Oh god, it’s here! I’d warn those of you who don’t fringe to avoid this blog for a while but let’s be honest, most of my readers are here ONLY during fringe! (Not that I blame you, it hasn’t exactly been a content machine for a while… house buying tends to sap the writing energy.)
Well, thanks to the kind folks at the cbc last year I have an unlimited super pass to this year’s festival and will be seeing as many shows as I can while still actually attending work. Since it includes free advance tickets too I’m packing shows as tightly as I dare and picking up all my tickets ahead of time. I’m definitely leaving a few spots later in the week for word of mouth shows but I want to make sure I get in some of the guaranteed sell outs early.
Actually I’ve got an extra ticket for half the shows I go to as seemingly every friend I ever go to fringe with is too busy with new babies, moving away, saving lives etc to fringe much. Feel free to let me know if you are free though!
As for the fest itself there are some unfortunate absences this year. Outside Joke isn’t performing as an ensemble this year (I’m guessing due to Andrea being in Les Mis @ Rainbow, DnDimprov and HTA commitments etc) hopefully we’ll see them back next year. No Shelby Bond is sad as well (as one of my friends said when I caught up with for a beer “I’m so used to hearing that voice cutting across the square.” [update: Said friend actually got back to me later and said he’s around and in Barely Living!]) New faves SexTrex aren’t back either. Argh, the lottery she is a fickle beast! As ever though, a little prodding to go see someone that isn’t an old favourite is good.
In other unfortunate news there was a double down on the WECC as a venue this year. I’m sorry, it’s a great theatre but it just feels even less like a part of the festival than the PTE venues. Hopefully if the GSAC redevelopment ever happens we can just create another cluster there.
I had to go be terrible at softball first so only caught one show Wednesday.
White Pants — Hip.Bang! – Venue #4
Hip.Bang! were a pleasant surprise to me on their first visit to the Winnipeg Fringe. I don’t particularly remember why but I wasn’t expecting much from them. I think perhaps I’d just had a few too many “two white dudes” improv/sketch shows be underwhelming but these guys really hit it out of the park. Fast forward to this year and a strange but wonderful show that had an audience (half full of performers) laughing their asses off. Dancing! Some weird and delightful deconstructed laughs!
Don’t miss it and beware the illuminati!
Japanese Samurai Don Quixote Challenging Against Giant Windmills!! — Hiroshi Shimizu – Venue #7
The odd story of a Japanese man’s journey into English speaking comedy at the Edinburgh festival (and probably my favourite title of this year’s fest.) Hiroshi Shimizu has an interesting tale to tell as he describes his journey on the “comedy boat.” Learn how he talked to the breasts of a Scottish amazon and harnessed the hereditary arson gene inside him. An odd but energetic show at Cinematheque which seems to be the storytelling venue these days.
The 11 O’Clock Number – Grindstone Theatre – Venue #2
Improvised musicals have become more common in recent years, Winnipeg’s own wonderful (and sadly absent this year) Outside Joke among them, and Grindstone Theatre shows why they can be a success. Thursday’s show was the (slightly adjusted) story of audience member Erica’s trials as a social worker at an adolescent psychological treatment centre, her cargo schlepping lobster-klepto boyfriend and the angels and demons that affect a strong young man named Ralph.
The troupe’s singing chops are decent to good and a willingness to dive into physical comedy helps smooth out the inevitable rough points in a full improvised musical. I will have to see them again to see if they have the variety that marks the best at this sort of thing but super impressed regardless. They deserve bigger audiences, go check them out.
James and Jamesy in the Dark – Venue #19
What does one need to say about James and Jamesy at this point. After storming the fringe at the tiniest of venues a couple years back they’ve been selling out practically every show here since. They’ve even come back in the sad non-fringe months to entertain us. They pair fantastic physical comedy with engrossing wordplay to draw you completely into the world of their performance. This year’s show is no exception as they held the audience in the palms of their hands. This year’s concept is a little more directly surreal than previous years but I wouldn’t want to spoil it by saying more than that. This is one you absolutely need advance tickets for (and soon.)
Folk Lordz – Venue #27
A very different sort of long form improv makes a welcome fringe return with the Folk Lordz. By pulling from the cultural heritage of both members (and adding a third genre from the audience) the audience witnessed a 3 pronged onslaught of Chekhov play, Sailor Moon inspired anime and Cree origin story (I will let you guess which is which.)
The performers use their impressive command of the chosen cultural tales to take us on an energetic journey. On this particular evening we followed a young doctor on a bleak journey into responsibility in the face of a tuberculosis epidemic, saw our heroic moon daughters rescue a crystal from the C.H.U.D.s and learned how Bison got his horns and why bees make honey. Going into much more depth would be pointless as it’s a new show every time but do yourself a favour and hit them up soon.
Oh, and if you’re not a gargantuan monster like me bring $20 for a T-Shirt, they looked neat.
Overheard in line:
(10 Minutes before James & Jamesy started) What do you mean you’re sold out?
James and Jamesy continue to bring it for me. Grab an advance ticket and go, don’t have it spoiled.
actually scratch that…
HIGHLIGHT IS NEW SEAT CUSHIONS IN MULTIPLE VENUES FOR THE FOLDING CHAIRS!
Flyers Received: A shockingly low FIVE after a night and a half. Some of these performers need to step up their game. In Edinburgh I’d received 20 just lugging my pack from the station to the hostel.
A minimum ten show weekend including Searching For Dick, Trampoline, Marathon and my first D&D improv of the fest.