Runs Aug 13 – Sept 24
Metro Studio Theatre
1411 Quadra Street
Aug 13th to 18th
Tickets can be purchased in advance here.
The Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival is back, and it’s adapted to allow enthusiasts of the dramatic arts to attend shows in person and online. That is, for the live stage shows, instead of rows of seats, we have tables. This change makes sense as we are still in a pandemic, and it allows for some distancing between social bubbles so that small groups of friends can stick together when going to a performance.
Kicking off the 2021 edition, the shows are spread throughout four weeks at The Metro theatre venue. All the in-person events will take place here, and for once, we’re not running around town to get to another show. One year, the Fringe will return to that format, but until the health officers say we’re past the health scare, I believe Intrepid Theatre will stick to this new format.
To read a list of my picks of the Fringe, I’ve published a guide on my food & theatre site, Twohungryblokes.com
In the show to kick off the Fringe, Alice explores Wonderland, not in the Lewis Carrol sense but ala Carl Jung. This young girl is losing her mom. In the opening act, she’s asked to see the doctor. Afraid, instead of wanting to face the inevitable, she steps into a void and hits a barrier.
Essentially, this tale written by Sasha Moriarty-Schieven and performed by Theatre al Dente (see below for cast) is more original than I realized. While it touts itself to be also inspired by Zelda: Majora’s Mask and Brothers Grimm, I believe there’s more. There’s an influence which I recall from the finale of The Prisoner where Number Six is deconstructed. We’re looking at Alice as she’s progressing from an innocent young girl to an adult who can face responsibility.
The Wizard of Oz angle is kept simple. She’s walking down a long road to find the White Queen instead of a mage to send her home. Much like the film, the people she meets will either help her or hinder her. The Jester is just that, someone who’s behind the mask (being the great pretender) and asking if it’s okay to wear makeup to hide a sadness within. Another character, the fawn, wants the comfort of a mother, similar to Bambi in the Disney animation. The songs they sing are expressive of a particular emotion Alice is having trouble realizing.
Anyone who knows that movie will realize that Alice is struggling, but eventually she perseveres. When this story is told in the compact run-time of a 45 minute performance, the tale is very well done. My only nitpick is that the performers weren’t wearing microphones, making hearing the dialogue when seated far away sometimes tough. Fortunately, the Fringe Festival made the scripts available, and I found reading it afterwards made me appreciate this show more.
The musical numbers are original works and it’s nice to listen to these talented young women showing that they have a future in theatre should they want to continue it further. With no surprise, Aisha as the Jester needs to have a strong personality to make this character shine. We have to thank Margot Robbie for setting the bar for anyone who wants to put on any clown costume. Who knows, when St. Michaels University School can resume their musical theatre summer program at the Fringe Festival, I may well see them return and give another performance to an appropriately packed house.
4 Stars out of 5
Alice: Saidi Mader
Lily: Maia Niedjalski
Red Queen: Paige Roussel
Jester: Aisha Haq
Fawn: Shya Hamilton
White Queen: Kate Niedjalski