Monthly Archives: January 2014

The rest of the Fringe, 2013

The venue lottery for next year’s Edmonton Fringe shows has already been held, with the winners listed here, and other companies are setting up their BYOV (Bring Your Own Venue) arrangements before the BYOV entry deadline in February.  Wondering about what shows various companies are putting together for next summer reminded me that I never did finish posting about the shows I saw at Fringe 2013.  I guess I’m still prioritising seeing more theatre over writing up what I’ve seen. But since everything is dark from Christmas to Epiphany (except Cats at Festival Place, and it sold out before I noticed) I have a chance to get caught up.

I wrote about the shows I saw early, the solo shows, long-form improv shows, a day of stories, the one I stage-managed, and the shows exploring themes of death.  That leaves the following.

Poe and Mathews – brilliant creepy character portrayals by Brian Kuwabara and Emily Windler, ridiculous desert-island premise, fun.

Kilt Pins – this was a sweet sad unsurprising story about teenagers at a Catholic school in Ontario, with friendship and sex and family problems.  It was a contemporary setting, so I was a little disappointed to see the more-traditional story trope of “he (Morgan Grau) pushes her to have sex, she (Sarah Culkin) gives in to get affection and regrets it”.

Kayak – I don’t know why I didn’t find this one more compelling, because the concept was interesting – a woman (Christie Mawer) struggles to relate to her grown son (Justin Kautz) and his new partner the eco-activist (Emily McCourt).

Bombitty of Errors – a rap version of Comedy of Errors directed by Dave Horak.  Having read the script and seen a serious production of the play a few weeks earlier in Saskatoon, I was greatly amused to see how closely the four actors in the rap version could stick to the plot details and in some cases the actual Shakespearean lines, and still be coherent, credible, and very funny.  There was also a bit where they did some freestyle / spontaneous rhyming about audience members, which I enjoyed in part because some of it was directed at me.  The four actors were the two Antipholuses and the two Dromios, but they also played Adriana, Luciana, and any other characters needed – and it worked.

Hot Thespian Action – This sketch comedy troupe from Winnipeg (Shannon Guile, Jacqueline Loewen, Garth Merkeley, Ryan Miller, Jane Testar) made me really happy.  I can’t put my finger on why I liked their material and attitude so much.  Their timing was good and nothing was dragged out.  Their jokes didn’t feel mean-spirited or excluding, and I would not hesitate to recommend them to my progressive friends.  But that might make them sound boring, and they really weren’t.  Rutherford School isn’t the best venue, with several rows of seats on a flat gym floor making it a bit hard to see from the back especially the title cards that they used to introduce each sketch.

In the holdovers at the Westbury Theatre, I also saw three shows.

Weaksauce – this was a one-person storytelling show by Sam S Mullins about a first job working at a hockey camp, and the ups and downs of a first romance.  It was good but not great.

Jake’s Gift – this one-person show by Julia Mackey was an original fictional story of a Canadian veteran of World War II attending a reunion in Normandy, and meeting an inquisitive little local girl on the beach.  The performer’s body language and voice made charming convincing shifts to portray the little French girl, the old Canadian man, and the girl’s very proper grandmother.  The show was very well received, particularly by audience members with old enough memories to find it evocative.

Port Authority – In this story set in present-day Dublin, each of three characters told a story about a current struggle in his life.  Isaac Andrew was a young man clumsily trying to impress a female flatmate.  Cody Porter was a middle-aged man who took too long to realize that his career ambitions weren’t quite working out.  And Keiran O’Callahan was an older man who gets a mysterious package.  They all flailed unhappily, and I felt for all of them.

So that was it for From Fringe With Love.  Next up, Fringed and Confused.

A Christmas Carol at the Citadel

One of my motivations for writing up notes on what I see and posting them here during the run of the show is to encourage other people to go see the show, or to tell people enough about the show that the people who will like it will go.

But in the case of A Christmas Carol at the Citadel, I’m not sure whether I need to do that.  I had the impression that anyone in Edmonton who would like it has already seen it in previous years, and if they wanted to see it again they would already get tickets.  And when I saw it opening night, I guessed that most of the audience had seen it before, based on lots of them seeming to be anticipating the special effects that kept catching me by surprise.  I ended up seeing it closing night as well, and I can see why it’s such a perennial favourite with a long run every December.   It seemed to have a demographically diverse audience, some families with little kids, some families with older teenagers, and adults of all ages.  I wondered whether it was too intense or scary for some of the littler kids, or whether the story was familiar enough to them from other adaptations like “The Muppet Christmas Carol” and readings-aloud that they could get past the scary bits remembering that at the end Scrooge isn’t really dead and neither is Tiny Tim.

The play has a cast of 42 with a lot of the adults playing more than one character. James MacDonald was Scrooge, and he was particularly fun when he giddily realises that he has time to mend his ways and change the outcomes.  Julien Arnold was the ever-grinning Bob Cratchit, and Eric Morin was Scrooge’s nephew Fred.  Belinda Cornish did Mrs. Cratchit very well, conveying warmth and optimism while damping her usual powerful stage presence and upper-class accent enough to be convincing in the role.  Many other names on the cast list are familiar local actors and instructors at Foote Theatre School.

A lot of complicated scenery is moved quickly and smoothly on the Maclab Theatre thrust stage, much of it while our attention is distracted elsewhere.  Some magical special effects delighted me just as much on second viewing.   The ornate costumes clearly conveyed the class distinctions and the era and were fun to look at.

If you missed it this year, I’m sure it will come around again.  But in the meantime, there’s going to be lots of other great entertainment at the Citadel and around the other Edmonton stages in 2014.  I can’t wait.