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
~ 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
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
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
TJ Dawe has earned his reputation as a storyteller. A Canadian Bartender at Butlin’s is the most conversational of all the performances I’ve seen at the Fringe so far. Some of it is dramatized, but for the most part we simply see TJ sharing some of the stories of his life with us, recounting them casually and humorously like someone entertaining his friends around a campfire. Yet this is just a conceit. We do not see the usual stumbling of speech, groping for memories, or pawing for the right word that one would expect from a campfire story. Canadian Bartender is beautifully polished.
That probably isn’t surprising because, although this staging is TJ’s first re-mount of the show in fifteen years, prior to that time TJ had learned it by rote. It’s the story of a young TJ’s sabbatical to a small, struggling seaside resort in England. The performance is one part narrative, one part observational comedy. This includes some beautifully witty and mildly dark humour about death as well as a lot of observations about the differences between English and Canadian culture.
Some of these cultural differences seemed to me a little obvious. I wonder if, in the intervening years, Netflix and YouTube have made Canadians more aware of English customs and idioms? Or could it be just me?
Overall, Canadian Bartender is a lot of fun and a truly nourishing experience. At the end, beneath the disarming wit and humour, the thought-provoking asides, and the absorbing narrative voice, we can also marvel at the craftsmanship required to make every element of the story come together into a satisfying whole.
A Canadian Bartender at Butlin's by TJ Dawe is playing at the Firehall Arts Centre 6 - 16 September as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Mattias Martens
*Trigger Warning for This Show* - Discussions of suicidal thoughts, mental illness, depression, anxiety.
Although this piece was only described as examining the plight of insomnia, it would be a disservice to Al Lafrance and to his audience to reduce I Think I’m Dead to such a simplistic description. Lafrance’s show is riddled with discussions of pop culture, family dynamics, inter-dimensionality, and most of all - mental illness.
Lafrance takes a deep dive into his own consciousness at a pace which can only be described as “full-tilt”. Performed in an extremely intimate, dark, and hot venue, the intensity of Lafrance’s story is palpable in an almost confining way. Overall, Lafrance is a strong storyteller and a lovely person - His production I Think I’m Dead reflects these traits admirably.
Al Lafrance: I Think I'm Dead is playing at Arts Umbrella 6 - 16 September as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Madisen Steele
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