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The Fringe Thickens Like Self-Making Gravy

By Alan Hindle

Friday September 15, 2006

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

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