Magic!

Yesterday, a trip to Wood Hall and St. Ann’s Academy finished off my adventures at the 2014 Victoria Fringe Festival.

James Jordan

Vaudevillian is James Jordan, a clever magician from Calgary. I have a hard time reviewing magic shows because I don’t want to give away any of the surprise that makes a magic show so enthralling. Jordan is a gifted entertainer and magician, with a show I felt primarily geared towards a younger audience. With that in mind, he was still mindful of the adults and through his various tricks, was still able to capture the crowd. You can tell he has spent his time busking and perfecting his stage persona, as his work has definitely paid off to the audience’s benefit. His performance is a few things you have never seen before, and a couple you have, and mostly a well-rehearsed, entertaining escape for your afternoon.

Mr. and Mrs. Alexander

Mr. and Mrs. Alexander are David Ladderman and Lizzie Tollemache respectively, two performers from New Zealand ready to take you back to the late 19th century and the world of sideshows and psychics. The world they create is far from our own, a world where telepathy and spiritualism is all the rage, and everyone is crowding for a taste of these performing magicians. The performers brilliantly shift in character and out making use of the entire space of the St. Ann’s auditorium and their own skills as magicians to suspend the audience in this alternate world. The entire show leads up to one moment with the final trick, the possum trap, and one final spectacle. The duo have a seamless connection on stage and are an absolute thrill to watch. Their show plays with the audience quite a bit, creating a unique atmosphere, and transforms the St. Ann’s Academy into a town hall circa 1890. Mr. and Mrs. Alexander is one of my favourites of Fringe this year, and with one show left, could be yours too!

Vaudevillian and Mr. and Mrs. Alexander each have one show remaining. You can check out Vaudevillian at the Wood Hall at 6:15pm and Mr. and Mrs. Alexander at St. Ann’s Academy at 7:30pm.

In case you have not voted yet, make sure to head to the Victoria Fringe website for Pick of the Fringe. This year, the ballots are online, and you have your chance to pick your favourite shows this year. The voting is open until 5pm and you can only vote once! The Pick of the Fringe awards are tonight at 10pm at the Fringe Club. Don’t miss out!

That finishes off the blog for me this year. Huge thanks to Intrepid Theatre and all their staff and volunteers (including the billets!) for putting on yet another amazing festival.

Until next year,
Phoenix

 

 

N.O.N.C.E. & Unpossible!

The last weekend of Victoria Fringe is here, along with the last chance to catch 2014’s stellar line-up of performances. Yesterday I caught what turned out to be two of my picks of the Fringe: N.O.N.C.E. by Steve Larkin and Unpossible! by Travis Bernhardt.

NONCE generic show imageN.O.N.C.E. is based on Larkin’s experience as the poet-in-residence at a high-security therapeutic prison. Larken tells a striking, hilarious story while giving insight into complex social issues. Themes include sex and violence, gender and criminality, disturbing norms and dehumanization both within Western prison systems and without. Yet the show is strengthened instead of bogged down by these heavy topics. N.O.N.C.E is an entertaining, relatable, remarkable piece of art. I will be thinking about this show for some time and am confident this will be my favourite show of the festival. Larkin has two remaining performances at the Roxy, find showtimes by clicking here.

Travis 2Unpossible! needs few words. Bernhardt is an extraordinary magician. He has crafted a magic show that will amaze anyone of any age. I can tell you he does both sleight of hand and mind reading, but beyond that the show’s content is a secret. Bernhardt’s last show is today at 1:45pm, but I hope he will be back soon.

This will be my last blog post, but stay tuned for more from Phoenix. Thank you for following along with our interviews and reviews. If you can, I encourage you to take a chance on a show. Artists are the heart of Fringe, putting time, effort and most importantly themselves into their productions. Artists can get good reviews in one town and bad ones in the next. Sell out one festival and loose money the next. Every review and opinion is one among many – so make your own opinion.

I have been honoured to be part of fringe for the third year in a row. Thank you to the artists, volunteers, staff and Intrepid Theatre for all your work!

Oni

I took yet another trip to Fairfield Hall for the bizarre, laugh out loud, Oni. Mochinosha Puppet Company specializes in shadow puppets by Seri Yanai. Beautifully hand-crafted using cardboard and inspired by Japanese folklore, the puppets and performers share tales from Old Japan. Seri and her partner use a screen made of what appeared to be drum material and simply a spotlight to capture the tales and suspend the audience.

Oni

What you don’t know about Oni is that it is full of Shunga, or old Japanese erotica, modern renditions of old tales, by two witty and very entertaining individuals. The entirety of their tale revolves around the 3cm Issunboshi and his many misadventures and storytelling. Most of the show had me either laughing out loud or in disbelief at the dialogue. Oni was just plain entertaining. It was intimate, well performed, fascinating to watch the incredible detail in the puppets, and just overall a feel good show.

I don’t want to say too much about the show, as I think the description tells just enough and allowing the experience to happen made the show that much more entertaining. I feel like this is the type of performance that is slightly different for each audience, which is another perk of the show. If you want something a bit on the fringe, this show is for you.

Oni continues at the Fairfield Hall this weekend.

I am excited to check out Roller Derby Saved My Soul and James and Jamesy tonight! Happy last weekend of Fringe!

Cheers,
Phoenix

An Ode to Dyads

Last night, I visited the intimate space of the Fairfield Hall for An Ode to Dyads. Fishbowl Collective is Hannah Kaya and Connor Spencer and a few others from Toronto and Montreal. They created this short, highly physical piece together over Skype.

Fishbowl Collective

 

I walked into the piece with a vague definition of the word “dyad,” I knew it had something to do with twos and pairs and that there is a sociological theory about them. Love songs from the 1940s fill the space taken up by two chairs as Kaya and Spencer take the stage. A bit of clowning combined with some absurdity and a whole cup of physical theatre, this comedic piece is a story simply about two people. Whether it is pure companionship or romantic love is up to the audience, these two girls take you into a type of 1984 world where little words are actually spoken (and when they are, it is French poetry), and everything is conveyed through movement. This piece is probably my favourite so far at the Fringe Festival. At only a half hour in length, I could not believe how much was said without saying anything at all. The choreography, the facial expressions, and their ability to convey the struggles and intimacy of a companion with their bodies and two chairs is, to me, what the Victoria Fringe is all about. Strip everything down until you’re standing in a nightgown with a chair on stage conveying raw emotion with a witty twist, is exactly what thrives at the Fringe and the kind of show you take home with you. An Ode to Dyads is a portrait of humanity that is a must-see this year.

An Ode to Dyads has two more shows this weekend at Fairfield Hall.

Until next time,
Phoenix

The Quitter

stagepicNo one likes being known as a quitter, but is quitting really so bad? This idea is explored by Al LaFrance is his first solo show. His monologue begins where he begins, in his hometown of Alymer, Quebec. He unwinds his story from then until now, marking his life by how he quit again, and again, and again.

Autobiographical monologues are the bread and butter of fringe festivals, and LaFrance bakes good bread. From beginning to end LaFrance was funny and wholehearted, unfolding stories about mini-golf, the Heritage College Donut Club, service job gigs, and fringe festivals. You quickly learn that quitting does not mean failing. Actually in the bigger scheme, it seems LaFrance never gives up.

If you are looking for a good story, I recommend The Quitter. This is LaFrance’s first fringe tour, yet he appears grounded on-stage. He’s travelled across Canada and on his fifth festival. You can even follow Al’s travels on his Fringe blog by clicking here.

The Quitter plays at the Roxy. For showtimes click here.

The Middle of Everywhere

Opening night saw the Metro Studio packed with fringe-goers excited to see WONDERHEADS’ newest production. They were not disappointed. WONDERHEADS’ has reached a new level of finesse in full-masked physical theatre while still using a simple storyline to make profound statements.

Heads

The show features Winston, a man of routine and order about to attend a very important presentation. Suddenly Winston’s day is disrupted by eleven years old Penny. The two are taken on a magical journey to the middle of everywhere, confronting their fears and discovering a world much bigger than themselves.

The Middle of Everywhere is a feat of time, effort and skill. The physical performance coupled with the 160 sound and 60 light cues is phenomenal, especially considering the performers wear sizeable masks that obscure their vision. Those masks each require 50-80 hours to create. To watch the process of making one, click here.

Every time I see a WONDERHEADS Production they invite me to suspend my disbelief and take in their whimsical performance, and I happily do. They crack through the hard shell of rational order and detachment, searching for connection and openness. However, I found this show’s comments on existence and chaos confusing. Also not everyone likes this type of theatre with no dialogue and simple storylines. Yet I hope you will give it a chance – there are few opportunities to see full-mask physical theatre delivered so expertly.

The Middle of Everywhere plays at the Metro Studio. For showtimes click here.

Deranged Dating

Credit: Eesie Pretorius

Late Monday night I found the Victoria Event Centre buzzing with fringers ready to see Deranged Dating. South African comedian and stuntwoman Shirley Kirchmann took the stage, commanding the room with her mix of stand-up and absurd storytelling.

At 35 years of age Shirley was doing something unacceptable – she was single! In her performance, she delves into this ‘problem’ and her efforts to solve it through online dating and matchmaking. The show flows like a series of vignettes, hedged by stand-up jokes and audience interaction. The humour is often crass, and as Kirchmann notes jokes occasionally ‘cross the line.’

Kirchmann’s is fierce and hilarious. I was not able to get into the show because it is not my type of humour and I did not connect to the topic. Yet I imagine many people will enjoy Kirchmann’s over the top account. For those who have been a deranged dater, suffering through terrible dates and online matchmaking, this is the show for you.

Deranged Dating plays at the Victoria Event Centre. For showtimes click here.