way too hard. When he hits up guys in the audience, it’s not long before his speech devolves into desperately disappointed stuttering laughter.
Toasty, the frustrated actor, drunk dials her mom and calls her a bitch for never supporting her. But she recognizes the joy in Jorge: “He is the ribbon to your wrapping… the bleach to your butthole.”
Archambault and Jenati expertly switch up forms and textures, flipping from pure dance to dialogue, monologues, and playful audience engagement.
And, beneath the glitter, there’s an enormous, substantial heart. As I was leaving the theatre, I ran into a young gay man who said, “There’s no more water in my body. It all just came out through my eyes.”
At The Cultch Historic Theatre. Click here for showtimes.
Looking for a Fringe show that uses the word hagiography? Bingo!
In Brain Machine, solo artist Andrew Bailey explores connections and opportunities—mostly missed. Its historical thread is about the Internet: its potential and its degradation. Its more personal thread is about Bailey’s relationships and work.
There’s substantial material here. Bailey expresses his anger at feminists who diminish the suffering of men, including the suffering caused by being sexually assaulted. (“Twenty years later, on a bad day, sometimes I still shake.”)
And a lot of the show is very funny. Bailey is a master of reversal: “When I was 17, I felt disconnected and alone… unlike other 17-year-olds.” And he gets a laugh out of hagiography.
Bailey is confident, charming, a pro. This is the premiere of Brain Machine. Go see it.
At Arts Umbrella. Click here for showtimes.
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