Fringe Reviews You Can’t Refuse (Part 1)

By Glen Callender

Over the 12 days of the Vancouver Fringe Festival (Sept 9-20), our intrepid Fringe reviewer, Glen Callender, will frantically watch and review show after show until he goes completely insane. So be sure to follow UQEvents’ Fringe coverage—where else can you get reviews you can use, AND watch a man slowly descend into madness? That’s right, nowhere. So fasten your seat belts, fair Fringers, here come the first nine reviews…

These first two shows are, as far as I’m concerned, unmissable. So see them. Seriously. Don’t argue. Just go.

RED BASTARD

One of the most entertaining Fringe shows I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen hundreds. Wickedly beaming from the depths of a depraved fat suit with lumps in all the wrong places, Red Bastard is a diabolical clown-monster who delights in making his audience squirm. No one in the theatre is safe, but to minimize your risk of molestation I advise you to sit in the middle, because he specifically targets those who attempt to avoid him by sitting at the back. Be sure to do everything he says, and if you’re chewing gum, don’t be surprised if he steals it from your mouth and sticks it to his face.

And that’s just the warm-up.

By turns pedagogical, pathological, and scatological, this show is so bizarre, shocking and laugh-out-loud funny that I was physically exhausted and aching afterward. Whatever you do, don’t miss this bastard!

Until September 20 at Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island (Fringe venue #2)

WAGABONDI HO!

Wagabondi Ho! is a delightfully silly 20-minute interactive show that is performed inside a 1973 Dodge X-Plorer camper van parked on Granville Island. With a maximum audience size of four, this intimate theatre vehicle is worth it for the smell of the upholstery alone—and since there are three completely different shows available, you can keep coming back for more. All I can say is, if you miss this instant Fringe classic you may as well throw yourself in front of a 1973 Dodge X-Plorer camper van.

Until September 20 at the Wagabondi van, parked outside Performance Works on Granville Island (Fringe venue #6)

The next seven shows (listed alphabetically) are all perfectly good shows within their genres. What’s your poison?

FISH FACE

This all-ages undersea fairy tale features a great performance by solo actor Ginette Mohr, whose rubber face, physical grace and ace comic timing enable her to populate the ocean floor with a variety of strange and amusing characters. To enhance the show’s atmosphere—so to speak—the audience is handed bubble-makers on their way into the theatre and invited to blow bubbles at any time during the show, a gimmick sure to delight the young and young-at-heart. Gentle, charming, and a solid bet for your family Fringe.

Until September 20 at the Playwrights Theatre Centre (Fringe venue #3)

THE HONEYMOON PERIOD IS OFFICIALLY OVER

Energetic British performer Gemma Wilcox plays multiple characters—some human, some animal, and some not-so-inanimate objects—in this enjoyable two-act about the vagaries of love and relationships. There aren’t any great revelations about the human heart to be found here, but the performance is engaging and inventive, and Wilcox is clearly having so much fun up onstage that it’s hard not to have fun along with her. A nice light theatre snack that’s been pleasing crowds and critics across Canada.

Until September 18 at the Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island (Fringe venue #2)

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ERNEST

Ernest is one of the most-produced comedies in the English language, so why bother to see it at the Fringe? Because this solid production features an all-female cast from Manchester throwing down Oscar Wilde’s winning witticisms in Victorian drag. If women in fake mustaches turn your crank, then you’d better get your crank down to Studio 16.

Until September 20 at Studio 16 (Fringe venue #1)

JEM ROLLS’ LEASTEST FLOPS

This is the seventh consecutive year acclaimed performance poet Jem Rolls has toured the Canadian Fringe circuit, and this show is a collection of favourites from years past, including “Two-Word Horror Story” and “We Broke Up Cos the Sex Was Too Good.” As loud, literary, and likeable as ever, Rolls is sure to please anyone inclined to enjoy 60 minutes of a slightly wild-eyed Englishman belting out cynical yet delightfully witty poems about life, love, and our maddeningly unjust world.

Until September 20 at Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island (Fringe venue #2)

THE SECRET LOVE LIFE OF OPHELIA

Ooo, it turns out that Hamlet and Ophelia are exchanging some pretty naughty letters behind the scenes of their classic tragedy. Since the doomed lovers are played by a real-life couple whose attraction is evident onstage—let’s just say they really put the “feel” in “Ophelia”—after the show I couldn’t help asking the male lead if they ever rehearsed their lines during sex. He denied this, but admitted that rehearsals have lead to sex on several occasions. I knew it! Verily, ’tis a beauteous date show for lovers of literature, not to mention lovers of love, so get thee to Studio 16 for some Shakespearean sexiness—your quills will be moistening your parchments in no time.

Until September 20 at Studio 16 (Fringe venue #1)

SOME RECKLESS ABANDON

In this engaging one-woman show Cara Yeates kick-assingly portrays the baptism-by-fire that results when a restless 18-year-old prairie girl accepts a free flight to a Honduran Jesus camp—not because she’s a missionary, or even a Christian, but because she just wants to get the hell out of her boring hometown. Some of the Jesus-Freak supporting characters could have been rendered with more depth, but the interesting main character and the overall energy of the performance makes this one a solid bet for anyone who isn’t entirely impressed by the antics of Christian missionaries in Latin America.

Until September 19 at Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island (Fringe venue #2)

VIRTUAL SOLITAIRE

You’ll want your brain and attention span at full power for this one, because this hyperkinetic sci-fi potboiler is not for the faint of mind. The story of a doomed virtual-reality junkie whose cranium irrevocably crashes while interfacing with an artificially-intelligent video game, Virtual Solitaire’s fractured narrative and fast-paced, jargon-heavy dialogue is guaranteed to bewilder you at least some of the time—but at least you’re in good company, as most of the characters in the show don’t know WTF is going on either. Darren Boquist’s knockout solo performance as 30 distinct characters more than makes the effort worthwhile, so if you enjoy intelligent sci-fi theatre, you know where to direct your RL avatar.

Until September 20 at Studio 16 (Fringe venue #1)

Stay tuned for another wallop of Fringe reviews, coming your way all too soon!

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