It’s been a couple of years since reviews of the forever hit-and-miss traveling shows of The Fringe made their way onto these humble pages,i but it’s been a relatively quiet August this year and schedule flexibility overfloweth, so there I found myself again for the “A Midsummer Night’s Fringe” festival. The three shows I took in for 2017 were thus :
GORDON’S BIG BALD HEAD: The Play’s the Thing
Absolutely one of the best things I’ve seen at The Fringe, probably ever and most certainly in recent years. The Play’s the Thing was an improvised comedy show based exclusively on the title and blurb of another show playing at The Fringe at the same time. A random audience number was asked to pick a “random” number between 1-50, each number corresponding to a title and blurb that would inspire the next hour of comedy. For this performance, 27, an exceptionally random number I’m sure we’ll all agree, was selected, which corresponded to the title “Disenchanted!” and the blurb “Poisoned apples. Glass slippers. Who needs ‘em?! Not Snow White and her posse of disenchanted princesses in the hilarious hit musical that’s anything but Grimm. Forget the princesses you think you know – the original storybook heroines have come back to life to set the record straight!” What followed was an exquisitely crafted tale involving producer-y Brothers, a particularly tidy Snow White, a pyrokinetic Cinderella, an apple-lobbing Sleeping Beauty, and a Rapunzel with wickedly long hair (but not on her head). The three actors, Chris Craddock, Jacob Banigan and Mark Meer, played these four leading ladies as well as The Evil Queen, her imp, the Grimms,ii moose, castle guards, a King, and a variety of ghosts, Dune worms, and other fantastical creatures from across the science fiction and fantasy landscape. It was absolutely remarkable – a true joy – to watch these three men at the height of their craft. It was improv at its finest from this trio of besuited and mature professionals. I’ll be looking for shows with similarly experienced casts in the years to come, not to mention more from these guys. Bravo. Encore!
Off Book: The Improvised Musical
Hosted in the steamy and unairconditioned Roxy Theatre on Gateway Blvd, “Off Book” featured a cast of five improvisers – two girls and three guys – in this musical theatre-styled show. Being a sucker for musical theatre, not to mention improv, and high off of “The Play’s the Thing,” I thought that combining the two genres couldn’t possibly be less than the sum of its parts. Oh how wrong I was. This was mixing dungeon sex with track driving.iii Only Matt Alden held his own, essentially carrying the other four on his modest shoulders. With improv, you never know if the troupe was just having an off night (or if I was),iv but I’m still inclined to think that making up songs on-the-spot is simply a step too far, a step too challenging to make for compelling humour, at least for youngins like these – youngins too young to see their way to the cynical gallows humour, the wordplay, and the obscure literary and historical references that turn my cranky crank. Alas, “Off Book” had its moments, but they were exceedingly brief.
THE CANADA SHOW
Somewhat predictably in this era of revisionist historicism, a self-aggrandising native dude of the yawning noble savagev bent was accompanied by a brunette franco-canadian and a blonde british girl for this “20`000-year history of Canada.” Because “Kanata” all started when some proto-european escapees crossed the Bering Straight from Siberia donchaknow and there’s no reason to go further back still and talk about the beavers and moose and buffalo who had their last “stolen” from them by teh evil aboriginals, eh ? Because thief always wants to yell “THIEF” at the one controlling the pursestrings and the furry unclothed mammals (including, yes, the “homeless” ones) barely have two teeth to rub together, nevermind two red cents, so it’s evil drunk white man John A. MacDonald and evil crazy white man William Lyon Mackenzie King and so on an so forth ad nauseum, all while flawless Nellie McClung, pristine Chief Whogivesashit, and immaculately conceived Gabriel Dumont are trumpeted out as national heroes and icons because guess who has the moolah ? The incapablevi audience loved it. They gave the three-man crew a standing O the way only Edmontonians can always do for everyone all the time.vii The only redeeming moment of this PC shitfest was during the finale when the trio came to the conclusion that the only thing uniting catatonic canadians are apologies. With such a tattered and disheveled national mythology, this analysis is not only sad but true. Sorry about that.
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- Blackout, Scratch, Loon were all from 2015. Last year was a bit of a drier spell. ↩
- Not to be confused with The Brothers Grimsby. ↩
- Come to think of it, wasn’t F1 (FIA) impressario Max Mosley revealed to be a Nazi sex dungeon orgy enthusiast a decade ago ? Hm… ↩
- I was in a bit of a funk going into both this and The Canada Show on account of a particularly bothersome brokering fumble just hours earlier, so we can’t rule out that I simply wasn’t in the mood to laugh. It happens! But I had to try lifting my spirits, didn’t I ? ↩
- See JJ Rousseau vis-a-vis the Americans, Virgil vis-a-vis the Scythians, etc. ↩
- At 2:00pm on a Wednesday afternoon, the only attendees of these shows are other festival artists, students with summers off, the retired, the senile, the physically disabled and their handlers, the mentally disabled and their handlers, and a casually bored hommes d’affaires. That’s it. ↩
- I shit thee not. EVERYTHING gets a standing ovation here. Every show is superlative, everything is magical unicorn farts, and we’re just so goddam appreciative that anyone would want to play for us, eh ? ↩