How do you choose? That, along with, Is there parking?, is among the chief concerns accompanying the announcement of each new Fringe Festival. This year, the Vancouver Fringe Festival (Sept. 7-17) presents 100 different productions at various locations (mostly on Granville Island and in East Vancouver), and they range from one-person monologues about Trump to full-cast musical comedies about Trump. (Just kidding. Only a few of this year’s entries cover the current sitting president.)
So, to help the Fringe-goer decide, we’ve gone through the just-published schedule and broken down some of the selections into four categories: Sure Things; Intriguing. But…; Sexy… (Or Maybe Just About Sex in That Really Uncomfortable Fringe Way); and WTF.
This list is by no means meant to be comprehensive, and only includes about a quarter of the shows. (We also haven’t included any of the ancillary entertainment, from live music to Fringe-related shows before and after; perhaps in a future post. For a complete schedule, visit vancouverfringe.com.) But hopefully this guide will help to start you planning your Fringe-going.
There is precisely one of this year’s Fringe shows that this blogger has actually seen (two if you count a show being presented by another company). So these are based on a combination of gut feeling, review snippets found in the write-ups in this year’s Fringe guide, and the occasional Google search.
Lovely Lady Lump (Yarraville, Australia)—One-woman show about surviving breast cancer. Comes with a passel of ecstatic notices and awards, including Most Outstanding Solo (Ottawa Fringe) and a Highly Commended Theatre Award (Adelaide Fringe).
5-Step Guide to Being German (Berlin, Germany)—German comedian Paco Erhard teachers you how. “Stand-up genius” says Edinburgh Guide.
Cry-Baby: The Musical (Vancouver)—Musicals from local company and Pick of the Fringe winners Awkward Stage Productions are about as close to a sure thing as the festival gets.
The Inventor of All Things (Finchampstead, UK)—Bravura storytelling from a Fringe mainstay, Jem Rolls.
Chris & Travis (Vancouver)—Improv comedy from multiple Pick-of-the-Fringe winners.
Almost a Stepmom (Vancouver)—This one-woman show from playwright/actor Keara Barnes has picked up lots of (local) positive reviews.
These are the shows that could be really good, but also could go completely sideways. Still, each probably has at least one worthwhile element.
‘Tween Earth and Sky (Nevada City, USA)—One-man show dramatizing four Irish tales of the supernatural.
Teaching Shakespeare (Montreal)—”Hilarious example of how not to conduct a class.”—Toronto Sun
Interstellar Elder (Toronto)—96-year-old astronaut protects the last of humankind. From award-winning creators of previous Fringe sensations Little Orange Man and Kit & Jane.
Gold, Guns & Greed (Barkerville, Canada)—It’s not every Fringe with a production all the way from Barkerville, a B.C. town that was once the centre of the Cariboo Gold Rush. This one’s about Gold Rush serial killer Agnus McVee.
Katharine Ferns is in Stitches (Manchester, UK)—Canadian-turned-Mancunian takes on mental illness, domestic violence, and drug addiction. “… brutally funny” says Scene Magazine.
It’s a Glorious, Wonderful Life (West Vancouver)—Modern-day take on golden-age romantic comedy tropes. Here’s hoping.
Kurt Vonnegut’s The Euphio Question (Vancouver)—Based on a Vonnegut short story.
How I Lost One Pound, The Musical (Mississauga, Canada)—Included here based on title alone.
The Audience Dies at the End (Surrey, Canada)—One-man show with a funny title. Approved by Australians Theatre People and aussietheatre.com.
Sexy… (Or Maybe Just About Sex in That Really Uncomfortable Fringe Way)
Distractingly Sexy (Vancouver)—Local playwright Mily Mumford steps out onstage to talk about women in science. Well, it’s got “sexy” in the title.
Fifty Shades of Dave (Vancouver)—Billed as “a loving tribute and erotic parody of The Vinyl Café,” which is pretty funny if you have ever heard the decidedly unerotic Vinyl Café (RIP Stuart McLean).
A David Lynch Wet Dream (Montreal, Canada)—”A surrealist movement piece, a solo show following a character trying to find her place within a harsh and intangible landscape…” From Montreal, so the threat of nudity is not to be taken lightly.
A Night at the Rose Coloured Discotheque (Vancouver)—Club kids!
Bondage (Vancouver)—A fully disguised man and woman in an S&M parlour playing out sex games. A play by David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly).
Sechs (Vancouver)—Modern dating. No nudity.
Multiple Organism (Vancouver)—Nudity. But also, puppets.
Usually involving puppets. Or Winnipegers.
7 Ways to Die, A Love Story (Vancouver)—A romantic comedy about suicide with masks and no dialogue.
Let Me Freeze Your Head (Winnipeg)—(Mock) sales presentation on preserving your brain.
The Adventures of Rocketman and Beano (Seattle, USA)—Good reviews for previous shows by this Seattle duo, who in this one “reenact the ‘original’ superhero saga with song, dance, and epic mishaps.”
Figmentally (Oakland, USA)—”Part comedy, part circus, magic, unexpected puppetry…”
Beaver Dreams (Vancouver)—Puppets, actors, beavers. Winner of two Montreal Fringe Awards.