What an incredible talent. I'm blown away by this story of how someone leaves Scientology. I expected it to be full of emotion and raw, but I loved every minute of this experience. There's a lot of sadness and hilarity and you really feel like you're on that journey with her, experiencing all the losses over time. I feel the poster was a little misleading, but ignore that and go see it anyway, very worth it.
~ reviewed by Karen Flynn
I also forgot to mention that the big part of the show is he's a clown, the way he moves, and acts, it's very much like a clown. But instead of a red nose, or any nose, he wears a red suit, which is how he makes a distinction between the two characters he embodies, by taking off the hood or taking off part of the red suit. It's also a unique way of presenting clowning and the 2 characters. It's my favourite thing about the costume.
Red Bastard: Lie with Me is playing 6 - 16 September at Performance Works as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Michelle WIlliams
Reggae music soothed the Studio 16 Theatre as fringers trickled in at the Sunday, September 9th showing of Eric Jaffe’s C-. How appropriately college, I thought, recalling my own undergrad years with equal parts nostalgia and nausea.
C- is a one-man show written and performed by Eric Jaffe. Inspired by 65 interviews conducted with former fraternity brothers, as well as Jaffe’s own experiences, it is a story about life spent floundering in and out of college.
Jaffe is an entertaining performer and compelling storyteller. Speaking to him after his performance (I found him humble and gracious), I confessed my doubts going into the show. “How am I, a millennial woman, going to relate to the stories of these older men?” A middle-aged man who went to school in the 80s in the southern United States, Jaffe and I couldn’t be more different. Yet! I related to his stories of academia-acquired disappointment and confusion (ones that haunt me to this day). But despite many real moments of resonance, C- is also a show about male disillusionment. The vignettes were often punctuated by misogynist jokes and expressions of white male privilege, which, like the frat bros depicted, haven’t aged well.
C- is playing at Studio 16 September 6 - 16 as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Reija Jean
This clever piece by Gemma Wilcox takes you into the life of a woman surprised by a road trip mapped out for her by none other than her recently deceased mother. Her company on this solo trip includes her talking dog, her talking caravan, and 20 other distinct and opinionated characters that Wilcox single handedly brings to life with expertise, humour, and infectious energy.
In fact, it’s her vivacious energy that makes this one woman show impossible to look away from. Be prepared for audience interaction, supernatural objects, and just a ton of reasons to laugh. Mixed up in these many funny moments are a few solid, serious ones that really slow the plot down to the point you truly feel for Wilcox’s alter ego as she makes her journey.
I also have to commend Wilcox on her projection. I was seated at the back of the theatre and could hear each and every word spoken clearly. My only criticism in the sound department is that the songs used to break up the scenes were various degrees of too loud, and as someone who wears a hearing aid, I found it abrasive.
All in all Wilcox is a gem, and judging by the standing ovation she received, my fellow audience members felt the same way.
Magical Mystery Detour is playing at Studio 1398 September 6 - 16 as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Elizabeth Goode
The Other Side of the Flood is a "spoken word musical theatre" performance created by David Lee Morgan. It's a one man show with multiple characters portrayed by Morgan with the help of some recordings representing additional characters in the piece. The title presumably is biblical, from the Book of Joshua, and would likely be a reference to the future temporal setting of the play – post apocalypse.
The 'action' takes place in the future "on the eve of a worldwide socialist revolution" in the year 2035. Morgan's idea for this piece apparently came out experiences related to his interest in previous significant revolutions: the French Revolution and the Paris Commune, The Russian Revolution, and the Chinese Cultural Revolution. In response to the notion that we will never see the like of those great social upheavals again, Morgan felt compelled to imagine it as a possibility and create this theatrical piece.
Morgan has 'cred' when it comes to poetry and performance. He has a Ph. D. in creative writing, has been published both in numerous publications as well as books, and has been very successful in the UK appearing in many festivals and Poetry Slams of note.
The story involves some people from the opposite ends of the earth - Los Angeles, Bengal, and Dhaka - who are all involved in working toward the goal of a global socialist revolution. They are also living in a time when science has found a way to 'download' a person's brain to create a digital version of the person. Even as I write this I have trouble understanding how these people came to be in relationship and what the point of the story is, especially the digital brain part.
The story is intended to be an apocalyptic vision of the future, wherein we humans are still living in the conflict of good versus evil, socialism versus capitalism, humanism versus religion - at least that is what I gleaned from it. It was, at critical times, difficult to understand some of the poetry so there were gaps in the narrative for me.
Despite this I mostly really liked the poetry. I think this performance piece could be successful if it were professionally staged and performed by a more credible actor, with higher quality lighting, props, sound, and staging. Morgan alone doesn't have the chops to create the atmosphere and emotional charge that the play demands. The play is interesting but may be damning it by faint praise, but the best I can say.
The Other Side of the Flood by David Lee Morgan is playing at the False Creek Gym 6 - 16 September as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Evelyn McKelvie
Adjunct Professor of Law at Washington and Lee University. CEO at Westmoreland Coal. CEO at Telescpectrum Worldwide. President and CEO at Jackson Hewitt. President and CEO at Farm Fresh Inc. This is not the CV of a Fringe performer. At least not usually. But this year Keith Alessi has come to Fringe to show as that even a recovering executive might have something to offer the arts. This show is exactly the kind of intimate and vulnerable performance we come to the Fringe to see.
I am not particularly a banjo fan, but after seeing this show I now understand the appeal. Alessi weaves beautiful stories for us, some moving, some funny, but all are accompanied and enhanced by the 3 banjos he has on stage with him. For the banjo enthusiasts in the group you will be tickled by the occasional banjo joke and Alessi’s solo performances of some very famous songs, and one at least he wrote himself.
Tomatoes Tried to Kill Me But Banjos Saved my Life has toured Canada’s Fringe scene from Toronto, through Edmonton and now in Vancouver. Next Alessi will be taking his show international and heading over to Australia. Working with a very talented group of performers, Alessi may be a newcomer to Fringe, but I don’t think it will be his last time charming an audience from the stage. Check out his website TomatoesTriedToKillme.com to enjoy some of Alessi’s favourite places, banjo builders and music. He is also offering comp tickets on his website, so if you feel like you need to see this show, but are tight on cash, you can email them and request one.
Tomatoes Tried to Kill Me But Banjos Saved my Life is playing at Carousel Theatre 6 - 16 September as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Brieanna Fiander
Trigger warning: sexual assault/abuse, rape
Redemption is a one-man show, written and performed by James Walter Charleston (also known as Jim Sea, his stage name). I was one of six people who caught his performance on a rainy Sunday night at the 2018 Vancouver Fringe (although, in my video I state there were three of us, which is incorrect).
Charleston cites his wife’s death and his own history with abuse as inspirations for this show. It aims to end rape culture by making a case for prevention and recovery, and centers around three characters - the offender, his therapist, and a bureaucrat - which Charleston portrays with the ease and ability of a seasoned performer. Indeed, this is a topic that he is quite passionate about bringing attention to, as well as, it seemed to me, a deeply cathartic journey for him.
As a woman, I was concerned that a man would try to present as an authority, rather than an ally, concerning the issue of women’s sexual safety (a fear that was, for the most part, assuaged). I also found it problematic that a white man would portray an African American woman (why?). With Redemption, I feel like Charleston is coming from a well-intentioned place. But I was left feeling conflicted about some of his choices.
Redemption by Breaking the Cycle Films Ltd is playing 6 - 16 September at Studio 1398 as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Reija Jean
It is definitely worth a watch just to experience Jem Rolls' brain unfold and ingeniously manifest on stage through the means of poetry, interpretive dance and throwing himself around the stage. I felt smarter leaving the show. He really delves into what it is that makes us human, which is essentially being an idiot. His ideas are philosophical and almost need a second viewing just to process everything that he said and to ponder on the wisdom of it.
It is a fast paced energetic show of chapters that tie together wonderfully. I thought it lacked an underlying story that linked all the chapters together somehow but the theme of idiocy and humankind is strongly held together throughout and he manages to keep your attention for the full hour. I'm not usually drawn to big word, or poetic performances but the Jem Rolls experience is definitely worth it and is far better than I expected.
jem rolls: I IDIOT is playing at Carousel Theatre 6 - 16 September as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Ferne Brown
5-Step Guide to Being German 2.0 Paco Erhard's comedy is internationally hilarious. You don't have to be German to appreciate his humour but if you are, there seems to be a touch of Mario Barth influence.
There is a reason this show has been sold out around the world since 2011.
His show is a look into how the world sees and stereotypes Germans and how those cliches have come to exist. His explanation with diagram, of a particular Autobahn problem will have you in tears. His delivery is energetic and he is a great storyteller.
Get your tickets for this one soon because they won't last long.
5-Step Guide to Being German 2.0 is playing at Waterfront Theatre 6 - 16 September as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Ferne Brown
This was a really enjoyable show. A touching look into our treatment of old people in our society, especially those with dementia and Alzheimer's as well as how the system treats those who look after them. Patients with these illnesses can so often get violent and aggressive. This, combined with the stresses and lack of support for nurses who care for them, can really burn out caregivers and de-humanize them who, in turn, de-humanize their patients. It is an important show to make us more aware of the sensitivity that is needed and how much systems like the NHS need to change. This is not just relevant to the UK treatment systems though.
I liked the Whodunnit aspect, it made it a little more entertaining and humourous, but I think once it was established it was put aside a little, to establish the other characters and possible suspects in a way that almost made you forget the whodunnit part and get lost in the new characters. Perhaps there is a way of introducing them that still feels much a part of the whodunnit mystery.
Gee uses music and lights to add depth to some characters and scenes. Worth seeing is his detective character that speaks in idioms and proverbs that are completely mashed together with other similar meaning idioms and proverbs. This performance is flawless and just when you think you won't laugh at it again, you find yourself chuckling again at his delivery. A must see whether you have any connection the Alzheimer's or not.
Forget Me Not - The Alzheimer’s Whodunnit by Rob Gee is playing at the Revue Stage 6 - 16 September as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Ferne Brown
Overcome Stage Fright and find confidence in your unique voice.