London Fringe 13: Opening weekend reviews

Warning: This review may contain spoilers.

As in past years, Theatre in London volunteers are reviewing all of the shows in the London Fringe Festival over the opening weekend. Each review is initially posted to the Fringe website, and will be archived here after the festival ends. Here’s a summary of pieces posted by the reviewers, which will be updated as the weekend progresses.

Last updated: June 12, 2:02 a.m.

A Fun Work in Progress

Significant Me has good bones—a charming actor with a talent for physical comedy, an attractive set, several amusing monologues, and a solid premise. But when walking in to The Playground to view it, do not expect a fully-formed show. While that may seem like a downside, it actually allows you to create a conversation with Bartelse about the play’s positives and negatives. She has a comment section on the back of her program for you to write your impressions of and suggestions for the show. She’s well-aware that the play has just really begun its drafting, and she wants people to aid her in smoothing out the production’s kinks. The show is fun, light-hearted and engaging—it’s just not polished, and those who come into the performance with expectations of it being at its end stages will be disappointed. Consider the play as a rough draft with lots of potential, and you’ll have a much more enjoyable experience. –Emma Allison

A Must See

Some artistic pieces distract you. Motivations are undefined, characters are poorly made, and you can become so busy thinking about critical elements of the production that you never care about the story taking place in front of you.Debris is not one of those productions. In fact, it’s the very opposite, as its high quality in script, staging and acting allow the audience to fall into the complexities of the content matter. Quesnelle is once again pure brilliance in his performance, and the gritty camaraderie between his character and Blahut’s reflects the worst kind of childhood experience. There can be no real complaints about the quality ofDebris, which means you can focus on the questions it poses once the show is over. And its questions alone are worth seeing the play. Add its exceptionally well crafted storyline to the mix, and there’s no doubt that you have to seeDebris. –Emma Allison

Little Lady is Largely Entertaining

Without uttering a single complete word, Sandrine Lafond manages to tell a powerful story inLittle Lady using only her facial expressions, sounds and incredible body movements. Lafond’s character is endearing and charming at times, while fearful and inquisitive at others. Though there are moments that are difficult to follow, this science experiment-type performance explores the freedoms and limitations of one woman’s changing body. The atmosphere in the theatre seemed to change to reflect the physical appearance of theLittle Lady. All of this is highlighted by the magnetic quality and unbelievable athleticism of Lafond. –Kirsten Rosenkrantz

A Powerful, Relatable Story

Some plays exist to shock us, some for the purpose of creative expression, while others are simply meant for entertainment.delilah. exists to remind us of all the things we so easily forget. The characters in this play are people we all know, have known, or will come to know in our lives. This incredibly relatable story is one we will all take something away from, but for each of us that something will be very different. Len Cuthbert accurately wrote this powerful story that is told effortlessly by the cast of four, while being thoroughly entertaining every step of the way. –Kirsten Rosenkrantz

Sweet and satisfying

Take a ’50s-style housewife, add a MacBook, simmer for an hour and you getDawn’s Delights, a truly delightful cooking show broadcast nightly over the Internet. Watching Dawn whip up a couple of tasty treats as she regales the audience with slightly raunchy tales of her college days is like being invited to the kitchen of a dear friend. You feel completely at home as she talks about her life, love and her own personal story.

Victoria Murdoch confidently and charmingly helms this one-woman show as Dawn. The timing and pacing are spot-on and the show has an excellent flow.Dairy-Free Love is a must-see. –Erika Faust

Fantastick at the Fringe

Ah, to be young and in love.The Fantasticks tells the tale of supposedly star-crossed lovers in a musical romp. All seven cast members are animated and a joy to watch, though Katy Clark and her larger-than-life stage presence and voice shine especially brightly under the lights at the Spriet Family Theatre.

The show is fast-paced, the wordplay-riddled dialogue zips by and the neat little touches in the set makeThe Fantasticks a lot of fun to watch. Though some of the jokes missed their comedic mark, there are plenty of laughs to be had at this show. –Erika Faust

A clown show that’s definitely not for kids

From the moment Fizzy Tiff steps on stage and squeals out a he-loves-me-he-loves-me-not routine with a rose, it’s clear this one-clown show is going to be full of charm. Though the show did have some rough edges on opening night, the show is a work in progress and Fizzy assured audiences of new experiences with each performance. Despite a few very small hiccups, Fizzy is completely captivating as she flits around the stage and trills out her excitement over her engagement and plans how to make her wedding night as “special” as possible.

Though there are plenty of laughs to be had, this clown’s not all giggles; as the show progresses, Fizzy gets pretty deep about life, sex, love and what it means to be true to yourself. Be warned: audience participation is mandatory! –Erika Faust

Bookworm is a book lover’s “must see”.

“First of all, it was October…”. These words weren’t familiar to me before seeing Corin Raymond’sBookworm, but are now forever etched in my head, just as they are Corin’s.

Taking us on a journey through his life with books, Corin is a natural storyteller who weaves a tale about, what else: storytelling. He has an undeniable love of books passed on from his father and will have you running to the library hunting for something you haven’t read before, or picking up a classic you’ve been meaning to re-read.

Personal, touching and at times quite funny, Corin gives books a soul beyond just the words on the page. From comic books to poetry and everything in between, he is well read and inspires the audience to pick up a good book and fall in love with the characters. A surprise ending will bring a smile to your face and make your inner 12-year-old “super fan” fist pump.

Slightly long running (80 minutes), the show could be tweaked and streamlined just a hair, but overall it is one of this year’s Fringe not to be missed shows.

Oh, and if you have some to spare, take Canadian Tire money with you. Corin is collecting it to fund his current music project. If he is as good a musician as he is a storyteller, it is a worthwhile investment. –Jo-Anne Bishop

Laugh Out Loud Funny!

There is a reason Colette Kendall, writer and performer ofThe Cockwhisperer—A Love Story, is nominated once again this year for a Canadian Comedy Award. She is damned funny!

A hilariously honest and touching tale of one woman’s journey into sex and sexuality,The Cockwhisperer is an absolute must see at this year’s London Fringe Festival, or any Fringe Festival for that matter.

Laugh out loud funny, you will be in hysterics from the moment Kendall sets foot on stage. A personal and affecting tale provides a “sad trombone” moment near the end but it is short lived, and Colette quickly drags you back into a fit of belly laughter once again.

Put your delicate sensibilities aside and get past the title, because this show should not be missed. –Jo-Anne Bishop

Today the Fringe. Tomorrow the WORLD!

Screenwriter Bertie Weber’s exuberant magnum opus is matched only by her nerdy personal enthusiasm, and by the interactive fun co-writer Erin Rodgers and performer/co-writer Mikaela Dyke create for—and with—the entire audience.Epic Pitch is truly epic in scope; picture Joseph Campbell crossed with Michael Bay and David Lean, channelled through the hyperactive mind of a five-year-old. Times ten. (Comic book fans:Axe Cop. ‘Nuff said.) The show could easily become “too much of a muchness”, as Roger Ebert might put it, but with Dyke’s sure steering her character’s quest seems almost possible.

Special mention has to go to Fringe trouper Pam, who was the primary audience volunteer on opening night. As a former “hero” (in a workshop production at the Big Comedy Go-To) I know how intimidating it can be to be picked from the crowd; she nailed it. –Peter Janes

Light Hearted and Cheerful

Actors Baldwin and Barr have a lot of great chemistry on stage, and it is because of them thatGoing to the Chapel is fun and entertaining. The script has a great premise and enjoyable personalities, but it’s really the dynamic between the characters that makes this play a pleasure to watch. The two women and their banter hold your attention and keep you smiling, regardless of the predictability of the performance. If you want a quick, half an hour piece that’s playful and charming, go to this one. –Emma Allison

Clever, But No Content

Fitzpatrick is the kind of guy you want to talk to at a party. He’s likable and amusing as a character, and his conversational tone is encouraging. The heart of the play is good, but the show lacks a solid structure to support the appealing protagonist.Hooray for Speech Therapy is about just that, speech therapy, and it doesn’t tie into a greater message or intriguing discussion. Fitzpatrick may be engaging, but he doesn’t provide his audience any reason beyond his charm to care about the story. His ad libs and footnotes are hilarious, but the stories themselves don’t hold any sensational humour or pizazz. Ultimately, Fitzpatrick is entertaining to watch, but the piece itself is devoid of any real message or point, and that’s where it fails to deliver. –Emma Allison

A Well Crafted World

The Abyss Burrow has a great concept, and equally exceptional ambiance—precise lighting, compelling music and great dancing—that help create the world that Vanessa Quesnelle paints. She uses familiar experiences so that the audience can easily imagine themselves in her character’s place. However, due to the script’s predictability, the performance felt too rooted in reality for me to really fall into the other-worldly components of the environment. The piece is highly dependent on tone, and its fantasy elements never hit the mark for me as an audience member. Others will feel differently from me, though, as it is undoubtedly a well-acted and emotionally vulnerable performance. If you want to see a thoughtful show that fully utilizes its various mediums, go seeThe Abyss Burrow. –Emma Allison

Creepy and Endearing

Nicholas Cumming does an impeccable acting job inPsy Co.’s Cross. When first introduced to the various characters he plays within the show, I was skeptical of his ability to keep them all different and memorable, but he does so with grace and ease. It’s not just the acting that resonates, though. The use ofSnow White in the piece is incredibly clever: it’s a fairy tale retelling with a thesis, and it presents a multi-layered discussion of the problems with industry, abuse and corporate greed. The creative script and Cumming’s acting prowess mix together to create a poignant and thought provoking experience, regardless of your opinion on the subject matter. –Emma Allison

A big “Bravo!” forThe Jackie Show

Warning: This show will make you think, and just might blow your mind. The Jackie Show is another “must see” performance at the London Fringe Festival. Subtly brilliant and deeply perceptive, this show will move and inspire you, while providing you with more than a few laughs.

Jackie Minns uses interpretive dance, physical comedy and humorous, compelling characters to tell touching stories about the human condition. Her character and story transitions are woven effortlessly, and each character is brilliantly unique.

You will laugh, think and maybe get a little misty eyed as the stories play out. At times you may not know whether to laugh or cry, but be assured your emotions will be split between both. –Jo-Anne Bishop

Comedy hard to find inHard Times

Identified in the program as “a one man musical comedy”, the description ofHard Times was partially correct: it was performed by one man, and it was quite musical. Where I had a difficulty was recognizing the “comedy” aspect (save for an occasional “HA”), and found myself fighting the blues for much of the production.

Ironically,Hard Times is set in the Depression era, and tells the story of a Vaudeville singer who is down on his luck as theatre going becomes a frivolity. Theatre seats are not selling, and the artist finds himself feeling the brunt of the times. The story ends with an excellent message that stands not only to the 1930s, but to our time as well, and is one that arts lovers should hear and heed.

Hard Times was enjoyable and touching, but lacked comedy for me. Worth a view at the Fringe, but don’t go in with the expectation of a hearty laugh. –Jo-Anne Bishop

One not to miss.

Polished, poignant and perfectly performed,Letters in Wartime is a top of the list, “must see” show at the London Fringe Festival this year. The calibre and quality of this production puts it in a league of its own, and it is well deserving of the many Fringe awards it has already received.

Outstanding writing combined with commanding performances from Melissa MacPherson and Jon Paterson catapult this show off the stage and into the hearts of the audience. This gripping yet simple WWII love story has a seamless flow that keeps the audience wondering and hopeful until the very end.

Romantics, history buffs and those who simply enjoy fantastic art will be thrilled with this truly compelling show. I highly recommend it to all theatre goers this week. Don’t miss out! –Jo-Anne Bishop

Incredibly fun and well written.

There is only one word that can be used to describe Patrick O’Brien’s performance inUnderneath The Lintel: Astounding. The power and conviction with which he delivers his character—a slightly neurotic librarian who gets hung up on the mystery of a book returned 123 years overdue—is funny and absorbing. O’Brien succeeds in endearing the character to the audience so that they hang on his words, following willingly along on his zany fact finding adventure.

Of course, without the spectacular writing of Glen Berger—and it is “spectacular”—the librarian character would not have come to life as it does in this one man comedy/drama. The tale of the overdue book and the adventures of the librarian to solve this great mystery keeps the audience captivated to the very end.

So what exactly is a lintel, and what happened underneath it? Put this show on your festival list this year and find out. You won’t be disappointed in the least. –Jo-Anne Bishop

My Canada includesNot

Part fable, part biting commentary, part older-than-her-years cynicism, part youthful optimism,Not: A Bev Oda Memoir is both a warning for the Canada that is and a hopeful anthem for a Canada that can be. It’s reminiscent of last year’sManor Park, not necessarily in style or content, but more in the sensibilities—and ages—of the writer/performers (Clara Madrenas forNot and Adam Corrigan Holowitz forManor Park).Not is poignant and funny and silly and serious, and on opening night Friday it deservedly earned the first standing ovation of my 2012 Fringe experience. –Peter Janes

Vernus — a delightful surprise

A black box theatre, one chair, and some sound effects. From these elements, writer/performer Ken Godmere builds an entire world for 89-year-old Vernus, who’s valiantly trying to find his way in a world that seems to have no place for him anymore. But this isn’t a sad piece—while our hero struggles with furniture and knickknacks, banks (in one of the funniest scenes I’ve seen in some time), buses and buskers, he does so with a certain cockeyed dignity, and no small measure of playfulness. And while things don’t always go as planned, somehow it all works out in the end.

Entertaining, thought-provoking, and well performed, a great start to this year’s Fringe. –Laurie Bursch

Charlie: A hockey story for those of us who don’t like hockey

I love one-person shows, especially the kind that Jim Sands has created. Jim’s got a great story about his uncle, Charlie Sands, who played in the NHL in the ’30s and ’40s. Somehow, the story also includesStar Trek. And Shakespeare. And relationships between fathers and sons. And marketing versus morality. And a sing-along. Jim tells this tale with passion and honesty, and had me cheering on all the players.

It’s not a slick, polished piece. But sometimes you don’t want fine dining, you want chili and toast in a big, comfy, red chair, and someone to tell you a great story, just like this one. –Laurie Bursch

Live a little!

FromI Am My Own Compass‘ poetic beginnings to the enthusiastic cries of “Live a little” in the middle to the heartfelt end of the show, it’s clear that Dan Ebbs really wants you to be bitten by the travel bug. Ebbs, a teacher turned world explorer, takes you along on his fantastic journey, beginning in his teens in Victoria Park and travelling through Banff, Prague, Rome and beyond. He talks about the borders that separate us and the things that connect us all. Throughout the show, Ebbs encourages audiences to find their own true north, asking, “When you get lost, where do you look?” The answer may surprise you.

With his captivating stories, creative use of props and audience participation and his energetic and emphatic stage presence, Ebbs will have you excited to forge your own path in this world. –Erika Faust

A journey through the friendliest kingdom of them all

Sit down for a spell and listen as Farmer Gary—frequently interrupted by Dave the Goat—tells the story of Princess Annika’s journey through the Kingdom of Friendly to discover the Golden Rule.

From learning not to judge people by their appearances to always being prepared to help someone in need, adventurous Princess Annika proves a great role model for boys and girls alike.

The play features an energetic cast and has a good message at its heart without being too preachy. With plenty of nods to the adults in the audience and some silliness for the kids, this show features plenty of laughs for people of all ages. –Erika Faust

Brilliant Quality – In Two Words: So Good!

It’s no surprise that Seth Drabinsky has been playing Hedwig for more than five years. He completely embodies the character, and while I was unfamiliar with the story before viewing this production, I can hardly imagine a better performance.Hedwig and the Angry Inch had fantastic rock-opera style music and a witty script, but it’s Drabinsky that makes you fall in love with Hedwig and her heartbreak. She emerges as much more than just a petty caricature, and you feel for the character. It’s not always easy to find a good piece of musical theatre, andHedwig and the Angry Inch is exactly that. If you have any kind of love for musicals and daring, evocative content, please go see this show. You won’t be disappointed. –Emma Allison

Right on the Mark

I have to admit that I’m not a dog person. I don’t usually have an inkling to watch pet-oriented shows either, as I’m not usually interested in their sappy, obsessed nature. Despite all of these previous biases,Fear Factor: Canine Edition totally surprised me. Its excellent writing and tight pacing make it the best man-and-dog story I’ve ever encountered. Grady’s dry humour ensures that the piece never becomes overly sentimental, and he eases the audience into caring for his dog, Abby. Grady starts the show by introduces the audience to his own life and its quirky struggles, which makes it easier to eventually appreciate Abby’s talents and personality. While there are moments when I felt the piece could have become ridiculous,Fear Factor: Canine Edition always manages to stay realistically heart-felt. The show provokes genuine feeling, and it exceeded all of my expectations. –Emma Allison

A Little Too Freudian

I liked the idea ofI’ll Run to You, as well as its title, but it rushes into emotional vulnerability. This makes it very difficult for the audience to sympathize and care about the characters. Because of its stoned face nature in the first half, it’s funny for all the wrong reasons. Allusions to childhood trauma suddenly become hilarious rather than thought provoking, just because it introduces angst too soon. Once the show gets warmed up and there is some more sarcastic humour, it’s charming and amusing. While it progresses in quality, it takes far too long to become entertaining, and the main conflict seems non-existent. Brook and Bervoets have great, complimentary voices, but the material is just too clunky and awkward to be saved. Overall, it’s a great premise with a not so great execution. –Emma Allison

Kompletely khaotic

One thing you can say aboutTemple of Khaos is that it definitely lives up to its name. The show is wild and frantic; the actors rush from one end of the stage to the other, frequently interrupting one other’s lines and laughing at their own jokes; and the silliness is pervasive and infectious.

All three actors—Nicole Ratjen, Kris Reimer and Daniel Nimmo—are in constant movement, and each one takes on several different roles in the show. Nimmo plays the wild-eyed son of God, sent to Earth as a mild-mannered and gentle immortal and eventually becoming corrupted by the very human emotion of greed. Ratjen gives an incredibly physical performance, transforming with ease from a monster to a forewoman in charge of building a temple. Reimer’s performance as a blind preacher is hilarious to watch as he staggers around the stage.

Though it’s a little tough to follow at times,Temple of Khaos is a lot of fun, and it’s pretty clear that no two performances are ever exactly the same. If you’re into physical comedy and totally nonsensical stories,Temple of Khaos is the Fringe show for you. –Erika Faust

Salerno gets a little testes

Whether you order tickets for it by its true name or with a hushed, “Uhh, that Stephen Harper thing,” Rob Salerno’s show is one that cannot be missed.

Fucking Stephen Harper focuses mainly on the rights of gay, lesbian, transgender and queer folk from around our nation, in addition to an in-depth discussion about our prime minister’s genitals. Salerno begins with a crash course in Canadian politics, which includes some truly shocking and disgusting quotes from the leaders of our nation. He moves on to tell his personal story as a gay journalist working forXtra! magazine out of Toronto, trying as hard as he can to get an interview with Stephen Harper. When all else fails, Salerno goes to desperate measures and ends up getting really close and personal with the PM.

You’ll come out ofFucking Stephen Harper with a better understanding of Canadian politics, the state of gay rights in Canada and, yes, what Harper’s testicles feel like, and this show is more than worth the price of admission. If you can only see one Fringe show this year,Fucking Stephen Harper should definitely be it. –Erika Faust

The end comes far too soon

Having been so enraptured by last year’sLove Is…, which I saw twice, I expected to be disappointed by this year’s show by the Dance Movement. Wow, was I wrong. For 35 minutes, which flew by, I was held spellbound by the grace and strength of Ashley Morrow’s dancers. The show is beautiful: besides the brilliant choreography and amazing performances of these talented dancers, great care has been taken with the costumes and the music, and the show is captivating on so many levels.

I know almost nothing about dance, and I know I missed much of the narrative. But what I do know is that this is a show not to be missed. –Laurie Bursch

…Then straight on till morning…

Except that there’s nothing straight about this version of the children’s classic. Including the fact that it’s definitely not for children. Out of Sight’s production [ofPetr Pann] somehow manages to be both more and less than the sum of its parts. Paul Kinsella’s script is very clever in places. In the title role, Steve Stockwell is completely mesmerizing, and while Jessica Quartel and Jacqui Vandale can’t match him, they are both strong enough to not be blown off the stage by his performance.

There is a whole lot wrong with this show, from the bad set to the clunky sound and pedestrian (and sometimes silly) music. The production is a mess in so many ways, but it’s a strangely watchable mess, and you’ll certainly not be bored. –Laurie Bursch

Oh, yes, there’s a conspiracy here

Sadly, it’s one that involves the actors in the MY Stage Left Production Company: no one told them that their show had no plot. Which is truly unfortunate, because I’m pretty sure that these are five good actors, who do a good job with what they have to work with.

I love a good conspiracy theory—just ask me about Jim Henson and Sammy Davis Jr. But I also love a play with substance, something in woefully short supply inConspiracy. –Laurie Bursch

The Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth!

Ponder some of the coolest things you can think of in this world, and you can bet a “geek” probably created it.Geek Quest 4.0—a tale of fourDungeons and Dragons-loving friends who bring a fifth into their hilarious Lair of Geekdom—is now at the top of my list of “cool things created by geeks”.

Witty, non-stop funny and very well played,Geek Quest was much more enjoyable than I first expected (when the “D&D” jokes flew straight over my head). But my confusion didn’t last long. The characters are loveable, the laughs constant and the writing is incredibly clever.

This show has Charisma, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Dexterity. (Hey Geeks, see what I did there?) You must see this show. It is an absolute treasure. –Jo-Anne Bishop

Good, Silly Fun

If you like physical comedy, go see this clever and kooky show [The Good, The Bad, and The Stupid]. It’s an absolute delight to see both Pi’s crazy antics and their excellent audience engagement. Everything from cowboys to juggling to clowns, this piece has all the important stuff. I felt myself turn absolutely gleeful and amazed whilst watching Pi—not all performances can make you feel like a little kid again, but this one does, and it does it unabashedly. The 10+ kid crowd are sure to love it, as its playful nature will make everyone want to join in, including parents. If you want to view a Fringe production with child-like energy and amazing stunts, this is the one to experience. –Emma Allison

RAD, and not bad

Home-schooled kids doing a version of the legend of King Arthur would not be my first choice for an afternoon’s entertainment. Churlish of me, yes, but honest. That said, this show [The Knights of the RAD Table] is actually a lovely way to spend an hour. The script is fun, the kids are cute, and a few of them are pretty good actors. The Saturday afternoon audience laughed, and cheered, and I know they weren’t all parents. It’s not Christopher Plummer and the Stratford Company inThe Tempest, but if you set your expectations accordingly, you may enjoy this charming little show. –Laurie Bursch

Yes, Wonderful.

Forty Wonderful is, in a word, wonderful.

A surprise party gone bust doesn’t stay dull for long when an unlikely guest arrives to make it a little livelier. Not missing a beat, this show will have you in stitches from beginning to end. Genuine and endearing, the characters have soul and hold your interest for the full 50 minutes.

The writing is clever, the acting is superb, and the delivery spot on. This party is too much fun to miss. It takes a high position on my ever-growing “must see” list at this year’s Fringe. –Jo-Anne Bishop

Put YourselfIn Their Shoes

Put yourself in another person’s shoes, just for a moment. That’s what the playwrights and cast ofIn Their Shoes would like you to do, and likely not just for the hour long show.

Performed and written by Dylan Chisholm, Carlyn Rhamey and Melanie White, the characters speak to their individual “I AM”, and bring to life other characters who are not on the stage but whose stories beg to be told.

Tales of the human experience are woven together using humour, social commentary and interpretive dance. This is another “make you think” piece at this year’s London Fringe Festival, and well worth a view. –Jo-Anne Bishop

No point but fun

Had enough of weighty matters? Then join teen detectives Hank and Mo Purdy as they solve the mystery of Mystery Point. The brothers are joined by worldly Stacy Blue, another teen detective with a case of her own. (How these small towns end up with so much mystery is mysterious to me.) Meghan Brown, Jayson McDonald and Aaron Youell all play multiple characters, aided by clever writing that allows the actors time for costume and accent changes.

[The Purdy Boys in, “Midnight at Mystery Point”] is certainly not one of McDonald’s best pieces—I’m thinking of his last few one-man shows, and especially last year’sUnderbelly—but his so-so work is often better than other people’s best, and this is an onion burger-fueled, energy-packed hour of fun. –Laurie Bursch

Lewis, Lights, Lobo?

Bumbletea Theatre has given us some very interesting original shows. However, this year’sPlaces We Know is not their best work. While the three concepts are fun, two are underwritten, one to the point where the actors seemed to be wondering what they were doing, and it seemed a relief to both the audience and the performers when the first piece was over.

The second part of the show, described as performance poetry, was by far the best piece. Clad in black and wrapped in white and blue lights (why not white and red?), the two actors gave us an ode to Canada that was creative and thought-provoking.

While the young company is to be commended for trying new things,Places We Know needs much more work before it’s a good place to visit. –Laurie Bursch

It Needs A Warning

If you take anything from this review, I hope it’s that you should think hard about seeing this production if you have young children, or you’ve experienced any kind of sexual assault.

Not the kind of opening sentence you expect for a review about a seemingly wholesome play, I know. WhatThe Fantasticks‘ Fringe blurb doesn’t mention is how the piece uses the word “rape” and its perception of trauma survivors. I understand that the original use of the word was meant as an allusion to the Latin word for abduction, but the term doesn’t hold in today’s age. In fact, the show could be a painful reminder for those who have suffered abuse. Everything from the cheerfulIt Depends On What You Pay, to Luisa talking dreamily about who she perceives to be her attempted rapist, I was in utter disbelief at howThe Fantasticks not only justifies the behaviour of potential abusers by suggesting that survivors enjoy their trials, but also insults the intelligence of adolescents. The play is supposed to be a commentary on love and youthful ignorance, but it assumes that young adults are so stupid that they can’t be properly horrified when the situation is dangerous. If that doesn’t concern you, then the inherently misogynistic nature of the play should. Sure,The Fantasticks has some good points about fleeting fancy, adventure and naiveté, but it’s all drowned out by its unintentionally disturbing elements. The cast and directors do the best they can with the material they have—the singing is great, acting is endearing, and chemistry is palpable—but my trust in the production was lost as soon as the performers started happily singingIt Depends On What You Pay about attempted rape fees. Since an alternative musical number is available for troupes concerned about the offensive nature of the word, I see no reason why Shrew’d Business Collective chose to use this wordage of events in their production—especially when it can remind survivors of their horribly violent experiences, and give children the idea that rape is all fun and games. Contrary to the blurb, this show isn’t “great for all ages”, and pretending it’s all good fun is not just neglectful—it’s potentially harmful. –Emma Allison

Ice Cream Musical delivers empty calories

PerhapsIce Cream Musical was envisioned to be a sweet and slightly absurd confection of a show. Unfortunately, what we get is a sticky, confused mess. The four performers work hard to whip the material into something fun and sweet, and they all have moments when they succeed, and Anna Lynch shines, turning the thin skim milk of Adelaide’s lines into a rich cream of a character (and just watch what she can do with an ice cream cone).

Unfortunately, there are too many elements that simply don’t work, most notably, the breaking of the fourth wall, and the inexplicable use of Southern accents that make “ice cream” sound like something you’d use on hemorrhoids.

I’ll sometimes ignore my real-life lactose intolerance for ice cream; sadly, there was little in this ice cream shop to tempt me. –Laurie Bursch

Don’t miss this captivating performance

I find that with one-person shows, some performers have a difficult time holding the attention of the audience for the entire show. That was certainly not the case withCall Mr. Robeson. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Through the art of storytelling Tayo Aluko shares with us the life of actor, signer and activist Paul Robeson. Woven throughout the stories are emotion-filled and powerful songs sung in Aluko’s thunderous voice. Through the story of Robeson we realize the experience shared across generations, decades and even centuries in the continuing fight for equality and human rights. Aluko transforms into Robeson and is entirely believable and moving in telling the story of this great historical figure. Following the show Aluko opened the floor up for discussion, giving one man the opportunity to share the story of his father who attended university with Robeson himself. –Kirsten Rosenkrantz

Nothing slumber-inducing about this show

This creative performance is great for children and adults with a wondrous imagination. Told through amazing aerial acrobatics, puppetry and projection, the characters in this performance display incredible strength, grace and agility. The story could have been better explained, but the unique abilities of the performers more than made up for it. With child-like narration, this show felt like a storybook come to life. The Hercinia Arts Collective’s interpretation and use of props allows us to delve into our imaginations, making this show enjoyable. The show was enhanced by the whispered questions and comments from children in the audience, tying right into the tone of the show. –Kirsten Rosenkrantz

Haunting

If you love cello music, this show [Eidolon] is a must-see. Rather, it’s a must-hear. Francesca Mountfort displays incredible talent on cello, playing beautiful and haunting music. Along with the music is a series of projected visuals that at times worked perfectly with the music, and at other times seemed random and confusing. The visual elements of this performance weren’t always my cup of tea, but will be thoroughly enjoyed by those who appreciate the avant-garde. The music, however, was mesmerizing. –Kirsten Rosenkrantz

Storytelling At Its Absolute BEST

Martin Dockery’sThe Dark Fantastic is both: Dark and FANTASTIC. Dockery is scintillating, his delivery unearthly, bordering on macabre. Subtle humour lightens the tone without taking away from the dark mystery of the story, and the jagged turns it takes to the end.

With a low musical accompaniment, Dockery’s rhythmic storytelling is entrancing and ethereal. He will have you hanging on every word, watching every movement, searching every expression. And when it’s over, you will wish for more.

Making its WORLD DEBUT at the London Fringe, this Master Storyteller must not be missed. –Jo-Anne Bishop