Fish Stampede and Tiger Lattes

The 2007 theatre season gears up from here on through the Fringe. Not counting the Bard on the Beach stuff (Possibly promising: Timons of Athens, which is rarely done and I’ve never even read, let alone seen, and an Old West cowboy-style Taming of the Shrew. Let’s face it, anything done cowboy-style is better than anything done not-cowboy-style. Except westerns, which often work in outer space, too.).

Up in the Air Theatre’s annual Walking Fish Festival of one-acts opened yesterday and continues until June 10 at Performance Works on Granville Island. A slew of the best scripts from the dozens they received, some by pro writers (others by first-timers, children, barnyard animals, cowboys) will be staged by actors and directors, similar folks and beasties. The results are often mixed. Some are brilliant, some are crap, but it’s still the best place in town to see works by artists trying something for the first time. This year’s batch look slightly bent towards the pros over the newbies, but there’s nothing wrong with having a couple ringers in there to ensure a fun evening. More details at upintheairtheatre.com.

New theatre group Tigermilk Collective have created a show called Stupid Little Girls, about five women trapped, lost inside themselves with nothing but a single sofa for a landmark. The various smothering layers of often contradictory identities we encase ourselves in need frequent peeling to avoid suffocation. Usually folks don’t get up the nerve to peel. Tigermilk, using multimedia and physical theatre techniques, source the show as a reaction to the numerous women who have vanished from the Downtown Eastside and who continue to be at risk still.

Runs until June 16 at Blim, Info at tigermilkcollective.com.

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T Paul Ste. Marie, 1966- 2007

T Paul Ste. Marie, the sheik of sleek, or at least of slick, has passed away. Almost a year to the day of suffering a brain aneurysm in 2006, T Paul died May 31. According to his Myspace site he was only 41.

Mouthy, boisterous, possessed of an energy as unique as his hairstyle, Ste. Marie was well known about the city for his incomparable compere work, his years performing in Tony and Tina’s Wedding, his hosting of Thundering Word Heard and numerous Slam Poetry competitions, and his MCing of every burlesque, cabaret, and any other event that allowed him to hang around gorgeous women wearing little more than tassels.

Some people loved him, some people hated him, which is more than many folks manage in this life, but nobody can ever deny that when T Paul entered a room everybody knew about it. And there were few rooms big enough for him. Vancouver has lost a larger than life character way too soon.

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Scratching an Inch

Born once to his mother behind the Iron Curtain of East Berlin; born twice under the shaky knife of a hack surgeon; born thrice in a trailer park when she discovered rock and roll — Hedwig, with her illegal immigrant band the Angry Inch, has a lot of anger and a lot of love to share with the world. A botched sex-change job in a German alley has left her with a raging nubbins in her crotch, neither male nor female, while a series of unrequiting lovers has left a desolate gap in her heart.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch, possibly the best small-scale rock opera ever, is back. I’m A Little Pickled Theatre Company have mounted Hedwig in a confined space. The words “pickle,” “mount” and “confined space” may be arranged however looks best in your head. The music is, as ever, fantastic, and local guys Edmonton Block Heater bash it out pretty solidly. Yitzhak, Hedwig’s miserable, razor-averse stage manager, occasional singing partner and possible love-slave, is given more to do in this production. Cathy Salmond as Yitzy exudes as much charisma as Hedwig, keeping up bite for bite in the overall chewing of scenery. Salmond’s previous work appears mostly to be at the Giggledam out in Poco, and frankly the girl should come into town more.

The stage at the Media Club is tiny. Too tiny for Hedwig, someone so much larger than life. It restricts her moves to little more than jumping up and down and too-rare expeditions into the audience. Also, Seth Drabinsky, a classically trained singer with a stonking pair of lungs, wants too much to be liked. His Hedwig is lovely, she seems to be having a ball, which weakens the anger of the character. Drabinsky does have her bitchy moments, and that’s when we love her best. Hedwig and the Angry Inch is about everything real rock is about: Sexy confusion and hopeful bitterness. All Hedwig needs is an extra eighth of an inch of anger.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch runs at the Media Club (695 Cambie) Tuesday — Thursday until May 12. Doors at 7, show at 7:30. Tickets: 604 231 7535.

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120 BPM

Noise, drugs, dancing, sex. Escaping the eighties to find ourselves in the 21st century with a hangover and the world in a worse state than ever. Pounding music embedded with electronic subtleties, flashing lights on thrashing bodies, chemicals and water churned into sweat and accelerated contact. The rave scene gripped North America, spread to Europe, and then returned evolved to spark new movements. This latest cycle of dance and music culture has continued, splitting into ever more fine ringlets.

Up in the Air Theatre’s latest production 120 bpm has been five years in the making — more, given that it is drawn from the lives of its writers and director. It tells the spiraling story of Hero, the uncrowned king of the Vancouver rave scene, Pixie, the Professor, those disturbing (and rather cute) Goth death ravers from Seattle, and newbie Foster from Chilliwack. They all descend upon a secret warehouse location to fling themselves into otherly states of mind and each other.

The play suggests it’s not so much drugs that destroys people as people who destroy themselves using drugs. If it’s not E it’s JD; any means of escape will do. The performances are deeply invested, and the actors seem to know where it’s all coming from. The problem with the play is that people who are stoned all the time aren’t that interesting to watch, unless you’re stoned too. The energy of the performances have that same desperate feeling of needing to maintain. There’s no other way 120bpm could have been done — it is flawed by its own sense of focus. However, there’s also some very funny jokes, and the charisma of David Patrick Flemming as Hero means when tragedy comes you honestly care. Actually, for people deliberately presenting themselves as 2D cartoon characters, the whole cast are pretty well rounded.

Unlike the 60s, if you were there in the 90s you probably remember too much. 120bpm is a snapshot of a time you might like to forget, but can’t. If you go see it, wait until after to fuck yourself up. There’s only so much room on the dance floor.

Up in the Air Theatre’s 120 bpm runs Wed-Sun until April 20 at a secret warehouse location, $15. For directions, call 604 622 8482 or email tickets@upintheairtheatre.com.

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Beyond Boobies

Live sketch comedy shows are unpredictable. It’s all too easy to arrive with high hopes and have them mauled with crass humour finely tuned for the receptors of only the rowdiest audience members, while being left guiltily daydreaming of something beyond jokes about boobies and penises. Luckily, the Cody Rivers Show can fulfill this fantasy.

Part of last year’s “Pick of the Fringe,” Mike Mathieu and Andrew Connor have traditionally used elaborate costumes, props, and technical help—along with their mutual training in improv and dance—to accommodate their wildly unique sketches. Word on the street is that for their current tour they’ve left the props at home and are performing with no other tools for comedy than themselves. After a brief preview of this new endeavour at the Sunday Service this past week, it is clear that the duo are more than capable all on their own. With choreography and dialogue sharp like a katana, and transitions smoother than a baby’s bottom, the Cody Rivers Show go well beyond what is required of them to make an audience laugh, with all sex jokes put to the side.

The Cody Rivers Show do ‘A Poke in the Wound’ at Beaumont Studios (316 W. 5th Ave) Friday and Saturday, 8 pm, $10.

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Men of Silk and Flannel

Under their pajamas, Marc Chavez and Shenoah Allen are completely naked. What’s more, they are oiled up and sport erotic piercings from every piercable surface. Tattoos of belly-dancing dragons writhe and wriggle at will across their taut flesh. Bulges vie with mounds of heaving, sculpted muscle. I want you all to think about that when you go to see their one-night-only performance of Stop Not Going on Monday. I want you all to think hard. Dissolve their cotton armour with your sweating eyes. Then I want you all to try laughing at their unbelievable comedy routines and improvisations. I dare you. Ha! You’ll all be too painfully embarrassed with your own bulges and leaks, and terrified your neighbour will notice your damp moanings and delicious squirmings in your seat. That’ll teach you. Frankly, there’s way too much laughing going on in this town, even if it is mostly when the Pajama Men come through. It’s unseemly. If I can in some small way stifle the laughter with smut, then by God I will. You know what happens when you laugh too much? Like the weasel says, you could die laughing. Better to have audiences merely masturbating in the theatre, then they’ll only go blind. This is for your own good, people!


Stop Not Going happens for one night only on Monday, March 12 at the Playwrights Theater Center, 1398 Cartwright St. Granville Island.

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Vancouver Comedy Feast (or) Alan's Spillage.


Rubber Chicken Bibs
Comedy has evolved from being the new rock and roll to become the new statesmanship. Television programmes like the Daily Show and The Colbert Report are considered in some circles to be better, more objective sources of information than traditional news media. Recent studies into viewers’ awareness of current affairs suggest this may actually be so. The joke now contains more truth than the bulletin. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of silly fart gags still floating about, but in a modern world clamped in the vice of terror, even a bit of whimsy meant to lighten the mood takes on a political dimension.

This year’s Vancouver Comedy Festival features numerous fiercely political comedians, including Margaret Cho, Janeane Garofolo and David Cross. All are ruthless satirists and social critics who have moved way beyond the stereotypical “Hey, anybody here ever drink a cup of coffee? Isn’t coffee weird?” comedy that clogged the 80s and 90s.

Cho (Notorious C.H.O. and international comedy circuit tours State of Emergency and Assassin) grounds her humour as a Chinese lesbian surviving in the entertainment industry to target every shade of intolerance in America. Janeane Garofolo’s avowedly leftist, feminist politics are almost better known than her work in films such as The Truth About Cats and Dogs and NBC’s The West Wing. Her controversial views- loathed by U.S. Republicans, who regularly berate her radio talk show on Air America- inform everything she’s done since her earliest days in stand-up. She is hosting Best of the Fest, a sort of revue featuring a healthy clutch of performers from the festival.

It’s David Cross, however, from his searing sketches on HBO’s Mr. Show to his returning appearances on The Colbert Report as sappy, tree-hugging liberal talk show host Russ Lieber, who provides the subtlest, most subversive critiques of the extremes of the ideological spectrum. True, his role as sexually confused Tobias Fünke on the yet-again-scuttled programme Arrested Development was the height of goofiness, but even that show was a parody on the American Dream and the persisting myth of the unconditionally loving, nuclear family. He appears both in Tinkle at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre and Best of Fest, September 22 and 23, respectively.

From his home in New York, Cross described Tinkle to the Globe and Mail as “a show that myself and (fellow comics) Todd Barry and Jon Benjamin do… The easiest way to describe it is as a variety show. We have our friends doing stuff, there’ll be a video or two, a musical guest, maybe somebody doing a character, and we’ll host it and perhaps have some kind of theme to it. It’s not that involved. It’s not like we do sketches or anything. It’s fun. It’s very loose.”

There are also plenty of local talents in the fest. Besides Tinkle, several shows at the Cultch look more promising than a magic genie’s yard sale of old lamps. Canadian Content, a sketch show from the improv gang at the Urban Well in Kitsilano, continues on from its recent Fringe success (as does the American troupe The Cody Rivers Show, which are in this year’s Pick of the Fringe). Also, this may be the last chance to see the hugely popular It’s Good To Know People, which comedy fans in Vancouver will know have been rendered homeless by the sad closing of the Wink Café.

As stand-up comics increasingly become tomorrow’s pundits and prophets it’s a bittersweet realisation that Vancouver produces more than it’s fair share of funny voices, yet fails to present and promote them to the fullest extent possible. If humour is one of the strongest breezes amongst the various winds of global change, this city should be making an effort to release as much wind into the world as it can. A fart for Peace could be Vancouver’s greatest piece of art, with this event providing a welcome breath of richly scented air.

Vancouver Comedy Festival runs until September 24. For full listings of shows and venues go to vancouvercomedyfest.com.

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The Fringe Thickens Like Self-Making Gravy

The 2006 Fringe continues, so there’s still plenty of time to see stuff before all you have left are the Picks of the Fringe. The Georgia Straight’s picks are predicable but solid. It’s such a shame they only pick four as it means a lot of only slightly less popular, but no less wonderful shows, are left out. On the other hand. If they had all the shows I think should be in there it would just be a continuation of the Fringe. This year’s picks are The Best of the Pajama Men, Colossus; The Cody Rivers Show, Jesus Christ; The Lost Years and Legoland from Victoria’s Atomic Vaudeville.

Not yet reviewed but getting loads of happy word of mouth are Jacques Lalonde’s The Unbreakable Popsicle Stick Gang, Jesus in Montana, Colossus (obviously) and The Excursionists. Oh! And The Adventures of Bertolt and the Search for the Golden Hanky, part of the Kids Fringe I can recommend though I haven’t seen the complete show, just from the snippets I’ve caught of Jay Cormier here and there. The Secret Secret Cabaret I was mumbling clandestinely about last time appears just to be the one listed this Friday and Saturday at 11pm at the Fringe Club.

There are still several days left, so catch what you can that’s not in the Pick of, stuff yourself with beauty and we can all lie about like bloated bears hibernating until PuSh and See Seven come along.

40 Needles
40 Needles is the story of a struggling stand-up comic who answers an ad in the back of a newspaper offering big cash in exchange for the use of his body for medical tests. $6000 and no heavy lifting!

The beginning of 40 Needles starts off with Reimer talking about moving from Calgary to Toronto, stars in his eyes, believing the tales of streets paved with gold, only to have reality come crashing down on him like the November rains in Vancouver. His descriptions were heartbreakingly funny.

Through mannerisms, voice work and dialogue Kristian brings to life the other “lab rats” he meets. I giggled embarrassedly when he acted out “giving a sample” to the doctor and I have to ask, do all men lift their leg to pee?

Kristian’s show is what a first run show should be. He uses his strengths of stand up, acting, character voices and movement to bring a simple life story to new heights.
– Jenny Apps

Pookie Flukesters 2

Alphonse and Kadsky both have more talent in their little fingers than Albert Einstein, if Einstein were just a giant finger with crazy hair and did clown shows instead of push atoms around. Kadsky one day tires of the duo’s traveling knife throwing act when he suffers one axe too many in his eye and sets off to seek his fortune elsewhere. Using finger puppets, mask, music, a class of gibberish called grammelot in which you can still figure out what they’re saying, shadow puppetry, marionettes, stuffed animals and clown work, Tom Jones and Jeff Gladstone (them from the Little Life show, and others. Gladstone is this year’s TJ Dawe, appearing, I believe, in 67% of all shows at the Fringe) put on what has suddenly become my favourite show this year. I embarrassed myself laughing. I embarrassed them. I embarrassed the audience who only put up with me because it was my birthday. My laughter set off car alarms outside. I laughed like a donkey with the croup. Which, if you know anything about donkey anatomy, makes me a triple ass.
I’ll keep this one simple. Go see Pookie Flukesters 2. I promise I won’t be there to spoil your fun.
-– Alan Hindle

A Little Life
When a show starts off with an accordion, guitar and kazoo you know you are in for a great time.

A Little Life is based on the Life Game, which is basically a talk show where at certain times the host will ask her fellow performers to act out a moment in the guest’s life.

The guest of the night I went was T.J. Dawe, a Fringe star in his own right. Riel Hahn asked very simple questions and adeptly pulled the interesting answers out of her guest for her fellow players to act out

This troupe plays together effortlessly, taking invisible cues from one another, seeming to have the ability to read each other’s minds. Tallulah Winkelman, Tom Jones and Jeff Gladstone have the ability to hear between the lines when someone is talking and use it to their advantage.

I look forward to Saturday 17 when the Stretch Mouth’d Rascalls will pick an audience member up to be interviewed.
– JA

Audible
Dave and Kate are as likeable and well-matched a married couple as you could hope to meet, but when Kate’s hearing suddenly goes, what were tiny quirks of misunderstanding in their relationship open wide into chasms. Dave, a DJ at a local radio station, who’s job is talking and playing music, just can’t deal with the strain of a wife who can’t hear him talk or dance to the music he plays.

From Cayman Duncan’s pen, who also plays Dave, comes a serious piece for the this year’s Fringe from Kamloop’s Saucy Fops. It’s a kitchen sink drama with a small k, in that there is no grinding misery or heightened grittiness, but a rather gentle and affecting story of a previously happy couple having to cope with Life’s suddenly thrown angles. The script is tight, it’s almost filmic in direction, and Duncan’s and Terri Runnells’ verbal dancing is elegant and classy. One scene, elevating sign language into a ballet for hands, was beautifully effective and evocative. Regular fans may be disappointed the show isn’t a laugh-riot (although there are funny bits) but Audible is the Fops branching out and trying new things. They make a big noise about debilitating silence and it’s worth having a listen.
– AH

Luggage: A Circumstantial Collision of Parallel Explosions

Many things in this world can walk hand in hand comfortably– deliciously, even. Deep and comedy are not two of those things.

I will be forever grateful that this performance was only 20 minutes long. Had it been even one minute longer I would have insisted the Creator give me those moments back.

Having to watch three theatre students trying to be esoteric and deep and clever is an integral part of the Fringe. I understand that performances like this one need to exist to counter balance the brilliance of others, consider it a Joe Piscopo to the Eddie Murphy of the 1981 season of Saturday Night Live.

I understand bad show, I have witnessed bad show and I have even been bad show.

I have learned a lot from being bad show: I learned to not to presume the intelligence level of my audience, that drinking while writing does NOT help the creative vibe and most importantly to practice, practice, practice.

Unfortunately I don’t think the performers of Luggage have learned such lessons, and I’m doubtful they ever will.
-– JA

Sleep Tight
Mummy would get so hungry. The only thing that stopped mummy being hungry was having babies, and once mummy had a new baby she was hungry again, but what’s mummy to eat if daddy’s not going to bring anything fucking decent home for dinner?
Edward Gorey’s Gashlycrumb Tinies come alive, in a deathly sort of way, to limp and stumble and gibber about playfully in the vague shadow of a looming fear. Eyeless Toddler, however, misses Nanny– they all “miss” Nanny– but still nobody dares approach the “Haunted Spot”.

Fringe deities Theatre Melee, creators of last year’s Lazy Susan, one of the best pieces of Canadian Absurdist theatre in 30 years (or anywhere else for that matter) returned for a one-night-only production of Sleep Tight. Hopefully they’ll do it again, otherwise it’s pointless me doing a review. Sleep Tight wears its weirdness much more on its billowing sleeves this time round. The richness has been allowed to fester and ferment like knee-scab wine, but the tension isn’t there because these creatures are so unlike real people. This is an unfair comparison, I admit. They are two different shows with utterly different purposes. (Except both are wonderfully disturbing and funny) Maybe I am over-remembering Lazy Susan, and I miss Michael Rinaldi and Juno Ruddell, who decided to go make a baby instead. A whole baby.

With any luck Theatre Melee will just suffer the laundry bill this show must incur and mount Sleep Tight again. Anything to watch Andrew McNee do more “spineless” acting.
– AH

The Day the Universe Came Closer
The universe is so improbably vast and empty, yet it is also, paradoxically, finite and dense. Dark Matter, a speculation of cutting-edge physicists, suggests what our senses and scientific instruments can detect and measure make up less then 10% of what’s actually out there. Meanwhile, all those beautiful, Star Trek photos you see of coloured, gaseous clouds of stars and nebulae are misleading because they are time-lapse images and give the impression of dense pockets of pretty universe. In fact, stars are spread so far apart you could fling two galaxies at each other and chances are no more than a handful of stars would actually collide.

Hiram Pines considers such grand things. He considers man’s place in the universe and the universe’s place in man. Despite the fact that straight angles hardly occur in nature we have created an entire world, or at least society, based around rectangles and squares. We are obsessed with geometry to the point of excluding seeing the beauty of nature which geometry is intended to describe. We build, live, think boxes. We destroy what is curved for what is sharp, pointy and dangerous.

As a monologue theatre piece, The Day the Universe Came Closer is absolutely jammed with ideas– to the point it becomes exhausting to listen. Short as the play is (about 40 minutes it seemed) the over warm Havana theatre and the gymnastics my brain was having to put itself through to follow, I found my head nodding. That’s my fault, I should have had a coffee maybe before going in. But Pines’ insistent, breathy, monotonous delivery became hypnotic and soporific when it should have been electrifying. He’s planning on writing a book on this subject. I have no doubt it will be brilliant and I look forward to reading it. Theatre, however, requires a bit more liveliness, especially when discussing the miracles of life.
– AH

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The Cody Rivers Show

There’s not much left that can said of the widely-lauded and loudly applauded CRS. Perhaps the most striking aspect of the hilarious sketch duo is that they have the ability to make an audience convulse uncontrollably without anyone understanding why. Sketches that oscillate from the absurd to the surreal, trigger uncontrolable, knee-jerk laughter with little logical explanation for why they are so funny. Many of their sketches are seemingly from the moon, leaving the audience confused about what is going on in front of them, yet laughing maniacally.We know it’s extremely funny, but we can’t figure out the reason, and it really doesn’t matter anyway. A must see.
– Kliph Nesteroff

The Living Room
The two-man sketch comedy duo of Sean Devlin and Kevin Lee was recently described in a Vancouver weekly as having a “languid, slacker sensibility” which was certainly proven to those waiting in line for their opening night at the Fringe. “I’ve been standing here for forty fucking minutes,” complained a curmudgeon in front of me who was obviously immune to slacker notions. During the show itself the laziness concept came to fruition as the twenty dollar Shoppers Drug Mart brand DVD player used for the several video components of the show consistently failed to work, proving that technology itself can out slack the slackiest of slackers. Regardless of the many short comings, the duo have graced the covers of two major Vancouver weeklies in a matter of days, proving that less effort equals greater results for the slackened.
– KN

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Moby Schtick; the Great Fringe Hunt

The Vancouver Fringe returns for its 22nd year, running until the 17th with the Pick of Fringe following almost immediately after, Sept 21-24. It’s a considerably thinner festival, and a little shaky, but filled with a renewed sense of purpose and fun.

David Jordan has taken up the wheel left spinning by departing Executive Director Kirsten Shrader as she leaped off the sinking ship that was the Fringe and started doggy-paddling for any white sand beach she could find. It’s yet to be seen whether Jordan has what it takes to ride the storm out, but so far every indication I’ve seen suggests he has his own supply of sand. Jordan actually seems to care about his staff, the performers and their shows; he’s comfortable making an ass of himself on stage and that is the greatest compliment I can pay any theatre administrator. A willingness to get his hands dirty and his ass wiggling. Gotta love that. He has a lot of leaks to plug, but I am going to suggest that the mere act of admitting his ship needs a bit of corking is miles away from not only ignoring the rising water level but throwing all the corks overboard because they take up space better used for a more executive-looking desk. I have a warm feeling. The Vancouver Fringe has a long life ahead of it searching out new territories where there do be monsters.

There are fewer shows this year at fewer venues. A few beloved regulars have not returned, but many have and there is a wealth of new blood joining the mix. The Art Pit has returned and there are nightly podcasts going on from the Fringe bar at Origins Café, across the street, sort of, from Performance Works at the eastern edge of the island. Also, in addition to the late night cabarets on Friday and Saturday at 11ish p.m. there is to be a Secret Secret Cabaret. Both are being put on by the performers themselves just for the hell of it, because they wanna. The Secret Secret Cabaret, though, is almost incest. You are hearing about the filth here first. I know this is happening because one of the Pajama Men (I can never tell them apart except one of them has puppies and the other Thomas the Tank Engine) told me so. And they are all about the incest. They just won’t tell me yet the when and where. When I know, you’ll know.

So come down to the Fringe and see the best and occasionally the worst in theatre and stranger stuff. There are occasional stinkers to be found, sure. Don’t be discouraged. Pick yourself up, have a stiff drink, or at least a plastic cup of beer, and march yourself off to another. The rock show and the indie gallery just can’t deliver what a Fringe can. You have to buy a one-off “Fringe Passport” for $5, so the Fringe can support itself somehow (revenues go directly to the performers, though it is $10 at the door and $12 if you book in advance, which gets smarter as the festival progresses and popular shows start selling out).

This year I am more than ably assisted by the lovely Kliph Nesteroff and the delightful Jenny Apps. Both are funny, fabulous people in tight pants, and both are more professional than I. I told them their wordcounts for each review were a hundred words, and then I went and created 250 word blobs. Even my pants aren’t as tight. Except when I look at them in their tight pants. Grab yourself a programme on Granville Island start plotting your course.
As ever, I’ll be at the bar swilling grog, continuing my hilarious but obviously false public image as a cheap drunk with a heart of gold. The peg leg this year is real though, in keeping with the salty, nautical theme of this article.

Sex, Violence and Nursery Rhymes
All children think about is sex. Sex, sex, sex sex. Sex and death. Sex, death and forbidden candy. I know because I never got past 8. Screaming Chicken Burlesque, the semidemihemi-dressed rapscallions who brought you Ed Wood’s Orgy of the Dead last year have plunged themselves into their first Fringe, treating sex and fetishism with the playfulness of prepubescent explorers.
The innocence of childhood is a nostalgic fantasy of adults missing the relative freedom of the past, but kids are more aware of biological realities than most parents who are terrified of the future. This is reflected throughout children’s literature. Chicken have refashioned several popular ditties to focus on the sublimated filth hidden (barely) in Mother Goose, Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson and Sesame Street. Well, Fraggle Rock anyway. They make a subtle point, but more importantly, there’s lots of nudity and fun.
Sex, Violence and Nursery Rhymes suffers from being written in verse. Much of it is clever– dirty gags abound as expected– but it makes their usual onslaught of joy feel sluggish and memorised and the charming sense of amateurism, of beautiful folks out having a glorious time being silly, doesn’t work. They have what it takes to be kick-ass professional and will have to find that discipline. Still, this is Screaming Chicken’s first poke, and in years to come they are going to be heroic regulars of the Fringe establishment. – Alan Hindle.

Canadian Content
CC is, as expected, a very funny sketch comedy show and an essential breather from the typical one-person fringe shows about people who were molested as children (I imagine the Canadian Council of the Arts stipulates the topic be covered extensively in exchange for funding). Ironically, CC actually contains no less than three sketches featuring molestation. If you feel ripped off from having seen too many bad fringe shows this is your quick fix. CC is funny, unpretentious, and a sure fire bet. My only criticisms would be that Penelope Corrin’s attractiveness occasionally distracts and that the show is too short.
– Kliph Nesteroff

Down the Drain
Finn is a lonely man who can’t even count on his morning toast sticking around. Could be because he talks like Scooby Doo with a mouth full of tahini and a face that looks like it was scooped out with a melon baller. Miserable, he goes to take a bath with a toaster. Rather than becoming toast himself he is transported to a magic land somewhere between a high school Under the Sea prom (we actually have those in Alberta. Something to do with not having an ocean makes us think it’s classy) and The Muppet Show. There he meets malevolent fish, helpful crabs, belly-dancing pirate’s treasure and the beauty and excitement of the world around him.
Sticky Finger’s production of Down the Drain uses life-sized puppets and household items animated by puppeteers dressed entirely, spookily, in black. One of the most beautiful, and disturbing images in the show is Finn’s electrocution, in which lights flare and crackle and you see in the shadows behind him the figures flinging and thrashing at him more clearly than the actual puppeteers in front of you.
Down the Drain has no plot, it’s just a series of images. Many of the images could be more tightly worked out, expanded upon to use the entire stage better, but for a no-budget show it’s beautifully designed. Drain is a lovely show for kids and grown-ups who never really did.
– AH

The Best of the Pajama Men
On their worst day the Pajama Men could put a show on in a morgue and bring back the dead with laughter. That probably would be their worst day, and whoever locked them up in the morgue should be ashamed of themselves. Shenoah Allen and Marc Chavez, lately of Albuquerque, now of Chicago, return to the Fringe with scraps of their past shows revisited– and you are not likely to find anything funnier in your lifetime. Soon you will be dead and buried. With any luck you will find yourself in a morgue awaiting interment and you’ll be able to catch one last show of theirs. That was my thinking when I locked them up in there.
Reeling through each other’s subconscious like Siamese Punch and Judy puppets with as little regard for logic and sense as this sentence, they melt and morph into new scenes and characters faster than adding mercury spoils a pasta dish. Incidentally, know now there is to be a secret secret cabaret put on by several brilliant performers of the Fringe. Allen confided this to me, though he didn’t know where or exactly when. You’ll have to hang out with your ears primed at the Fringe bar to find out. When I know, you’ll know, if I’m still sober enough to speak.
I am not going to tell people “if you see only one show at the Fringe…” It’s a cheap line. But know that soon you will be dead and the queues for tickets to the Pajama Men don’t get any shorter in the cold room.
– AH

Scrupulosity
As a boy Andrew Bailey loved Satan. He loved God, too, but Satan, let’s face it, is sexier. He feels like one of us. He feels local. The Devil CARES. He thinks about you. He may not have your best interests at heart, but at least he shows a little interest in your life and makes suggestions. He chips in. He shows his hand. God, on the other hand, for all his secret and benevolent ways, often seems a mysterious, invisible uncle occasionally sending you flowers on the wrong birthday.
Christian religions invest huge amounts of guilt into children hoping to reap dividends of morality and social decency when they grow up. Bailey absorbed all this guilt but instead of his love of God feeding back to invest a love for himself in himself he became self-loathing. An undiagnosed obsessive compulsive disorder fermented and fuelled this. Thankfully, because his parents were lovely, funny people, he also developed a sharp sense of humour, or else Scrupulosity would be a horrid bore. Instead it is both thought provoking and extremely funny, often within the same line.
I could criticise the relentless monotony of delivery, but that is an essential element of his character, the driving geekiness which has made him explore his inner reaches so, well, compulsively. This show takes a very specific condition, and by sheer candour, humour and force of will, makes it universal. It’s a beautiful monologue about learning to live with yourself, and say what you like about the Devil, at least he spurs on some great art.
– AH

dancingmonkeyboy
British Comedian Paul Thorne has the business side of comedy figured out. Leave the tacky pub comedy nights behind, tour the fringes cross-country, make money, skip town. Thorne’s act is no better than most Vancouver comics, but he has the savvy to realise that being good is enough to make it on a fringe circuit where most shows are crap and most shows are about people getting molested. The venue, unfortunately, is not cut out for stand up, with the audience given the choice of sitting on opposing sidelines and the performer having to choose which part of the audience to address. Whoever designed the Pacific Theatre was a fool. This is a good show, the venue is bad.
– KN

64 and No More Lies
Susan Freedman is getting on. Chest pains, sore bones, hearing’s going, mind wandering– no, wait, that’s me. Susan’s actually still kinda hot. However, mortality is encroaching, and when she begins suffering “twinges” in her chest she finds herself sitting in the cardiac ward of the hospital with a lot of free time to consider things. Like wondering whether somebody remembered to take the meatloaf out of the freezer for dinner tonight.
64 is a sweet and sweetly observed and funny show. My problem is that I’m not 64. Yet. And it’s no use pointing out that one must take a show on its own merits because a show can be perfect, by whatever standards are being applied, and still not connect because the audience is not right. On the night I went there was, sensibly enough, a good number of senior citizens in the audience for whom a rather sharp-looking, mature woman addressing their concerns made for a brilliant show. They had a lot of fun. And I enjoyed myself, too. My enjoyment, however, was academic. It was a matter of recognising ability, appreciating structure and clarity of observations. Oh, and there are a few good humdingers in there to laugh at regardless of age. The fact I can use the word “humdinger” suggests I am not so far out of the age bracket, after all.
I can happily recommend this show to anybody already getting free rides on the bus. It’s less likely to appeal to younger audiences, unless you are one for considering the realities of living earlier than most of us.
– AH

The Package It Came In
Rubbish wrapped in rubbish is the major product our society now manufactures. We build crap (well, we contract and outsource other countries to do that) we sell crap, we buy crap (in the future these will be combined so that consumers can work from home calling and convincing themselves to buy stuff, eliminating salespeople, whom we will outsource as well) and we dispose of crap. Occasionally we recycle crap into other crap and sometimes clever businesses gather up that old crap from the dump, paint it blue and sell it back to us again. Adam and Eve didn’t get chucked out of Paradise. They just let Sanford and Son move in.
The Awkwards, all the way here from London, England, know a thing or two about crap. In fact, they know entirely too much. Their show, The Package It Came In, collapses under the gently simmering pile of refuse they shovel onto it. In the form of a lecture preparing Canada for the imminent invasion of United Supermarkets, the U.K.’s largest grocery conglomerate, Package crams in so much thinly satirised information it really does feel like a lecture. Except there isn’t actually that much information, either. Just thinly satirised cramming. Harriet Plewis as the duplicitous Annie Upsom, the rep from United touting her corporate agenda is a hoot to watch. She’s the only one who seems in control of her material and character. The heart is there for this show, but relevance of subject matter is not enough to make it worth watching. They don’t seem to be having much fun. All heart, no fun. Maybe they could rework the show, paint it blue or something. The problem with this show is that the package it came in isn’t glossy enough to care what’s inside.
– AH

Jem Rolls
British spoken word man, Jem Rolls, has been the darling of the fringe circuit for some while. In a perfect world he’d be the darling of everyone else too. Spoken word often gets a deservedly bad rap, but if JR were used as the prime example of the genre, the phrase “spoken word” wouldn’t be so tainted. He is a brilliant, captivating, writer/performer. Anyone who has ever suffered a night of amateur pretension at Cafe Deux Soleils or Thundering Word Heard can finally go see this show and get back that one night of their life they claimed “they’ll never have back.”
– KN

The Gong Show
How can I criticise the Gong Show? It’s supposed to be being awful! If something’s good it’s wrong. Performers from other acts at the Fringe– and anybody else who wants to– fling themselves onto the frying pan sized stage at the Fringe Club Bar Place and shimmy their artistic/spiritual ass until some jerk in the audience gets bored enough to gong them. The night I saw it Melody Mangler staggered drunkenly on stage, brutally groped a Madonna song while swigging tequila and when idiots started gonging her she shoved her breasts in their faces. Granted, one of the gongers was a woman, so that wasn’t going to work. And the two guys might have gonged her, hoping she would drop the tequila and put the Mexican nectar in play.
Presided over by Jacques Lalonde, the spirit of Fringe Past, Present and Future, if he’s not arrested first, and assisted by a rather attractive woman whose name I missed but whose gonging technique I couldn’t help admiring, the Gong Show is, well, a gong show. You go in knowing that. The real fun of it is joining in with the madness and make your gonging as entertaining as the stuff being gonged.
I’m curious how many times I can use the word “gong” before folks get bored of this review and gong me. You still there? Sucker.
– AH

The Chinese Clown Cabaret
Jane Chen wants to play. She squirms behind her big red nose, writhing with frustration, desperate to leap about and have some fun. Iron Mum, however, demands she practice. Practice practice practice! Sing your song! Dance your dance! Whack your tiny, tiny guitar! Again, ten times! You want to be good don’t you? The perversity of a mother relentlessly demanding her child rehearse being silly is beautiful.
The story is that Jane was in her hometown of San Francisco struggling to devise a show to tour the Fringe circuit and her mother kept helpfully getting in the way. Mother and daughter shouting at each other about placing props and chairs and the best way to follow the clown maxim of “getting things wrong” had the director howling. Mum was immediately conscripted to be part of the show. And, I don’t know for sure, I think they may have slightly reinvented certain notions of clowning.
If you are hate clowns, read no further. Go drink Boric acid, it’s your only chance at happiness. The trendy line of I’m Scared Of Clowns, or Clowns Are Creepy holds no weight with me. Ever watch Seinfeld? Or the Marx Brothers? Or the Simpsons? Ali G? Didja like what you saw? Congrats, you love clowns. Now stop with the Boric tonic already, there’s new hope for you. You may yet learn to laugh and love life. Now practice! Practice practice, practice! See the Chinese Clown Cabaret and get a headstart.
– AH

Tippi Seagram’s Happy Hour
Swathed in fur and swilling gin, Tippi Seagram, somewhat faded but still razor-sharp cinema goddess, struts and swans for an hour, spouting filth and offering no apologies whatsoever. Plucking audience members out for a kind-hearted ravaging– and occasionally ravishing– she explains why wearing fur is natural, sex and marriage not, and demonstrates her spectacularly undeveloped “gay-dar”.
Most shows that are improv are actually 90% rehearsed, but if they are good you can never tell. With Colette Kendall’s Tippi it’s harder to tell because she invites so many reactions from the audience, which she in turn has to react to, her store of applicable responses must be stretched pretty thin. I have a feeling her brain is moving faster than the cheetah whose pelt probably graces the lawnchair by her pool like a beach towel. I have a feeling a greater proportion of her show really is improv. I have a feeling it doesn’t matter, but it’s damn funny.
There are themes hidden deep in this show that seem designed to outrage animal rights activists almost as much as it is about getting Tippi laid after the show. Getting older gracefully or ungracefully, the foibles of trying to live up to expectations and the meaninglessness of social boundaries in the face of mortality maybe. The character is, nonetheless, basically two-dimensional. She’s a grotesque in the tradition of Absolutely Fabulous and Joan Crawford on any given Tuesday. This limits the potential richness of the show, but not the laughs, and that is the only standard by which any Fringe show can be judged.
– AH

Moxie
I have to be honest. It’s hard to watch this show and not become fixated on David Mott’s balls swinging about his flimsy cotton underwear.
Moxie, a show remounted from Upintheair Theatre’s repertory, is another dark tale from Jason Rothery, who also wrote Wedgie. Pill, a man convicted of spitting, but who had dedicated his incarcerated life to planting pretty purple flowers and bleaching unsightly piss stains out of his fellow prisoners’ flimsy cotton underwear has received his death sentence for no good reason at all. In this prison, however, set in a not-so-unimaginable near future, death comes not gently from a sanitised needle but via a shrieking, howling meatgrinder. But Pill was so good! He did everything expected of him to make the best of his worthless life. He went above and beyond the call. What sense can be found in a society in which a man can be rendered sausage even when he has debased himself in every way the world has demanded of him, reducing himself, by his own will, to being little more than a walking sausage?
Moxie is a bleak story about betrayal and moral non-equation. It’s a play for men who like lots of screaming, noise and fatty meat. There’s violence (though admittedly none of it well done) and there’s anger and there’s lots of Deep Issues. There’s also a good dollop of comedy, black and sticky, and some great performances. Not all great performances, but enough. The relentless intensity of the play, running a full hour, I found exhausting, but these poor fuckers are in jail, doomed to die at any moment, there’s not a lot of time for frivolity.
Moxie is what it is, a fine show, but girlfriends should go in knowing it’s a guy play. At least you can relax and enjoy the balls. Mmm. Maybe that’s a guy thing, too.
– AH

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