Fringe Reviews You Can’t Refuse (Part 4)

By Glen Callender

The 2009 Vancouver Fringe Festival has come to a glorious end, and alas, our intrepid reviewer has been reduced to a gibbering shell of a man. Behold the final four of an epic 26 reviews, listed in the order in which they are listed:

DAS KABARETT

In a tale inspired by the experiences of performer Heidemarie Muller’s grandmother in Serbia during the fall of the Third Reich, a respectable German woman struggles to protect her children and keep her family together as she is repeatedly forced onstage to perform humiliating satires of her own culture for hostile soldiers and militiamen. This bleak historical monologue is well-performed, but weakened by an ill-conceived dramatic gambit—our unfortunate mutter tells much of her story to a mysterious ghost she sees but can not recognize, a conceit that is ultimately too awkward and implausible to carry the weight of exposition that is heaped upon it.

ARE YOU PRIEST ENOUGH?

This entry from Calgary’s Silent Drum Productions is the musical and sometimes amusing story of a young seminary student facing the trials and tribulations of preparing for a life in the priesthood. As this show is by a Catholic and aimed at a Catholic audience, it isn’t nearly as hard on the church as it could have been—but when the sometimes potty-mouthed lead character shows his unmitigated disgust at the church for protecting child-abusing priests, and ultimately decides that he isn’t “priest enough” to live an unnatural life of celibacy, the message is clear. A decent show, but I hope for sharper claws on future efforts.

STRAIGHT FROM THAT SIDE OF TOWN

A weirdy and a goodie, this one-woman show about mourning and healing teaches us to cope with life’s traumas by unleashing our inner id-child. Boasting countless charming moments including a memorably off-the-wall sex scene, Straight From That Side of Town is a refreshingly raw, honest, funny and feral performance by a genuinely eccentric performer—precisely the sort of thing the Fringe needs more of. Encore!

MISTER KINSKI’S CABARET OF BULLSHIT

This one-off, late-night fundraiser show was spontaneously added to the Fringe schedule just a couple of days before it happened, because the Fringe performers—some of whom have been touring the Canadian Fringe circuit for four or five months—were yearning to stage an epic end-of-season blowout. And blow out they did, delighting the packed house with a night of fast-paced, ribald revelry that sent off Fringe ’09 in style.

Some acts performed onstage while others popped up in and around the audience, performing poetry, songs, sketch comedy, snippets of Shakespeare, and a howlingly hilarious combination of stand-up comedy and modern interpretive dance—all illuminated not by the stage and house lights, but by flashlights brought by the audience and performers. B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell (actually Red Bastard star Eric Davis) even made an appearance, during which he endured the Seven Plagues as punishment for his government’s pending cuts to arts funding.

Show organizer Jem Rolls (of Jem Rolls’ Leastest Flops fame) promised that the Cabaret of Bullshit would be the sort of show that people talk about for years afterward—and verily, it was. 2009 Fringe artists, I genuflect to thee. See you all next year.

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