Fringe 2011: an easy day with five plays

Today I saw five plays at the Fringe. I also did some tidying and dishes and laundry this morning, went to the market, and between plays dropped off the shopping at home and lay down for a rest. As long as I park my bike on the perimeter instead of trying to walk it through the crowds to the main parking, this is easy.

Food notes for today: Nomad’s Kitchen is still good, the naan from the other place is precooked and nowhere near as good as the fresh naan from New Asian Village, and the wood-fired veggie pizza is really good.

Afternoon Delights and Emergency Exits – I’ve seen this modern dance company before, and I enjoyed them again, especially in the longer funny piece about flight attendants. They had the stylized gestures down pat.

The Big Smoke – This one-person narrative was my favourite show of the Fringe so far. It was poignant and very realistic. I won’t put any other spoilers until the run is over.

My Name is Jonas – comedy sketches loosely based on Weezer’s Blue Album, done by members of local improv company RapidFire Theatre. The funniest was the Jane Austen-esque dialogue that was full of sexual terms like cockblocking and wingman.

N.O.N.C.E – Another one-person narrative, this one written by the performer and mostly autobiographical. He’s an English performance poet, telling the stories of his time spent teaching poetry in a prison. I’ve recently read two books by people who taught creative writing in California prisons, and this guy was more interesting than either. It was more thought-provoking than I expected.

Bye Bye Bombay – A cast of one, but filling out the overwhelming impressions of a visit to India with video, music, puppets, dancing, a sari, and other props. The character was also dealing with the death of the mother she hadn’t gotten along with, and I was glad to see that theme done in an understated way.

Now that I understand how it works so I’m not embarrassed, I really like the way the Fringe artists advertise for their shows by talking to people. When done right, it feels intimate and sincere. Almost always it makes me more inclined to want to see the show (although I think the guy whose brother sings like Roy Orbison is annoying, reciting the same patter without making eye contact or maybe without knowing the right way to interrupt people comfortably). Also, after the applause the actors often recommend other shows and invite actors in the audiences to shout-out for their own. The N.O.N.C.E. guy talked to me yesterday. The When Harry Met Harry guy talked to our queue tonight and I told people I’d enjoyed his show. And there are several more on my wish list after encounters and recommendations.

I’ve always started out my show-shopping by trying to avoid one-person shows, because I used to feel like it was more interesting to watch the interactions in a larger cast. But I think I should change this rule, because I’ve seen so many good one-actor shows here and not just this year.

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