By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Every year, there’s a uniqueness to be found at the Victoria Fringe Festival that will bring out the pop culture enthusiasts when it starts today and runs till August 31st. These theatre productions cater to a smaller crowd than a large one in the scale of Broadway, and they usually cater to niche audiences.
Last year had shows like “An Improvised Quentin Tarantino,” “Geek Life” and “Bing Bang Query: A Dirk Darrow Investigation” to draw me out. Some I’ve reviewed and others I just wanted to sit back and enjoy.
To go further back in time of what I’ve seen: P.I. Darrow proves that he’s “NCSSI (Not [A] Completely Serious Supernatural Investigator).” Although Fringe theatre does not usually support returning acts, it’s really the luck of the random lottery that sees some performers get to play three or four years in a row before fortune favours someone else. I miss seeing the maestro Colin Godbout on the roster since he did some fantastic guitar playing which includes “Music on the Orient Express” (2011). I first discovered him playing all the tunes associated with “Route 66” back in 2010. Those two years were great since it offered the Steampunk inspired “Tara Firm and the Lunar War Chronicles,” rock n’ roll themed “Z-Day: The Anthem for the Post-Zombie Apocalypse,” and the darkly choreographed “Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.” It was those shows which made me become a Fringe addict.
But to get at what looks fantastic this year, I have picked out the shows that fellow pop culture enthusiasts and families should enjoy, The best thing about this type of theatre production is that most of these acts are international. If you can not come to the wonderful garden city of Victoria, BC to see these shows, they may come to you at Calgary, Edinburgh (where this style of theatre all started), Sidney, Seattle or New York. Those are but a few major cities that produces these shows. Trust me, you will be surprised at what talent can emerge to become larger than life.
Tom Stoppard’s play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead was first performed at a 1966 Edinburgh Fringe show and Ricky Gervais got his start at these smaller shows. Even well-known productions like Rocky Horror or Evil Dead: The Musical may feature talent from Fringe performers or vice-versa. Depending on the city, it may be playing in a small venue near you, giving audiences a true hard-core experience since they are uncensored. Anything can happen at the Fringe!
Kitt & Jane: An Interactive Survival Guide to the Near-Post-Apocalyptic Future
75 minutes • All Ages
Two socially awkward fourteen-year-olds hijack their school assembly: the apocalypse will occur in five years, and they’re here to train you to survive. A poignant exploration of the world today’s youth are inheriting and what they’re prepared to do about it.
The Rise of Basement Boy
60 minutes • All Ages
What happens when a nerdy recluse meets the pizza-girl of his dreams? In this musical comedy, Archibald Clarkson muster brave the real world for the first time, or face losing the game of love before he even presses start. It’s going to be an hour of laughter, lyricism, and live action role-playing.
Mask Over Matter
50 minutes • PG 14+ • Coarse
Out of the streets and into the theatre, come share in a series of zany improvised plots. Watch a cast of masked personalities that are built from familiar stock characters that are over three hundred years old. Get pulled off the curb and into a rich atmosphere of live music, slapstick comedy, and the magic of improv.
50 minutes • All Ages • Violence
This is a one-man vaudeville variety show with original magic, skilled juggling, royalty-free music and comedy. James Jordan’s professional and polished performance has been headlining comedy clubs and children’s festivals all over the world! See James predict the future with his crystal ball and then blindfolded and bare handed he finds a signed card in a minefield of mousetraps.
May & Alia do Pirates! (of Penzance)
Comedy, Music Theatre
55 minutes • PG 14+ • Coarse Language
It’s the chance they’ve been waiting for. The cast is missing in action (it’s possible someone forgot to call them) so now May & Alia are going to have to do the whole of Pirates of Penzance BY THEMSELVES. What results is a light-hearted, clowning, puppeteering musical which condenses 2 Acts of Pirates into a 55min musket-blast of awesome.
Roller Derby Saved My Soul
Comedy, Physical Theatre
60 minutes • PG 14+ • Coarse Language
A shy comic book geek discovers roller derby and finally becomes the superhero she’s always wanted to be in this action-adventure comedy on wheels.
Puppetry Comedy Folktale
60 minutes • All Ages
Meet Tatterhood: a scraggly goat-riding wild child who must use her gumption to save her sweet and angelic sister from a hoard of trolls! Pick of the Fringe winner Kerploding Theatre brings this age-old folk tale to life with puppetry, live original music, and choreography. “The show delighted everyone in the audience… people young and old.” -Martlet
Impassioned Tea Party
60 minutes • All Ages
The Hatter is the story of a man trying desperately to get home. (It is also a tea party!) The Hatter has lost his madness, and now he needs your help. Come join in this performance jammed with storytelling, a song, emotional problems, and a chance to BE the Jabberwock. With free tea!
Musical Theatre Comedy
80 minutes • All Ages
Join in on monstrous mania in this contemporary tongue-in-cheek parody of the horror film genre, especially the Mary Shelley classic itself! This is family friendly fun, filled with plenty of lively show tunes, performed by a dynamic company of local teen performers. A musical retelling of the 1974 film classic! http://www.smus.bc.ca