Fringe Festival cover art

I’m back with my Five Fave Fringe Shows So Far series. This year’s festival has 98 artists, over 800 performances, and 11 days to take it all in.

This is my favourite time of the year to be in Vancouver, and particularly at the Fringe Festival. There’s so much quality theatre that often gets overlooked due to larger productions, out-of-town talent that doesn’t make it out this way, or the frenzy of events that call our attention week in, week out. The Fringe circuit is an excellent chance to take in these shows, often allowing for several in the course of one evening.

Check the Fringe Festival schedule for what’s on, or download the iPhone app for daily updated information. The Fringe Festival runs through September 16 on Granville Island and at assorted venues throughout the city. If you miss out, you can also catch the Pick of the Fringe from September 19 to 23, a top 10 voted by both The Fringe Festival and the public. The Pick will be announced at the 2012 Awards Night on September 16, 9:30 pm at Performance Works.

As in years past, I reserved a (large) handful of shows ahead of time and as of this post have seen a dozen shows.

Til Death Do Us Part
[Tara Travis x6 in Til Death Do We Part: The Six Wives of Henry VIII, A One-Woman Play]

My five faves so far:

No Tweet Too Tight – Follow Grant Canyon, a 70’s insurance investigator from Des Moines, Iowa, as he tries to solve a scandal that takes him from Tallahassee to Colombia. He’s trying to remember details of his own life while attempting to rescue a Bombay sapphire in Brazil. Gladstone’s hilarious, and his versatility in this role puts him on my list. A one-man show written by Ryan Gladstone and Bruce Horak, No Tweed Too Tight is a spoof of those 70’s detecto-dramas with sexy/bad (your call) haircuts to match. Both Ryan and Bruce take turns performing Canyon’s role. On opening night, Ryan played Grant Canyon. Bruce will perform tonight as well as September 14, 15, and 16. Ryan will play Canyon on September 13. No Tweet Too Tight does include a tweed jacket and is a Monster Theatre production.

Zanna, Don’t – Watch a troupe of very talented young performers in this musical fairy tale by Awkward Stage Productions. What’s most amazing is the fact that the cast prepared this production in three weeks! Standout roles from Michael Wilkinson (Arvin), Stephen Scaccia (Mike), a Burnaby’s Got Talent 2009 winner, and Kenzie Peters (Roberta). Storyline? Heartsville High is a modern high school where everyone is gay. The students are matched by Zanna (Philip Kuligowski Chan), a magic wand-wielding friendly guy on campus, who’s got everyone happy but himself. When the school decides to put on a play about straight people in the military, things start to unravel and all of a sudden, the school is faced with a scandalous straight coupling! It’s a hilarious time to be had. I attended on opening night to a sold-out house, so I’d suggest reserving tickets to avoid disappointment.

Til Death Do We Part: The Six Wives of Henry VIII, A One-Woman Play – Also by Monster Theatre, watch Tara Travis perform SIX wives AND Henry VIII in this unique and riotous performance. Tara channels all six wives, each with a distinct personality. Travis’ facial expressions are worth the admission ticket alone. All six are awaiting a decision to enter heaven, but who will be the one to join Henry’s side in the all-inclusive “deluxe” heaven? The outcome might surprise you.

The Bike Trip – Take an acid trip – several, actually – as Martin Dockery takes you to the Haight-Ashbury, Goa, India, Basel, Switzerland, and his first school dance on an inward journey of colossal proportions. We’re lucky to have Martin back on this coast, after his successful past Fringe shows Wanderlust and The Surprise, all three of which I’ve enjoyed at The Waterfront Theatre. This is story-telling like you’ve never heard it before, complete with atmospheric lighting to heighten the experience. Although Dockery uses a plain old stool on stage as his only prop, you’re quickly transformed into his world through his eyes. Get ready to laugh as he ponders what LSD inventor Albert Hoffman must have felt on that bike ride through the Basel suburbs fried on acid (Hoffman was the first to self-experiment with the psychedelic drug). This 70-minute production promises a wild ride.

Sometimes an email’s true meaning (read netiquette) can get lost in translation. Nothing says this better than CAPSLOCK: The Musical, brought to you by the Pipedream Theatre Project. This sweet office romance gets underway with a group of office employees going about their normal business. As the audience arrives, we’re left to wonder whether the show has actually begun. From the janitor to the office geek to the accounting dinosaur, the gang’s all here. When a system network error occurs and causes the office to go offline for a day, the cast becomes furious with Borice, the IT geek, blaming him for their misery. A few emails and texts are projected on the stage wall, but it’s the music (accompanied by a six-piece band) that keeps the story flowing. Lead Betty is beautifully sung by Danielle Lemon, with Samuel B. Barnes playing Ted, her office love. CAPSLOCK is a fun piece for the social media crowd, and even pokes fun at real-life contact. If you see this one, check out the office desks, each colour accessorized to match its owner’s outfit. Ted’s desk has a retro orange-knitted coffee cup cozy, knitted by Betty of course. 😀

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