Friday, September 13, 2013

Vancouver Fringe Fest

I've had a great time at the Vancouver Fringe Festival.  It may well be the most concentrated theatre event in all of Vancouver.  I wish I had explored it earlier, though two years ago I didn't even really know it existed (it wasn't until taking a writing course at Langara in 2012 that I was clued into the Fringe).  And last Sept. I simply wasn't in the right frame of mind to look into it.  I would say that I think the Fringe could be even better if a larger percentage of shows were curated (the vast majority of slots are given out via lottery, and it isn't even clear if there is any bar that entrants have to clear to prove they can actually pull off a show (like having a production team in mind?)). I'm thinking of this goofball in the Langara play-writing class who was going to enter some crap script into the Fringe, and it is a shame that he and others that are completely unprepared can take slots from more deserving groups.  That said, no question that the Vancouver Fringe gets a lot of new blood, and I have no complaints about the shows I've seen.  I picked well for a first-timer.*

Anyway, I started off on Monday with a one-off from Assaulted Fish.  They pulled together a show (Sacred and Profane) of lightly reworked sketches from their past -- a "best of" show essentially (with perhaps one new sketch about two lost astronauts, which I liked quite a bit, though think it could have been taken just a bit further).  They have been together 10 years together as a group (with mostly the same core), so they have a lot of material to pull from.  The show was funny, though I am biased, knowing a few of the members of the troupe.  One show left! This Saturday at 8!

Last night I saw Strapless -- another sketch comedy troupe.  Here it is 5 fearless female artists (instead of Chinese-Canadian comedians in Assaulted Fish).  The strongest pieces were when they played at being younger males of the slacker persuasion: one bit was an ad for a no-drama break-up moving service -- since today's males (if they aren't living at home) are mooching off their girlfriends and living in their places.  Also very good was a David Lynch-inspired fever dream (with obligatory Chris Isaak music in the background!).

Then I saw The History of Canada.  OMG it was sooo funny.  I'll circle back around and write up a few of the bits later.  As far as I know, the rest of the run is sold out (they do have a smaller venue), but there is a decent chance they will end up one of the picks of the fringe and it would be worth seeing them if that happens (or if they end up remounting this in Burnaby or Richmond where venues are a bit cheaper -- stranger things have happened).  For those in Vancouver and just coming to this post, there are apparently some tickets for their Sunday 2 pm show left.  It is definitely worth seeing.  If I didn't have a few other things going on this Sunday, I might even see it a second time, it was that funny.

Then I saw the late night show 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche, which actually originated at a Chicago Sketch Festival (or at least I think so).  Very good as well.

And then Sat., my son and I are going to see Johnny Tomorrow, which is aimed at those people who are still awed by the mysteries of outer space.  Indeed, the actor works at the Vancouver planetarium...

Ok, I might as well add a few updates to my theatre blog post while I am at it.

I'm starting to lean a little bit more to go to The Cultch to see Walsh's Penelope.  Still on the fence though.

However, I've decided that because UBC doesn't do matinees, I will definitely pass on Caucasian Chalk Circle, though I am still somewhat open to the Ubu Roi, precisely because I've never seen it staged.  And I found out that the Kronos Quartet and Philip Glass will be at the Chan Centre (relatively soon), and I will have to go out there for that (actually I should try to score tickets for that very soon before the word really gets out!).

In Nov., Western Gold Theatre Society is doing Alan Ayckbourn's Relatively Speaking.  Certainly a good chance I will go to this.

The second half of Nov., Pi Theatre is doing a new piece (apparently a dark comedy) called Except in the Unlikely Event of War.  Shades of Dr. Strangelove presumably.  It will be over at the Roundhouse, and I'm hoping to go.  Some details here.

In Jan-Feb. Honest Fishmongers will be doing Measure for Measure.  While this is definitely one of Shakespeare's more problematic comedies, I think it is worth going to see them do it.  They did such a great job with King Lear last year.  Actually, it appears that they also hit it out of the park with Hamlet, but this was done in 2010, so before my time (& I don't have to kick myself for not going).

Well, that's enough for now.

* One thing I actually thought was quite cool was that in Fringe Central on Granville Island, the performers all show up and try to entice you to come to their shows.  My understanding is that this happens in Edinburgh all the time, but it sure didn't happen at the Manhattan Fringe Fest (at least not that I ever saw) or the fringe-like festivals I've been to in Chicago or Toronto.

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