Tag Archives: belinda cornish

Fringe solos and classics

Edmonton Fringe 2017 is somewhere around half over.  Around this time I start realizing I can’t see everything I should see – I can’t even see everything I want to see.  I don’t think I can fit in The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, and I can’t find a time to see Turn of the Screw either.

But one of the great things about Fringe is that we don’t all see the same shows – and even when we do, we don’t all see the same performances.  So we have lots to talk about.

Wednesday I saw two touring solo shows along with two scripted plays at the Varscona Theatre.  None of them was classified as new work.

Redheaded Stepchild – Johnnie Walker tells a story as a 12-year-old boy, Nicholas, as his wellmeaning-but-weird stepmother Marianne, and as his more suave alter ego Rufus Vermilion.  It’s suitable for families as well as adults, as Walker catches the 12-year-old’s voice and physicality very well without mocking him, and his problems are easy to identify with.  And the stepmother – first we see her quirks through Nicholas’ eyes (that awful laugh!) and her acknowledgement that she never wanted to be a mother and isn’t cut out to be a stepmother, but then we see her understanding that she messed up and offering Nicholas a kind of low-key companionship which he accepts.  Walker and director Morgan Norwich have created an entertaining and inspiring tale with good pacing and interesting visuals that fits the one-hour time and the King Edward School stage perfectly.

No Exit – Jean-Paul Sartre, the French existentialist philosopher, wrote No Exit in 1944.  All I knew about it beforehand was one famous line, but as it’s somewhat of a spoiler and comes late in the play I won’t write it here.  Ron Pederson, Belinda Cornish, and Louise Lambert are the three disparate characters stuck in an ugly room together.  George Szilagyi has a small part as the bellboy.  The colour palette of the show is mostly the faded maroon of old blood and worn-out formality.   It was funnier than I expected, and the unhappy characters made me intrigued rather than restless.  Kevin Sutley directs.

The Exquisite Hour – I don’t usually manage to see the Teatro la Quindicina show at the Fringe, but this year I made time to see Jeff Haslam and Belinda Cornish in an older Stewart Lemoine two-hander.  Cornish’s luminous self-possessed presentation works well in this gentle tale of a socially-awkward bachelor (Haslam) getting a visit from a mysterious stranger.

Ain’t True and Uncle False – Paul Strickland, another touring solo artist, comes from Covington, Kentucky.  He launches headlong into a set of affectionate tall tales about characters in a trailer park, one unfolding into the next and calling back to a throwaway comment earlier, the kinds of stories that would be funny enough on a page but are even more entertaining with guitar accompaniment and dialect and the physicality of his bowlegged uncle rocking back and forth licking his teeth.

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.