Vancouver Fringe Festival cover art

The Vancouver Fringe Festival supplies a cornucopia of choices and this year is no exception. The festival offers a chance to showcase smaller scale, quality productions that may get ignored amidst the flash and buzz of big budget shows. 

I’ve taken over the 2015 Fringe reviews for Ariane, who is on other assignments. Shaking things up a bit, I’ve provided suggestions on three returning shows, three new on-island productions and three new off-island pieces to encourage visitors to explore venues away from the Granville Island hub. With 108 shows on the roster and only 11 days to take it all in, selecting what and what not to watch has been a highly coordinated juggling act. 

At the time of this writing, I’ve taken in 14 plays in three days. The Fringe schedule is your best companion for a complete listing of show times. Be sure to check the Fringe website for updates, cancellations and sell-outs.

Reprised Gems

God is a Scottish Drag Queen
[God is a Scottish Drag Queen]

Laughter enough to purge your soul is guaranteed in God is a Scottish Drag Queen II. Returning to this year’s Fringe, Mike Delamont delivers a hilarious second coming of his highly successful tête-à-tête with God. Nothing is sacred as audiences meet and greet the powerful deity in a TV evangelist-like setting. 

A word of warning: the Almighty may not be who we’re all expecting. Delamont has added Canadian quips to this edition which was received with raucous applause. As an extra special treat, God will make a third appearance as part of the Pick Plus series in God is a Scottish Drag Queen III. Book your tickets early for September 26 as this one’s sure to sell out.

Nashville Hurricane
[Nashville Hurricane]

Nashville Hurricane is another offering by multi-talented Chase Padgett of 6 Guitars fame. Padgett will mesmerize audiences with his unparalleled musical prowess and masterful storytelling. From the a sparse stage, a few instruments and a lone man, comes a wellspring of vivid heroes, villains and plenty of chuckles. The man is a born entertainer.

TJ Dawe; photo by Diane Smithers
[TJ Dawe; photo by Diane Smithers]

A Fringe staple since 1994, TJ Dawe revisits six past shows throughout the festival in TJ’s Kitchen, promising a different show each night. A consummate storyteller, Dawe is the ultimate road-trip buddy you want along as entertainment. His engaging narrative is told with skillful flourish that harbors genuine humour and wit. 

On-Island Shows

The Wonderheads Photo by Design Egg
[The Middle of Everywhere; photo by Design Egg]

The Wonderheads are back with a new production, The Middle of Everywhere. Part puppet, part mime, definitely all-engrossing, the audience is engaged with larger-than-life walking cartoons. The stuffy and orderly Winston is about to make a life-changing presentation; the distraught Penny has made a life-changing decision to run away from home; the Universe has plans for the both of them.

Their chance meeting at a random bus stop will offer both glimpses into other places and other times as they ultimately change one another’s lives. 

The Wonderheads have once again succeeded in producing a high-quality, hilarious and touching show that the entire family can enjoy. 

The Great Canadian Tire Money Caper
[The Great Canadian Tire Money Caper]

Just for the sake of being a true Canadian, catch Corin Raymond’s The Great Canadian Tire Money Caper. Canadian Tire money: it’s worthless to some and hoarded by others but its denominations never add up to much. That is, until Raymond gets a brilliant idea – can he fund the making of his next album entirely out of Canadian Tire Money? 

What ensues in the next hour is a story of what happens when one man makes himself the lighting rod conduit of Canadian Tire money. Raymond is an enthralling storyteller, masterfully condensing, elaborating and embellishing bits and bobs of this legendary lore. 

This show would feel more intimate in a smaller venue, but is just as entertaining in a larger space such as Performance Works (although a microphone would be helpful).

The Birdmann in Momentuous Timing
[The Birdmann in Momentuous Timing]

My third pick is also at Performance Works. Direct from Australia, The Birdmann in Momentous Timing is an absolutely ludicrous show! It stretches the idea of “fringe” and is exactly the type of lovable, energetic performance that frequent-fringers expect. Part silly circus act, part stand-up comedy, part lip-synch and completely outlandish, the Birdmann encourages audiences to join in his quest to find love. 

A few basic props, a musical “egg” and a disobedient iron aid in his journey. The show is peppered with laugh-a-minute physical comedy with sidebars of stinging and playful melancholic puns. The mad genius of these one-liners are revealed within the microsecond that is needed to process them. 

Off-Island Shows

Spilling Family Secrets
[Spilling Family Secrets]

Susan Freedman presents a heartwarming Spilling Family Secrets at the Havana, co-mingling accounts of her own troubled relationships while reading love letters from her parents’ seemingly idyllic marriage. 

Along the way, other hushed-up family secrets of three generations are revealed, confirming that some of the best stories are the true ones. 

Freedman’s narrative style is vivid, sweet and cheeky. The love within the letters form a tangible ambiance even though they were written four decades ago. Nostalgic photos from a simple slide projector enhance the sentimental atmosphere.

James & Jamesy in the Dark
[James & Jamesy in the Dark; photo by Thaddeus Hink]

Fresh and creative, James & Jamesy in the Dark is a feel-good show that feels better and better as the audience becomes more involved. Join a journey of discovery as two strangers grasp the idea of existence and delight in their corporeal forms. This enchanting show comes from the inventive wizards of High Tea and 2 for Tea.

Much like their previous forays, the pace starts off slow and is almost tedious. Like a rainstorm, the droplets gain momentum and eventually the audience is soaked under a delightful deluge. As physical comedy masters, James & Jamesy create lovable, sympathetic characters that audiences want to spend time with both in the light and in the dark.

High Life; photo by Darren Hull
[High Life; photo by Darren Hull]

High Life is about the escapades of four unrepentive, repeat felons. This motley band of ne’er-do-wells are brought together by the Dick, who fancies himself the thug mastermind of a perfect bank heist. 

In order to pull off the caper of the century he needs each of them to execute a small part – only a small part, he begs. But the egotistical and twisted conflicts within a criminal mind are unpredictable. The play is a marvelous study of human interaction; the plot is secondary. 

Although each character is an extreme stereotype, the audience is still held in suspense as they struggle with delayed gratification and the restraints of self-control are broken. Meagre costumes and a minimalist set are exploited to not distract from the riveting action.

 Brendan McLeod in Brain
[Brendan McLeod in Brain]

The Vancouver Fringe Festival runs until September 20, but be sure to catch other Fringe events: Pick of the Fringe (September 23 to 27, Revue Stage), Pick Plus (September 23 to 26, Revue Stage) and The Fringe Presents (from December through April, 2016).

About Our Contributor Cora Li

Cora Li

Cora dabbles in arts, technology, food, and travel. She loves that Vancouver offers a vast playground for exploring all of her passions. Cora’s most memorable job to date was working with VANOC during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

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