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.