Feature Presentation: The Fringe Festival

The Fringe is showing from August 26-September 4
by Ed Sum Victoria’s Fringe Festival is a showcase of talent that’s simply unjuried and uncensored. The performers submit their idea in a ready form, and when what gets selected is pulled out of a hat, it is showtime! The event takes place from August 25 to September 4, and it’s just one way to cap off the summer. Attendees can take the event slowly or go on a Fringe-binge, and take on as many shows as they can over a weekend or even a day, but when considering what can happen at the Fringe, the decision is very much to each their own. These shows can tackle any topic the producer wants. Nothing is turned down. Sometimes, they’re not the type of product that gets widely recognized in the mainstream. Some plays can take place at a beach with Shakespeare in a tank-top holding a rubber duckie, or be as widely surreal but comic at the same time. That’s the uniqueness that can be found at the Fringe scene. These plays often tackle difficult subjects that mainstream theatre ignores. That’s the essence of what Fringe theatre is all about, and as of this year, Victoria is celebrating 25 years of it. The Victoria Fringe Festival is Canada’s third oldest Fringe event, and that’s a history this city can be proud of. With more and more performers wanting to descend upon the garden city, this year has 72 independent performing companies in town; and they’re offering 11 days and nights of various styles of comedy, drama, dance, spoken word and physical theatre for Victorians to delight in. That means, over 430 performances in thirteen venues all across Greater Victoria. Last week, the event began with a birthday celebration that included an 80’s themed Prom Night, which included a Fringe Mob, where people started doing the locomotion–just one of the many dance moves–in style. The following day included a sneak preview, and with the Fringe Festival now in full swing, the fun is going on every night. Theatregoers can schmooze with their favourite performers at the Fringe Club, which operates at the Victoria Event Center from 10pm to 2am. But for some frequent Fringers, the best way to take on this event is to talk to people who are waiting in line as well, and hear what is good, what’s bad, and figure it out for themselves—or to go along with what everyone else is saying. For some attendees who hit several shows daily, they may not have time to sleep. This year, there’s going to be a party every night. Click here to visit the Fringe website.

Review Criteria:

These reviews use the five star rating system.  The articles themselves can evaluate any or all the following: audience participation, story development, acting quality, direction, the use of the environment–which includes, lighting, sound and prop management–, and if the venue works in favour or against. If there’s a particular aspect about the play that is intriguing, it may also be noted in the article as well.

Latest Fringe Performance Reviews

The Sparrow and the Mouse

The Sparrow and the Mouse is a nice rich dramatic play filled with music from Gay Paree. It’s set to highlight the music of Édith Piaf, who is a French cultural icon. She’s best known for ballads and songs like "Hymne à l'amour." In this play, Piaf’s life is seen through the eyes of Simone Berteaut (Melanie Gall), who is her half-sister. She narrates and sings about Piaf’s rise to fame and fortune.
Click here to read more.

God is a Scottish Drag Queen

If you bust a gut laughing too hard, God will save the day … in drag. Master comedian Michael Delamont (Atomic Vaudeville, and now independent) shows that he can command a room, totally become a different character in a heartbeat and spray you with his spit. That’s a good thing, because as God, it should be bottled, capped and turned into holy water.
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Urinetown couldn’t be any more bustling on opening night and if anyone needed to go, nobody left. That’s part of the punch line, and also the humour of this play. Although the auditorium in St. Michael’s University School is small, it works in favour of putting audiences in the thick of the plot. The young cast makes uses of the entire theatre space to perform their play.
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Houdini’s Last Escape

The name Harry Houdini conjures up many aspects about magic acts that’s synonymous with the grand stage: the person standing there has to be a master at what he does, be provoking and flip reality upside down. In Houdini’s Last Escape, audiences are reminded about this magician’s legacy. The showmanship of performers, Christopher Bange and his wife Tara Travis has to be commended.
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Canterbury Cocktails

Middle English is a tough language to master understanding, let alone speak, in a post-secondary scholastic world. Studying the works of Geoffrey Chaucer is a prerequisite to any English Lit. Major and the odd regret for some students after seeing this play is: why couldn’t this cocktail come sooner?
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BFA: The Musical!

BFA: The Musical has a very nice Victoria, BC connection that can hurt its potential in a world stage known as the Fringe. Hopefully this show is adaptable for every city it visits because this musical theatre production has potential. The play has all the makings of a good story: a father-son conflict, coming-of-age product, unrequited loves and Stefan!...
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Aladdin, the Secret Voyage

Children can Fringe too, and the Story Theatre Company provides two fun acts in two different shows—the other being The Magic Soup Stone—that can even entertain adults. Entertainers David, Samantha and Jeff do great work at inspiring young minds, and when the theatre has more children than adults under the same roof, they’ve certainly gained a following. The children recognize the acting troop, and can only hope the Company will visit their schools again soon.
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Whiskey Bars

Bremner Duthie’s operatic background clearly shows in Whiskey Bars: A Kabarett with the Songs of Kurt Weill. His voice is strong, fuelled, hypersensitive and melodramatic. To see him top this production will be something to track, because the songs he performs is from the era of Gershwin and Nash, to name a few, from the early 40’s. Any other age of the musical doesn’t matter if you want to be elitist.
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Miss Rosie Bitts

Even though this production is billed as a look at the struggles of censorship and the politics of an era uncomfortable with erotic entertainment, to mix it up in a burlesque show is going to be just that: a mixed bag.  Those topics are better off explored in depth as a documentary. Not everyone is going to pay attention to the message Bitts wants to deliver to the world. The narrative doesn’t quite have the soul that’s needed to hit the message home.
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Tara Firm and the Lunar War Chronicles

Tara Firm is one of those sharp feisty characters that can command a performance. When she gets swept up in the Lunar War Chronicles, her role in this conflict is going to change, and some audiences will be begging for more because of this play’s engaging story.
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Zack Adams

Nearly everyone has had their heartstrings pulled and their guts ripped out. To lose that potential mate, that girlfriend who you thought was the one, is wrenching and emotional. Perhaps going to Zack Adam’s show will take some of those blues away.
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Not many Fringe shows can turn a story befitting a Twilight Zone episode into an act.To adapt such a cautionary set of tales, Struwwelpeter, by noted German author, Heinrich Hoffmann, is a fitting choice.  His tale proved to be very popular for the young audiences he wrote it for, circa mid-19th century Europe.
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Grim and Fischer

Grim and Fischer is perhaps one of the more challenging plays to understand. Unless audiences know their classical music, some of the baroque charm can be missed. Death isn’t that cruel and that’s the whimsical beauty of this play.
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The Canadian College of Performing Arts has its own tribute to Broadway with their own glee club providing the entertainment. When considering what the weather has been like in Victoria late August, this performance is aptly called Sizzle!
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Music on the Orient Express

Depending on whom you ask, the name Orient Express evokes either thoughts of Agatha Christie or the luxury that this train line is famous for. In Colin Godbout’s case, The Music of the Orient Express is a bit of both.When the whistle is blown, the train is ready to make its musical journey.
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[Title of Show]

Will egos inflate or dreams deflate when close friends, Jeff and Hunter decide to develop a musical number for the New York Musical Theatre Festival? An original broadway musical.
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The classic retelling of Little Red Riding hood has all the charm and humour of a Jay Ward cartoon, a Fractured Fairy Tale simply titled Red. Some audiences may even want to make comparisons of the famous befuddled moose to the wolf in this play...
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