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With the 83 plays calling my name at this year’s Vancouver International Fringe Festival, how’s a theatre fan to narrow that amount down a bit? Figuring out ‘how to Fringe’ for me has always been a combination of researching picks from other Fringe festivals prior to Vancouver’s, looking through the festival guide, and hearing the buzz on the street (in this case, Granville Island, where word of mouth spreads pretty quickly during the festival’s 11 day run).

I reserved a (large) handful of shows ahead of time and as of this post have taken in over a dozen productions.

My five favourites so far:

1. Cabaret Terrarium – an ingeniously acted, sung, and pantomimed show featuring Gustav, a Belgian cabaret singer, his sidekick Nhar, and a lot of wooden frogs. Playing at Performance Works Theatre.

2. Whiskey Bars, a Kabarett – Kurt Weill songs done up by Big Empty Barn’s Bremner Duthie, as he aims to please a theatre critic in the crowd. A look back at the singer’s memories of Berlin and Paris, with gorgeous vocals. On now at Studio 1398.

3. The Devil and Billy Markham – Stories of Billy Markham’s encounters with the devil, told in the intimate space of a coffee roasters on Granville Island. An incorrect roll during a game of the dice with the Devil, and off he goes, straight to Hell. Does he wind up there for eternity? You’ll have to see this crafty one-man show in order to find out!

4. Acrobatic Daredevils – From the moment that this Chicago-area based trio took the Performance Works stage, I knew I’d be in for a treat. A delightful, all-ages show, incorporating some pretty incredible moves, done with humour and good fun!

5. The Surprise – Brooklyn, NY-based Martin Dockery has once again managed to charm the audience with a lively true story, this time combining two continents with tales of love. I enjoyed Dockery’s 2010 Pick of the Fringe hit, Wanderlust. Three shows remain at the Waterfront Theatre: this evening at 5 pm, September 17 at 9:20 pm, and September 18 at 5 pm.

The Vancouver International Fringe Festival continues to September 18 and takes place on Granville Island as well as at several venues around town.


  • Comment by Lois Patterson — September 14, 2011 @ 10:53 am

    All of those sound great. I particularly want to see “Whiskey Bars” and “The Surprise”.

    My favorite shows so far have been “The Sparrow and the Mouse”, “Under the Mango Tree”, and “Sally Lives Here”.

  • Comment by arianec — September 14, 2011 @ 11:17 am

    Hi Lois, I’ll be seeing The Sparrow and the Mouse this weekend! Let me know what you thought of Under the Mango Tree if you see it. A lot of friends seem to love that one!

  • Comment by Lois Patterson — September 14, 2011 @ 1:40 pm

    “Under the Mango Tree” – I did see it, and I highly recommend it.

    I thought it was amazing how the actress is able to transition from 10 to 60 in a flash. It’s very evocative. You can really feel the tropical village.

    “The Sparrow and the Mouse” has beautiful singing. As you are no doubt aware, it’s highly controversial about whether Simone was actually a half-sister and how good a friend she was to Edith Piaf.

  • Comment by arianec — September 14, 2011 @ 10:08 pm

    It’s hard to gauge what the big hits will be, looking through the guide and reading the buzz from earlier Fringe festivals. I was hoping to get in as many as I could, but sadly I may not get to Under the Mango Tree, and for that matter, Grim and Fischer. Hope you get to see that one; heard how wonderful those two are.

  • Comment by Lois Patterson — September 17, 2011 @ 1:15 am

    I’ve seen both Under the Mango Tree, and Grim and Fischer, and would recommend both.

    In total, so far I’ve seen:
    Trouble in Tahiti
    Grim & Fischer
    Phone Whore
    Stay Away From My Boat A$$hole
    Jacques & Awe (one-time event)
    Jem Rolls is Pissed Off
    The Sparrow and the Mouse
    Under the Mango Tree
    Run For Your Life
    Sally Lives Here
    Archy & Mehitabel
    Short and Sweet

    Tomorrow (Saturday) Whiskey Bars, and maybe some others.

  • Comment by arianec — September 19, 2011 @ 8:17 am

    Pick of the Fringe has just been announced. These six shows have been held over:

    Grim and Fischer
    This Is Cancer
    The Progressive Polygamists
    Big Shot
    Little Orange Man
    Peter ‘n’ Chris

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