Fringe 2022: Just a few more!

I left my final weekend mostly open because I didn’t know if I’d have much energy and enthusiasm left, but I ended up wanting to fit in more shows I’d heard or read about. And I don’t regret it. All of these are now closed, of course, but some may have future runs at other festivals or elsewhere.

The Bender – Corine Demas’ three-hander about a grieving middle-aged woman (Demas) and her short-lived relationship with a much younger trans man (Kai Hall) she meets through a poetry-reading group (“Open hearts, open minds”). The third cast member, Steven Darnell, plays another poet, and amusingly also plays all the hookups the couple find on dating sites. I liked that the playwright didn’t aim for a conventional ending with any of the characters together. Acacia Hall.

The Truth – Adam Bailey is a Fringe-circuit regular, from Ontario. His fast-paced solo examined the concept of truth through anecdotes from his own life, from LGBTQ2S+ history, and from addiction-recovery research vs addiction-recovery ritual, among others, and it was entertaining to listen to.

A Grave Mistake – The physical-comedy duo A Little Bit Off, with Amica Hunter and David Cantor, first hit Edmonton with Beau & Aero a few years ago, which was great, so I knew it would be worth going to the Gateway Theatre in the heat to see them. Their closing performance started with David explaining that Amica was ill and unable to perform, but that with some adaptations, Carly Pokoradi from Juliet: A Revenge Comedy would be filling in on book to give us a segment of the play, and then any remaining time would be filled with some “variety show” by other Fringe artists. So although I didn’t get to see A Grave Mistake in its entirety, I got to see a couple of brilliant artists do a suprisingly-good pick-up performance, with its highlight being the physical business of the swindlers’ seance. I also got to see some other amusing excerpts, similar to Late Night Cabaret bits, from Keith Brown, Paul Strickland, Ingrid Hansen with Nayana Fielkov, and – I’m sorry, I can’t remember who else. I would definitely go to see A Grave Mistake again. Yet this experience was a classic illustration of the ephemeral pleasure of being one of the people in the “room where it happens” for live theatre. Gateway Theatre. (And a note that sweltering-heat notwithstanding, I love that this venue is still being used, and is back to being a lottery venue.)

Pressure – Amanda Samuelson’s three-hander had a progress showing or staged read or something at Nextfest in the spring, but I didn’t get to see it then. I didn’t make it up to the new Roxy Theatre to see it this week until the last day of the festival, but I’m very glad I did. It’s the best new drama I’ve seen this Fringe. Sydney Williams plays the central character Grace, struggling with depression, anxiety, feelings of being an imposter as a playwright and as an adult, and residual hurt from being abandoned by her father. Grace’s sometime-partner Ricky (Meegan Sweet) and Grace’s mother (Sue Huff) don’t always know how to support her, and have their own conflicting needs, but mean well and worry about her. It was refreshing to see the mother-daughter interactions being so nuanced, without the mother being a caricature of misunderstanding or a villain – her support was more than tuna noodle casseroles, and it was satisfying to see Grace managing to reach out to her mother for help. I liked the scene-framing of negative snarky horoscope projections, and I noticed the different underscoring and lighting for therapist conversations and for negative self-talk vs the real-time conversations on stage, but I was occasionally a little confused about the time lapses and flashbacks between scenes. Lorne Cardinal Theatre at the Roxy.

Absolute Magic – Keith Brown’s stage-magic show, sold out at the Backstage Theatre, was a great way to wrap up the festival. He makes very good use of multiple closeup cameras to make close-up magic with cards and other small props come alive for a full room. I was pretty close, and I still have no idea how any of it was done, and I loved it. The performer had smooth, natural, consensual interactions with many audience members, not just the ones close to the table but some from further back in the risers. I appreciated that his methods of identifying audience members to invite participation didn’t assume gender. I liked his stories, which came out of shows he’d done and people he’d met, things he’d learned during the pandemic, and so on. They didn’t feel glib and a couple of them truly inspired me. Backstage Theatre.

I also went to the year’s last edition of Late Night Cabaret, a festive and joyful celebration of the Fringe and the artists and community. The more times I attend LNC the more I like it. I feel welcomed and included, and I love getting to sit and experience good music – including the preshow – and a fast-moving sampler of Fringe entertainment with shared jokes and short encounters with different performers. I also like having the salient details about each artist’s show posted on the video screen.

So, that wrapped up my Fringe 2022. I might see some holdovers later this week, but the last show laundry is done and it’s time to get caught up on the rest of life and start getting ready for Walterdale’s 2022-2023 season.

Highlights and improvements of the 2022 Fringe:

  • The expanded liquor-licensed area and the paperless-option ticketing systems introduced for last year’s small-scale festival worked great for this bigger event.
  • Same with the no-tickets single-transaction drinks ordering in the beer tents.
  • No paper handbills – I saw good and bad parts of this, but on balance I liked it.
  • Water dispensers around site
  • Community Care Team watching out for unhoused and vulnerable people who might be impacted by the festival
  • Ticket pricing displayed inclusive of the Fringe operations surcharge, so there are no surprises.

See you next year!

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