Tag Archives: laura raboud

This is Fringe!

Letters from Battle River – I went to this because it got a shoutout at the end of Annotated Autobiography of Leone McGregor, both being narratives about early women doctors in/from Alberta.  Laura Raboud plays the very energetic Dr Mary Percy, who travels from England to work for the Alberta government as a doctor in the Peace country in the 1920s.  I think indomitable would be the appropriate descriptor for this character, of rarely-flagging good cheer, delighting in her life and her work and the country and the people.   My two favourite specifics about this performance were the brilliant use of two wheeled coatracks and a chair to be all the props and set pieces, and the way of handling the racism of the time.  Early on, the character’s narrative (either a series of letters home or one very very long letter home, it’s not entirely clear) is steeped in throwaway racist assumptions about Eastern European immigrants, about First Nations and Metis inhabitants of the land, and occasionally about “Yankees”.  I found it jarring every time this likeable character used racial slurs, although I could see that she was fond of her “Russian” and “Frenchman” and “‘breed” patients and neighbours.  When she began to relate a visit to the “Indian boarding school”, I worried about whether she’d be equally cavalier about the residential school … but fortunately the playwrights had made a different choice (I do not know how much of the text came from the historical artifact letters).  Instead she said something like, it was beautifully light and airy, but of course they hated it, how could anyone like living in a dormitory when they could be curled up with family in a tent in the forest, and then she went on to muse about whether the British Empire was actually wrong to impose their way of life on indigenous peoples.  I did not feel as if the character integrity had been damaged by this viewpoint, and I was comforted that I could still find her sympathetic.

My Boyfriend’s Girlfriend – A new musical by Jamie Price (aka musician Must Be Tuesday) plays in the Telus Building.  It is impressive for a new work by young artists, a fully staged three-actor show with a storyline, songs with clever lyrics and varying melody styles, and musical accompaniment by Price on keyboard and guitar.  The narrative is probably valuable both as a demonstration of queer, polyamorous, and transgender lives for people who are not familiar with these variables, and as positive representation for people who don’t often see their lives on stage.  Just the simple stage business of a character turning away from the audience to take off a bra and put on a tank-top style binder was effective as storytelling and as education, without being enough nudity to distract.  It is hard to plot a story with those goals and show realistic problems and still make the problems solvable, but Price, director Alicia Maedel, and performers Mandi Molloy, Emanuelle Dubbeldam, and Matthew Oliver van Diepen have made a good start.  I could easily imagine this show on a bigger stage with fuller orchestration, a little less didactic and a little funnier or more dramatic, being the next Rent or Avenue Q.  Or it could just be what it is, and a lot of people will enjoy it, see themselves or their friends or family, or learn something.

A Woman of a Certain Age – This was another show full of satisfying representation, with writer/performer Wendy Froberg playing six characters, all women in their late 40s or older, with interconnected lives.  Important common thread was provided by the interactions the other women all had with esthetician Magda, each of them having different reasons for wanting to look younger or look pretty again.  Magda often tried to talk to them about other ways of resolving their problems, suggesting that youth and beauty were not a panacea, but she loses her salon job, and it’s not clear if they don’t like her attitude or her age.  The performance follows all the rules of a good multiple-character solo show, (if you don’t know what they are, this is demonstrated in The Big Fat Surprise) and I enjoyed it.

Gossamer Obsessions:  Wilt – is a set of “parable” sketches, funny and sort of delightfully weird, in a magical or not quite real way, by masters of improv Amy Shostak and Paul Blinov.   Their costumes are reminiscent of fairy-tales, and their stories hover over the abyss between ordinary life and the just plain strange.  The hour flew by.

Last day of the Fringe: House, Bible Bill, Crack

On the last day of the Fringe, things gradually became calmer and quieter all over the site except for possibly at the south beer tent.  A few artists were still handbilling for shows later in the day.  The box office lineups were small, and there seemed to be lots of sell-out houses.  I enjoyed a sit-down breakfast (an omelette, scone, and coffee) at Café Bicyclette and a grilled-cheese lunch on the patio at the Next Act, and appreciated running into friends now that we had time to talk.

I saw four shows.  One was a repeat viewing of a friend’s show that I’ve already written about.  The others were House, Bible Bill the Gospel Musical, and Crack.  And now I’m caught up, at least for the next ten hours or so until I go see Jake Hastey’s Red Wine, French Toast, and The Best Sex You’ve Ever Had as a Fringe holdover.

House is a solo play written by Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor.  It was performed by Jon Paterson, in a relentless hammering style that immediately conveyed the character Victor’s intense angry near-obsessive nature even before he started discussing his experiences in group therapy.   He explains that some people are weird (they are born weird) and that some are fucked up (they get that way because of stuff that happens to them), and that he is just fucked up, not weird.  I would not like to have this character in my life, but I liked listening to him on stage.   As an engineer and a former engineering student and engineering educator, I was amused by the bit about Victor having wished to be an engineer because he envied the comradeship and shared pranks of groups of engineering students.

Bible Bill: the Musical, like En anglais, s’il vous plait, is a new work covering an aspect of Alberta history, sponsored by the Provincial Archives of Alberta.  Like En anglais, it showed me some history I didn’t know very well, in an easy-to-absorb personal story format.  Because I didn’t grow up in Alberta I hadn’t known very much about “Bible” Bill Aberhart and the Social Credit movement, and this show put some pieces together for me.   The performance took place in the main worship space of Holy Trinity Anglican Church, on a performance stage just outside the sanctuary/altar area.   It was set at the broadcast location of Bible Bill’s regular Sunday evening radio show, probably a church, with the various characters addressing us as the live audience.  Musical director and composer Nick Samoil played a small organ to accompany the singers and the congregational singing in which the audience was invited to join.   (Like the authentic church singing of my youth, people sang in unison, on a melody line that was pitched too high to be enjoyable for this alto.)  Kevin Mott played William Aberhart with sonorous confidence, and Laura Raboud played his supporter and friend Ernest Manning (father of Preston Manning).  Aaron Casselman was an additional narrator in the character of a radio technician, and Vanessa Wilson provided comic relief and musical entertainment as a singer engaged for the show but more accustomed to lounge singing.  I found the story and characters interesting, but I was wishing for more singing.

Crack is a new drama by Anne Marie Szucs.  It was directed by Kristen Finlay and performed at the Walterdale Theatre, which is one of my favourite Fringe venues.  Three friends gather for a weekend at a cabin to celebrate Christine (Joyce LaBriola)’s birthday.  Christine seems to be the hinge of the friendships, with Angela (Rebecca Ponting) the innocent church-going homeschooler and Pam (Anne Marie Szucs) the swearing sarcastic businesswoman both a bit jealous of Christine’s connection to the other.  As the weekend moves on and the wine bottles get emptied, the two move from distant politeness to more direct questions and criticism.    Christine and Angela both need to consider changes in their lives, and their friends’ questions and challenges help them figure out what to do.   At first I thought the actor playing Angela’s delivery was a bit stilted and monotone, but later I got to appreciate the nuances of the character’s hesitation, naïveté, kindness, and courage.  The scene where Angela leads her friends in a yoga routine, slipping naturally into a teacher role with understated authority, shifted the way I saw the character for the rest of the show.   Partway through the play, I was laughing at so many lines that were funny because they were familiar and I thought “this should be a movie!”

After Crack I took advantage of my two badges to visit the Volunteer Party and the Artist Party, and that was it.  I saw a total of 42 performances of 35 different shows, counting a couple of repeat viewings as well as watching all performances of Sonder from the audience.  I have tickets to see three holdover shows this weekend, after which I will have watched 107 theatrical performances so far in 2014.