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
This show written by Colleen Brow, at Studio 16, in the beginning felt like a very TEDtalk or radio show feel to it, (Colleen Also has done radio for CBC, so it makes sense she has the voice and presence of a radio host) Colleen had good presence and well-spoken, which in theatre feels out of place somehow? It didn’t feel like theatre. It felt very polished and professional, which for a fringe show, seemed odd and different, good different, yes, but still strange.
The material and subject was not in my realm, as it was about getting older and being at their midlife point as a woman, who is married and has children, and I’m a queer two-spirited woman, who doesn’t ever want children and doesn’t relate to the whole Uterus=woman. But as most shows, they write what they know and it was done well. It had some very funny somewhat relatable jokes, but a lot fell for me simply because of age gap and experiences.
The one thing I really related to was using laughter to get through tough times, I definitely enjoyed the openness of artists and being vulnerable while also being lighthearted and playful about life and death.
~ reviewed by Michelle Williams
~ 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
One Step at a Time is a fun, playful, and entertaining way to get to know the writer and actor of this one-man show, James Melcher. Melcher’s stage persona is warm and inviting – I found myself completely enfolded and engrossed in his stories about growing up, learning, meditating, and making choices. I feel like I came out learning from Melcher’s self-reflection and self-discoveries. For example, I love the way he describes and contextualizes opportunities to make choices and will try to apply this to my own life: making a decision as an opportunity to stop, commit, and learn something, regardless of the outcome of the decision.
Sonja’s Favourite Bits:
Missed the Mark for Sonja:
One Step at a Time is playing at Studio 1398 September 6 - 16 as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Sonja Cvoric
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
Cory Thibert received a standing ovation from the audience after his hour long show at The Cultch, a venue that he manages to fill with his presence and his storytelling. Through the seemingly simple story of his parents needing to move house, he is able to give us glimpses into his life and his parent's life and to make us reflect on the systems in place for treating people that society think are different.
The main lesson to take away from his story is how little our society cares about the smaller people. While I mean this to mean that people that aren't considered the 'norm' are overlooked and neglected, I also thought this was most prevalent in the story of the mouse. People should not be allowed to buy pets spontaneously without being prepared for them, having researched their needs. There must be a better way to stop this from happening. Those animals are completely reliant on us. Age is not an excuse for being ignorant of how to look after animals and if you cannot continue to look after one, then don't put it out in the wild to die. Find someone who can.
The mouse story definitely overshadowed the whole show for me and I found it is the thing I think back on the most after the show. The audience audibly had reactions to the story of how teachers treated his mother at school but nobody seemed to have a reaction to him putting his mouse in -20 degree weather to die. I definitely feel this should make us think more about how pet stores enable this lack of responsibility and don't ensure potential owners are prepared enough.
The show I saw had an ASL interpreter which I thought was a wonderful addition to the show. However not all the shows have this. You'll definitely enjoy this show and completely drawn in to his charisma.
~ reviewed by Ferne Brown
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
Travel Theatrics is a show about finding oneself in the unknown spaces of a big, scary world. This autobiographical piece is full of characters lovingly rendered by the theatrical portraiture of Keara Barnes—locals, fellow-travelers, family. Every portrait is unique and fully inhabited, so there is never any question which one we are seeing.
From childhood vacations to the first lone sojourn into Malaysia, Keara brings scenes and images of her past to life in a style that is warm, intimate, and full of humour. The script is lively and poetic, although viewers may be conflicted as to whether the internally rhyming style adds to the vividness of scenes or distracts from it.
Keara’s performance is as much physical as it is vocal. She really manages to occupy the whole stage. I was especially impressed by her portrayals of two children in the first story: herself and a friend met vacationing in England. One often struggles to remember what one was like as a child, but Keara doesn’t seem to have this problem, inhabiting her past self with that uncritical, unselfconscious air that is wonderfully typical of children.
Travel Theatrics by Standing Room Only Theatre is playing at Havana Theatre 6 - 16 September as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Mattias Martens
Are there Vampires in Barcelona? Join Brian Cochrane as he takes you on a journey that includes love in Paris, train rides through Europe and maybe even some vampires hanging out at a bar in Barcelona. The story builds slowly as the narrator recounts Brian’s younger years and his adventures which started innocently with Brian following a girl to Europe.
For proof Brian has some photographs that he projects on screen at random points throughout the show. Honestly, I didn’t think they added that much and would have loved to seen them used as the conclusion as ‘proof’ once the story had ended.
Arts Umbrella is a small intimate theatre quite well suited to storytelling with the black walls and lack of intricate set allowing us to conjure up our images of the array of characters Brian meets along the way.
One of my favourite parts were Brian’s asides, when he needed to add details the narrator didn’t share with us. A charming story that builds slowly and doesn’t disappoint.
Vampires in Barcelona is playing at Carousel Theatre 6 - 16 September as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Melody Owen
This one woman show by 17-year old Laurel A. Trueman is packed with laughs that anyone of any age can relate to.
Confident, silly, and at many times endearing, this young actress shares with you all the funny ways she put off creating the show she’s on the stage performing- a grandiose apology of sorts that truly is something worth watching.
Before I saw Trueman on stage, I felt skeptical about the show, questioning the value of an adult acting out teenage drama. But this all changed once I saw Trueman on stage, and realized that she herself is actually a teenager. This isn’t an emo teenage drama- this is the story of the way we all justify procrastination, and is most keenly told through the lens of a teenager’s honesty with herself and with us.
So I recommend this show for both teens and adults. But even if you don’t see Trueman in this year’s Fringe Festival, I guarantee you’ll be seeing her on the screen and on the stage for many years to come.
Hardly Trying is playing at the Revue Stage 6 - 16 September as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Elizabeth Goode
Overcome Stage Fright and find confidence in your unique voice.