~ video review by Karen Flynn
WRITTEN REVIEW BY KAREN ROLLER:
Jon Bennett’s How I Learned to Hug is a fast paced story of Jon’s trials and tribulations with love starting with grade school and including losing his virginity. But don’t worry he takes time to breathe.. and to run.. run so far away. With a few visual aids such as a projection screen and a pink satin dress he shares his most embarrassing moments including his horrible tattoo while he manages to incorporate references to his other project Pretending Things are a Cock. I think anyone who has loved and lost can relate to this piece and Bennett helps us realize that it’s okay to laugh at yourself and move on. Engaging, humorous and vulnerable he is a great storyteller and worth seeing.
~ written review by Karen Roller
What do you get when you cross 2 fashionable women, a Supperware party, and the Dark Lord? You get a hilarious Fringe performance called Jan & Peg’s Ritual Sacrifice. Val Duncan and Celene Harder slay as Jan and Peg, two polite and totally unassuming women from Wisconsin who want to sell you some containers to seal in the freshness of your jello salad, and figure out which one of us in the audience would most appease their master in a sacrifice.
Working together since 2012, these two performers have mastered quick and playful banter, Gilmore Girls writers would be jealous. I think a smaller venue would have been better for these two as I enjoyed the smaller crowd that were there and Jan and Peg did such a great job of making us feel at home in their living room.
The evening unfolds beautifully starting with some friendly sales and moving into the main event of the night, popping our proverbial ritual sacrifice cherries. In the end, you might just get to meet the man himself, and he is not what you would expect.
Jan & Peg’s Ritual Sacrifice is playing at Performance Works 6 - 16 September as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Brieanna Fiander
Ashley Whitehead and Natalie Tin Yin Gan have been working together since 2012. Their history as friends and artists is apparent in their dynamic on stage. They easily take cues from each other and play perfectly off of one and others skills and talents, making use of their vastly different body shapes and sizes.
The show is part musical, part dance performance, part stand-up, and all heart. These two women sweat on every inch of the stage and cleverly use various lighting techniques to create different settings and moods. Making sure to use inclusive language and calling out misogyny and general ignorance in a quirky, kind, and humorous way make this show a must watch for anyone who is pro vaginas. While they have your attention, these two might just teach you a thing or two.
There is a bit of audience participation. You may find yourself getting quizzed on some anatomy questions and clapping along to some old familiar tunes, but mostly your laughter and enthusiasm seems to be what fuels the artists. For all of the extreme physicality of the show, the best part of their performance was the their facial expressions. Every twitch of the eyebrow is well planned to elicit laughter and groans.
Speaking with the artists after the show, Whitehead and Tin Yin Gan shared that the show has been changing and evolving with each city. They warmly invited audience members to get online and share their thoughts and suggestions. This audience member feels like they have perfected so much of the show, but would have preferred to end with the running scene and bumped the final musical number somewhere in the middle, but I’m a sucker for symmetry.
I personally believe that this show should be sold out for every performance. It is clever, entertaining, charming, hilarious, and generally wonderful. Through a combination of clowning, athletics, musical talent, and acting, these two performers have managed to tackle a taboo subject and make it inviting and fun.
~ reviewed by Brieanna Fiander
The Shape of Things is a dramatic small ensemble, produced by Heckin’ Good Theatre, and playing as part of the Dramatic Works Series at the VanCity Culture Lab. This show is very long, with a 100 minute running time, and it feels unnecessarily dragged out.
The opening set design was captivating, with a naked statue on a pillar, in what is clearly a museum or art gallery. A series of blocks were creatively used throughout the show, in probably the best set design I’ve ever seen at a Fringe show. Unfortunately the actors spent an inordinate amount of time setting them up between scenes.
The last third or quarter of The Shape of Things is excellent and fascinating, but it’s a shame that the road to get there was so protracted and clunky. Your mileage will vary on whether you think the ending is worth sticking it out for.
The purpose of the piece seems to be an examination of the concept of performance art, and where to draw the line between art versus other forms of behaviour. There are also interesting ideas here about boundaries, the need for connection and acceptance, and the negative/positive dichotomy of change. Unfortunately, the clear want to explore these ideas is lost in the execution, which does not substantively address its central topics until the very end, despite some early flirtations with these ideas. As a result, by the time there is any real engagement in these ideas, the show ends, and one is left to wonder what the first 75 minutes were spent doing.
The Shape of Things has some great ideas and themes, but they are buried under significant structural problems, very unnatural dialogue, and a severe lack of clear character motivations. Marissa Burton, who plays Jenny, admirably manages to overcome these difficulties and imbue her character with naturalism and believability.
I would go back to the drawing board with this piece and try to mould something new out of some great concepts.
The Shape of Things is playing at VanCity Culture Lab 6 - 16 September as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Vanessa Marshall
My video review above addresses the trigger warnings for this show. Be aware of topics such as child sexual and physical abuse, abuse denial, and acts of violence such as yelling, throwing things, and overall family trauma.
Carriage opens with Evelyn Lynden preparing for her daughter’s wedding. Her daughter in law, Grace, and son, Daniel, enter and the dynamic is made clear immediately. Evelyn does not like or respect Grace and dotes on Daniel. She consistently undercuts Grace in a variety of subtle and direct ways. Grace, played by the playwright Elise McRae, swallows her reactions out of consideration or her husband. The affection between the two characters is beautiful and sweet, the way they touch each other and lean into one and other communicates that these two have been together a very long time, we find out later they were high school sweethearts. Lucy, the bride to be enters with her fiancé, Simon, and the drama begins.
What follows is 60 minutes of vulnerable, raw and highly emotional content. Almost every relationship in the small group is blown wide open, and not every one gets put back together.
Technically this play was exceptional. The stage is well utilized, very basic stage props are used, lighting is consistent, the acting is really allowed to speak for itself. The play is beautifully written and executed. The actors have taken the time to craft their interconnected relationships in a way that they feel completely authentic. The action comes together in a way that is so believable it is possible to forget you are watching a performance. Kudos to McRae for tackling such a poignant topic with such aplomb.
~ 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
Rachel and Zoe: Uncorked and Uncensored produced by PrettyUgly Theatre Productions performed at the Waterfront Theatre definitely gets pretty naughty at times. There’s nudity, sexual performances, coarse language, violent content, and of course, a whole lot of wine. For myself personally, some of the jokes and gags fell flat, but as the story progresses it turns out to get quite serious which for me made the performance much more enjoyable.
This three person show portrays the effects dysfunctioning and abusive relationships have on one’s mental and physical health, and the performers, Hannah Gibson-Fraser and Jodi Morden, do a great job performing their emotional monologues.
It’s not the show for everyone, especially if you’re uncomfortable seeing nudity up on stage and some of the dialogue feels stilted. However, it is an enjoyable performance, and Gibson-Fraser and Morden have created likeable characters that have a genuine friendship with each other.
Rachel and Zoe: Uncorked and Uncensored by PrettyUgly Theatre Productions is playing 6 - 16 September at Waterfront Theatre as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Jenna Masuhara
Levana Irena Prud’homme and Clay Nikiforuk’s collaborative piece, Life, Blood, Water is a unique and intimate look at an alternative narrative to clinical, normative, state-sanctioned understandings of pregnancy loss.
This piece follows one woman’s personal narrative, as expressed through word and dance storytelling. Prud’homme and Nikiforuk perform in this piece and are joined by dancer Hayley Gawthrop. Prud’homme and Nikiforuk’s choreography and writing works well together to create a sombre and supportive story that poetically and politically examines ideas of body literacy.
I really enjoyed this production and think this is an important piece for everyone, people with uteruses and without. My favourite part of the choreography was the dance implementing jars full of water; the dancer’s body movements were beautifully complemented by the swooshing sounds of the water in the jars.
~ reviewed by Sonja Cvoric
If you are looking for a poetic and nostalgic look at Vaudeville theatre, Charlie Petch has created a show that will take you both on stage and backstage of the Vagabond Theatre. This show is reminiscent of a time when theatre was the mainstay of entertainment and acts could be polished and tight or weird and wonderful.
Mel Malarkey interacts with the audience pulling them in, teasing them and enjoying their reactions. This is a performer you can have fun with. Tell me what you think of the unusual instrumentation.
Mel Malarkey Gets the Bum's Rush is playing at Performance Works 6 - 16 September as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Melody Owen
The Lady Show – A Comedy Thing is smart, sexy, self-aware, and side-splittingly hilarious! It really delivers on the show’s tagline – “Putting the joy in feminist killjoy”. The creative team artfully and positively dissects topical discriminations in the news, pop culture, and society at large to unending laughter from the audience.
In the past I have had numerous emotionally draining experiences lamenting the patriarchy, racism, sexism, and misogyny; often enlightening but draining nonetheless. Before seeing this show, I never thought I could come out the other side of this topic feeling as enlightened and uplifted as I did leaving The Lady Show. I was in such high spirits leaving this performance and the positivity and hilarity has stuck with me. I am so thankful and excited to have discovered this comedy show! Can’t wait to see what the comedic genius of Fatima Dhowre, Diana Bang, Morgan Brayton, and Katie-Ellen Humphries brings us next.
Sonja’s Favourite Bits:
Missed the Mark for Sonja:
~ reviewed by Sonja Cvoric
Overcome Stage Fright and find confidence in your unique voice.