London Fringe Theatre Festival Reviews

All of the productions and events in the 2018 London Fringe Theatre Festival are listed below. To see reviews or post your own, click or tap the red arrow to the right of a title.

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Please note: at the moment, star ratings are a test feature and can only be set by reviewers.

…All the Devils are Here (2 reviews)

  1. A pulpy tale of the criminal underbelly, the script of this show has some real promise. Unfortunately, the cast had a last-minute substitution (like 3 days before Fringe) and the result is what you’d expect — a story a bit rough around the edges with two characters that don’t seem to have any natural chemistry. I think this is going to be a show that will get better as the Fringe goes on, as the actors get used to each other and work out some of the kinks, as both performers showed they have the ability to pull this together and there is something interesting going on in the script. Having said that, the script itself was a bit difficult to follow, at times, but it’s unclear if that is as a result of parts being cut to accommodate the new actor.

    Might be worth giving this show some time to marinate, but if you’re looking for a pulpy crime drama this could be the show for you.

    2 / 5 stars

  2. An edgy play depicting an intense interplay between two disparate characters with their own hidden agendas. The magic of ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE sits within the core performances of Dylan Moscovitch & Mike McLay. Moscovitch, the young upstart and McLay the seasoned cooler. The fact that Moscovitch took the role in this play as a last minute replacement for Antonio DiCoppi speaks volumes for his potential as a leading man. Moscovitch pulls you into the world created, and then the dialogue between him and his co-star keep you there.

    Give this play a look… you’ll see.

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…like nobody’s watching (2 reviews)

  1. This seems to start out as a pleasant ramble. And by that I do not mean that it drifts. Far from it.

    It’s got the feel of being taken along on an easy hike through places you sort of know about, but by someone who knows them well. But someone who lets you do the discovering by yourself.

    It seems simple and simply delivered, but as the trek continues, interesting threads surface, and the theme of loneliness takes shape, not in an angst-ridden painful way but, strangely enough, in what feels to be a loving way. There is cleverness. An amicable, slightly smiling cleverness. Not an aggressive look-at-me cleverness.

    By the end of the show the ramble through sometimes thoughtful, sometimes silly, sometimes awkward, and sometimes outrightly goofy moments has led to a depth that can be almost hard to explain out loud but that you’ve discovered by yourself.

    Great show.

    And in the best Fringe tradition I can genuinely say – “I wasn’t expecting that!”

    ****

  2. What a fun show! I laughed until I cracked. I wish I could afford to see it again. My hobby is seeing this guy. So wet! One could say almost too wet. I was weary with love by the end of the show.

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A Nightmare on East Hastings (3 reviews)

  1. Having seen (and loved) I Hate Bill Pats several years ago at Fringe I was really looking forward to Nightmare, but this endeavour into the world of personal narrative just wasn’t quite able to get to the same heights as IHBP. Pats is an exceptional storyteller and, as usual, his comedic timing was on in this show, but the script itself seemed unpolished and cobbled together, feeling more like a clip show of experiences rather than a purposefully drawn together narrative that doesn’t just bring the audience into the world but actually takes them on a journey. I just really struggled to understand why THESE were the stories being told, how they were intended to relate to one another and what, as an audience member, it was hoped I would take from the show. Is it about personal growth? Is it about the tragedy of homelessness and addiction? Is it about working crumby jobs? The performance alluded to all of these themes, but the individual stories themselves could have been better structured/positioned to drive one or two of these point forward rather than simply going for the laughs/tears and assuming the audience will arrive at the desired destination.

    I’m curious to see how this show develops over the course of the summer and into next year, because I think there is some really interesting material to work with here, it just needs a bit more refining into a cohesive package and could benefit from some additional stage craft (blocking, lighting, AV perhaps).

    2.5 / 5 stars

  2. Oh dear. It’s clear that living in Vancouver’s downtown east side was a nightmare for the performer, but because he simply recounted what happened to him, it was not compelling.

    I have reminded myself to check the program in future – is the person directing him/herself? If so, maybe it’s not a good sign (although Jon Bennett is an exception). I think performers need that critical eye to develop a good show.

  3. Thanks for the feedback but you have my show times wrong. June 4 is 5:30, June 6 is 7pm.

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A Young Man Dressed As A Gorilla Dressed As An Old Man Sits Rocking In A Rocking Chair For Fifty-Six Minutes And Then Leaves (1 review)

  1. “‘A Young Man Dressed As A Gorilla Dressed As An Old Man Sits Rocking In A Rocking Chair For Fifty-Six Minutes And Then Leaves’ is far and away the best show of the Fringe. For some reason the reviewers don’t use stars here, but I’ll collect the seventeen that I found and give them all to this show. –Peter Janes”

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Art of Astonishment (1 review)

  1. Keith Brown— a regular performer at the London fringe— is back this year with a new show called “Art of Astonishment”. And, once again, he provides us with an hour of delightful and entertaining illusions.

    Brown is a very skilled illusionist with a huge repertoire of tricks. This show includes several card tricks, tricks in which the answer to a question posed during the show seems to have (impossibly?) been stored in a sealed envelope before the show began, and Brown’s very impressive use of a memory palace to memorize in seconds an entire deck of cards. All of them elicited appreciative “How did he do that?” applause.

    Brown’s show, however, is more than a series of tricks. With his warm and engaging manner of interacting with the audience, Brown creates a sense of community in the theatre. His enthusiasm for his trade is infectious: we want him to dazzle us; we want to be fooled. We are never dupes but, rather, willing participants in the illusion.

    Many Fringe fans will have seen Brown’s shows in previous years but that is no reason not to go again. You’ll still be fooled and you’l still have a lot of fun.

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Art of War (2 reviews)

  1. Art of War is an ambitious production that tries to tackle an iconic Canadian topic — yet for a production that demands refined technique and timing, it tends to paint outside the lines, leaving the end result sloppy and short of reaching its potential.

    The stage is set with an easel with paints and sheets of paper, a podium, a trunk, chairs, and even a can of beans. This show opens with a Lawren Harris, in military gear, addressing the audience as if they were recruits and giving them a lesson about rifle care. He hands the rifle off to the audience to inspect it, and this is the first of a few audience-participation moments. But fear not! These moments are few and intuitive.

    Art of War centers around the life of Lawren Harris, but also integrates the experiences of AY Jackson and Tom Thomson as they deal with World War I duties and how it affects each man’s work — and leads to the foundation of a uniquely Canadian school of art. Each artist experiences tragedy in their lives and their art evolves over time, influencing what we’ve eventually seen in art history books and on gallery walls.

    The topic is an iconic one. The Group of Seven is a larger-than-life Canadian artist collective that has shaped how the world sees Canada. In trying to tell a small part of that story, this play put on by Brant Theatre Workshops was overly ambitious and under rehearsed.

    Nick King’s Lawren Harris had great physical resemblance of the man himself and King was able to carry himself throughout the show moving between beautiful poetry and the harsh rigidness of being a part of the armed forces.

    The show has a lot of moving pieces (literally) and at times the audience is taken away from the flow of the show. Often, it seemed that the performers were waiting for a cue or for a quick-change to be complete in the back, leaving all stuck in an awkward, pregnant pause. Other times, lines were repeated, dropped, or seemingly forgotten.

    On a positive, the audience was welcomed into the world of the artists and their lives which was a fun break throughout the storyline. Throughout the entire show there is an artist in the back corner painting along with the narrative, representing the changing style of Harris throughout this time in life. This concept, unfortunately, falls short due to the sparseness of the images that are being painted and lack of time afforded to each. The concept of live painting throughout the show was exciting but was not executed to the represent the style or feeling of Harris’ paintings.

    This show has a lot of potential and if you have an interest in the Group of Seven or Harris’ poetry I would suggest to take a chance and check it out.

    3 out of 5 stars

    ***

  2. This reviewer makes some good points. I really appreciated the premise and there were lots of interesting touches included, such as the analogies between the weapons (passed around to audience members) and the tools of art. Is the Brush mightier than the Bayonet? I think this is such a sweeping subject that the writer, Peter Muir, tried to cover too much and then was not able to tie Art and War together in a sufficiently coherent way. I was confused at first as to when Howard was onstage and when Tom Thomson was, and I didn’t really see the point of including Pauline Johnson, to have her appear in only one brief scene. And although I thought the use of the artist onstage was interesting, perhaps a way to convey some of the changing sensibility of Harris’s art might have been through the character of an art critic and prints of some of the art onstage or projected, or some other conceit. My final (hopefully constructive) criticism is that the male actors often spoke a bit too quickly without enunciating as clearly as they might. But I think there is much here that could be reworked and possibly both honed down and lengthened to focus in more specifically and intensely on Art and War. An important subject. Despite the flaws I am glad I saw it. Thank you!

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Attention Seeker (2 reviews)

  1. He’s Worth Your Attention

    Gerard Harris in “Attention Seeker” is a storyteller who tells jokes that aren’t funny. It’s all in the way he tells them. And that’s the key to the show. He’s connecting with you, the audience member. He’s not performing; he’s sharing his experience of performing stand-up for 1500 people in Ireland. He’s as scared as you would be. You feel his pain. You also cheer for him. He used to write for a now famous British comedian whom he doesn’t name (I’m guessing John Oliver? They have the same energy). Spoiler alert! That’s how he got the gig.

    He enters the stage drinking a bottle of Corona. The bottle is half-gone. He has the kind of manic pace of talking that leaves you straining to hear every word. It’s as if his brain functions on a different frequency and he’s letting it run at full speed. The words pour out and they are coherent and mesmerizing.

    I can’t imagine this man’s body or mind being still for a moment. Then he describes being on a 10-day silent meditation retreat. I know he would win a contest for talking, but being silent? Trust me, you’ll want to hear his thoughts on this experience.

    Gerard fills the space with more entertaining stories than he has time for. The time runs out and the audience follows him out into the hall because, indeed, we don’t want to miss a word he says. He has our rapt attention.

    If you like storytelling that is honest, real and self-deprecating with a splash of dry British humour, you’ll love Gerard’s show. Don’t miss it!

  2. As an autobiographical confessional, Attention Seeker is less a narrative and more an experience in one man’s unique stream of consciousness. Storyteller Gerard Harris describes his early days as a comedy writer, struggles with stagefright and other experiences including meditative retreats, divorce and awkward interactions between zippers and genitals.

    Harris rapidly ricochets between childhood memories of exasperating his teachers to adult memories of illegal immigration. Within two to three anecdotes, the speedy back-and-forth causes any sense of time and space to vanish; Attention Seeker becomes driven entirely by Harris’ riveting onstage presence.

    As Harris dives about the stage, he babbles words with machine-gun intensity. He expresses motor-mouthed anxiety over his first attempts at stand-up comedy alongside earlier memories of selling jokes to others. A painful parting from his ex-wife sees him contort his body into a shambling shuffle of agony-stricken arms and legs. A meditative trance is performed with serene contentment that quickly becomes a limp paralysis.

    With such relentless pacing and scattered structure, it’s sometimes hard to follow where or when Harris’ stories are taking place. Yet, this is to Attention Seeker’s advantage: Harris’ magnetic personality, hyper-expressive body language and commanding performance make him gripping. Very quickly, the lost details seem not only trivial but a needless distraction from tracking Harris’ emotional path.

    The anecdotes become a platform for presenting Harris’ frantic thought process, eventually revealed as Harris’ cycle of finding confidence and competence only to lose it and search for it again, a process that seems to span his entire life both over decades and within minutes. When Harris tells a story of self-diagnosing his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, it’s presented as an offhand footnote rather than a grand revelation.

    For someone who talks so much and so veryveryveryfast, Harris conveys tremendous vulnerability and a desperate longing to reach out. It suggests that Attention Seeker isn’t a character description. Instead, it’s a process for Harris to find some area on which to focus his frenzied mind.

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AWKWARD HUG (3 reviews)

  1. Who we are today is, in part, a product of the family we are born with and the people we choose to associate with. In Awkward Hug, Cory Thibert shares some of the people and experiences that have brought him to where he is today — quirks and all.

    As the audience enters the theatre, Thibert greets it and chats with people in the front row. Then, seamlessly, we enter the world of 19-year-old Cory. He begins by giving great detail of how he navigated the social and sexual encounters throughout his awkward time of life. Though the timeline jumps as the story warrants, there is a consistent countdown to an impending move for Thibert and his parents, to which we are repeatedly brought back.

    The narrative is beautifully crafted, with ebbs and flow between humour and heartache. Thibert effortlessly illustrates his world to the audience through verbal descriptions that perfectly capture the moment. The audience is made to feel like extras in a teen romcom at points.

    We learn that Thibert’s parents have lifelong disabilities and he shares stories of experiences and perceptions that he experienced as a child of parents with disabilities. He shared how his parents have exceeded the expectations that others placed upon them, and how he learned from them how to live life to its fullest. He plainly and honestly discussed the stigmas, not for looking for pity or empathy, but rather simply serving to humanize his parents not just as people with disabilities, but as his parents — quirky, reserved, but fully experiencing life.

    Thibert also discusses a nightmarish ex-girlfriend, a supportive best friend, and his older brother.

    As a child of the 90s, I found much of the play’s setting relatable — likely due to the fact that I think I’m close to Thibert’s age. And the feeling seemed to be shared, as I could hear other audience members gasp or burst into joyful snickers throughout the show. Some were similar ages, others were not, but Thibert’s skill in finding relatable points of reference allowed us all to be drawn into the experience. Thibert was even able to make a screamo band at a house party seem touching.

    Thibert is thoughtful, confident, and a charismatic storyteller whose presence fills the Spriet Theater.

    As Thibert’s story is partly about disabilities — and it’s clearly a topic that’s close to his heart — his June 2nd performance at 8 p.m. will feature an American Sign Language interpreter.

    4 out 5 stars

    ****

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Bad Habits (3 reviews)

  1. In their previous inventive and zany shows—Beau & Arrow and Bella Culpa—Hunter and David Cantor remained silent and relied on their physical comedy to engage and delight the audience. Their decision to add dialogue this time provides them with even more ways to entertain.

    The starting point of the show—the application of Hunter’s character to join the Convent of the Good Book, a convent run by the severe Sister Florence (Cantor)—provides only the loosest of structures for the hijinks, bad jokes and acrobatics that fill the hour. At one point, Hunter and Cantor don penguin masks in order to demonstrate the bizarre system of procreation of those strange birds.

    The opening night production was plagued by technical problems from wonky hover boards to bad lighting. But rather than allow the problems to ruin the show, Hunter and Cantor almost seamlessly integrated them into the fun. Upon having to deal with one of these unexpected issues, Hunter told us that “this might be obvious but we don’t have a director or anything”. Later on Cantor’s character castigates her for “poking holes in the fourth wall will-nilly”.

    I’m not sure if the production will be better or worse without the technical problems given the deftness with which Hunter and Cantor turned them to their advantage. I am sure that this show will continue to delight audiences throughout the festival.

  2. Bad Habits – A Devilishly Funny Show that Doesn’t Religiously Adhere to Structure

    Portland-based due Amica Hunter and David Cantor, of A Little bit Off, have quickly become Fringe Favourites, with such hilarious and inventive shows like Beau and Aero, and Bella Culpa. Their shows are wonderfully creative, slightly askew, and always endearing.

    Bad Habits is no different — it’s a devillishly funny show that doesn’t religiously adhere to structure.

    Cantor plays Sister Florence, a severe, traditional nun who is in charge of bringing new women to the convent. Hunter is Marjorine, a young, quirky woman, who is quick to embrace the faith, but a little slow on understanding the rules. Marjorine joins the convent and causes her fair share of headaches — whether it’s dealing with the temptation of the “bad book,” messing up communion, or dreaming her way through prayer, she’s a hilarious thorn in Sister Florence’s side.

    Cantor does double duty as one of the most revealing devils you’ll ever seen — but one that’s not overly effective in bringing terror to the faithful.

    The highlight of the show is Cantor and Hunter’s interaction with the audience and each other. They don’t just break the fourth wall — they obliterate and then barely acknowledge that it ever existed in the first place. They deal with technical challenges — either of their own design or actually accidents — with aplomb and hilarity. And the line between what’s intended chaos and what’s accidental chaos is completely blurred.

    But honestly? Who cares? The show is so fun, the duo is so personable, and their performance and presentation are so brilliant that whether the mistakes are intentional or not, they become an integral part of the show.

    The show may be a work in progress, but embracing its faults has been a stroke of genius, and too much editing would be an error. It’s sense of barely controlled chaos is brilliant and it allows the performers’ personalities to shine through.

    Whether you believe or not, Cantor and Hunter’s God-given talent (or talent derived from whatever deity in whom you believe or scientific principle to which you adhere) must be experienced and the free-flowing style of Bad Habits provides for a hilariously religious experience.

    ****

  3. Amazing show! I haven’t laughed this hard in years. Thoughtful, provocative and down right whimsical. Highly recommended! I had a wet tiiiiimmmmme.

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Beaver Dreams (La Fièvre du Castor) (4 reviews)

  1. In this wonderful bilingual production, Maggie Winston and Rae-Anna Maitland present the conflict between beavers and cottagers on a lake in the Laurentians from the point of view of the beavers. It is a consistently surprising and delightful production, full of imagination, creativity and humour.

    The story—based on the experiences of Winston’s family (some of whom are heard in recorded interviews)—is acted out by Winston and Maitland in beaver suits. Using puppets, shadows and simple props, they convey the events with surprising effectiveness. Somehow they make their choice to use their fingers to represent the humans scurrying about as they try to combat the effects of the dam on the level of the lake seem both inevitable and perfect.

    We get a glimpse into the domestic life of beavers (apparently their young enjoy bedtime stories), the horrors of clear cutting and the beavers’ sensual obsession with wood.

    The story of the cyclical contest in which the humans destroy and the beavers rebuild the dam is engaging, but the wonder of the show comes from the imaginative production. It’s a show that makes you ask “Who ever thought this could work?” even as Winston and Maitland amaze you with how well it does.

    The Fringe Festival is a place where we seek ingenuity, creativity and imagination. We want to be surprised and delighted by the unexpected. We want to see theatre that we could not find elsewhere. Beaver Dreams (La Fièvre du Castor) delivers all of that and more. It is astonishingly good.

  2. Beaver Dreams (La Fièvre du Castor): Dammed if you don’t

    Seems we all want the same things, whether we’re humans or beavers: a good life, in a beautiful place. In Beaver Dreams, both species share the same lake, the same trees… and the same nightmare. Put simply: development. But this means different things for our two subjects. We watch both in English and French – the beavers through the playful antics of performers Rae-Anna Maitland and Maggie Winston, aided by puppets of all kinds and some very clever props (watch out for the bees!); the human owners of a remote cottage are captured in similar ways, along with a lovely animation.

    The show has an important, and thought-provoking message, but it’s delivered subtly, amongst a whole lot of charming silliness and playfulness. Maitland and Winston give us a beaver’s eye view, and share their story with the unbridled and infectious joy of two kids playing make-believe.

    This show is a delight for ten-year-olds of all ages, and their outer adults. Beavers: they’re just like us. And these two are wonderful to spend an hour with.

  3. Silly Fun that You Can Really Sink Your Teeth Into

    Beaver Dreams (La Fievre du Castor) is a wonderfully engaging production that combines puppetry, visuals, costumes, and humour to present a show that combines warmth, laughter, and gently delivers a message of environmentalism.

    It’s not a preachy show by any means. The focus is on humour and an incredible array of brilliant visual elements. But, at the root of it, is a story that holds up a mirror to human’s desire to “own” pristine pieces of the environment (and keep others — and development — at bay), with that of the wilderness who already call these places home.

    The show follows the story of one family’s personal oasis in the woods. The family is that of Lost & Found Puppet Co.’s Maggie Winston, and she combines actual interviews with generations of family members who share their stories of spending time in the Laurentians at their pristine cottage by the lake.

    The other half of this story is a beaver family, who predates Winston’s family. And what ensures is a battle of sorts — the annual back-and-forth between beavers being beavers, building dams and lodges, and the family destroying one dam to lower the lake level and allow for personal use.

    Amongst all of this, there’s the threat of industrialization — the approach of more development and people. Whether the beavers know it or not, they and the family are on the same side.

    That’s the “serious” foundation of the story, but its presentation is absolutely charming, hilarious, and heartwarming. Winston and Rae-Anna Maitland appear in full beaver costume to tell the story, but they also deftly manipulate a variety of puppets, projections, and animation. It’s a visual feast of entertainment that was beloved by youth and adults alike. And the show is trilingual (English, French, and Beavery gibberish) and it’s delightful to see the interplay of languages at work.

    It’s a family friendly show, but it somehow manages to straddle that line so it’s not skewed one way or the other. There’s a lot of visual humour that the kids will appreciate, and there are a number of jokes, asides, and visual elements that the adults will appreciate.

    Even mistakes are warmly embraced and deftly handled — is there a beaver equivalent for PoliGrip? The duo’s ability to go with the flow, integrate the audience, and manipulate several moving parts without it ever seeming forced or awkward is a testament to their talent as performers and storytellers.

    The actual translation of the show’s French title is Beaver Fever — and it’s certainly well worth catching!

    ****

    1. Hi, I am one of the narrators of this terrific show. I just want to correct one comment. We have been there since 1935. The beavers didn’t show up until about 1960, so humans are aboriginal to the place. And no matter how often we tear down the dam to keep the lake level reasonable, they have it built up in the Fall to provide for themselves in winter, which is its purpose. So they win every time! Reasonably peaceful co-existence you might say!

  4. Beaver Fever! AN ALL- AGES SHOW!

    I saw this production last night and I have to say BRAVO to the performers, Maggie Winston and Rae-Anna Maitland. All has been said by the previous reviewers about the engaging way they tell the story about the conflict of man against nature with their inventive puppetry, set, lighting, costumes, including two great sets of beaver-sized choppers. They just might change your mind about beavers. And if you are wondering which shows are appropriate for your children or your grandma, this is the one! A thoroughly engaging and entertaining show for all ages. Just two more shows: Thursday June 7 at 7:00 and Friday June 8 at 5 at the McManus.

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Before the Fall (9 reviews)

  1. This is not theatre from the edge, from the “fringe”.

    This is not your clown/magician/standup/ improv/experimental theatre.

    This is theatre from the heart of theatre. The kind of theatre where you get to feel the quiet power of drama. The kind that makes even the word “play” seem all wrong.

    “Before the Fall” is a deft and thoroughly engaging exploration of how the mind will bargain and try to escape an increasingly inevitable fate. Not of the gods, but just because real life isn’t fair. Catharsis trumps victory.

    It’s absolutely excellent acting delivering a well focused, well paced script.

    Everyone in London associated with or interested in theatre should see this. We are lucky to have it in our Fringe.

    P.S. Theatre so real it actually has a program.

    *****

  2. Wonderful acting and superbly written. I left with tears in my eyes. Highly recommended!

  3. What a good show! Definitely go and see it. Great performances by all three actors, great script, set and costuming perfect. The content kept us on the edge of seats, kept us talking long after the show was over. Powerful emotions were so well done. I can’t say enough.

  4. This play is a ‘must-see’ !!! The characters are completely relatable and their emotion is intense. This is about real life…and it will change yours.

  5. I would HIGHLY recommend seeing this play!

    The acting is fantastic to bring this historic tragedy to life in the perfect short span of time of the production, which matches the short time victims in the twin towers during 9/11 had to decide what to do. The talented playwright, who is also one of the actors, wrote each character’s part in such a thought-provoking manner, that I’m still contemplating how to better live my life & take charge of what I can change.

    I’ve never experienced so many emotions at any other play I’ve ever seen.

  6. This is the real deal. Theatre as good as it can be. Very good script, well structured, well directed, and the cast is equally superb. Thank you for a truly memorable show.

  7. There is theatre and then there is THEATRE. Before The Fall falls into the latter category.
    You know you’ve been witness to something special when during a performance you laugh, you cry, and you are still talking about it the day after… and the day after that… and then you line up to see it again.
    This play is incredibly well written and each actor is so captivating, they we able to make me forget that I was sittting in a venue filled with other people. It was just me, and them.
    Their story allows us to look back at a tragic event and start to explore within ourselves, the same things they are exploring on stage.
    How are you choosing to live? Are you really living, or are you just existing?
    This show is a must see!

  8. Judging by the previous reviews I am clearly alone in my views.

    I was not moved because I did not believe the performers – I was watching actors saying their lines.

  9. “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.” John Lennon

    Life is about a series of choices. We should be used to that… after all, we make choices every day. Some turn out well, some force us to change direction, and some… well let’s just say if we had a “do-over” we would try something different.
    Some choices are easy… Coffee or Tea? Walk or drive? Take an umbrella or put on sunscreen? If we make the wrong choice, we face the consequence and hopefully learn from the experience. No big deal.
    Some choices are harder… To stay with a job that is just a paycheck or take a chance and try something you have always wanted to do? To stay in a safe relationship or get out and try again? These choices are harder to make and we carefully weigh out both sides; the consequences will be life changing.
    And some choices are forced upon us… completely outside of our control… the result of someone else’s actions that we can’t change. We face a medical emergency. We lose a loved one. We find ourselves in a situation with no apparent way out. Suddenly, the universe spirals out of control, and we are hurled off in a new direction, facing a new set of choices.
    “Before the Fall” is a play about making choices… the easy ones, the hard ones, and the ones that seem to be outside of our control. It is also a play about living life, and appreciating what we have, and accepting the choices we make, even when the universe is moving us in a different direction.
    As we approach the final weekend of The Fringe, you might only have one or two choices left for plays you want to see. Choose wisely. If you want a play that explores how choices affect lives, see “Before the Fall”. It might make you laugh. It might make you cry. Or it might remind you that life is what happens when we aren’t really looking, so grab on with both hands and hold on tight.

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Calum and the Whale (3 reviews)

  1. What an absolutely beautiful show – definitely family friendly. The songs were sweet, and well composed – my partner and I were lost in the gorgeous harmonies, and I had the songs stuck in my head all night after the show. Certainly an adventure show, with a wonderful and bright ending! The cast’s vocal capabilities is impressive and so full of energy and talent.

    Bravo to all!

  2. Callum is about a family of cousins who are enjoying a holiday at their Grandmother’s home on the east coast. Through song and dance they talk about what they love about the seashore. A calamity befalls Callum while out in his kayak communing with a whale who is trapped in a discarded net. Luckily, Callum survives. The soaring vocals and harmony are a treat to the ears. A great show for kids!

  3. This is a beautiful, lyrical, show, poignant and so relevant to current environmental issues regarding our waters and marine life. There is a sweetness and a sadness and definite heart energy. I was grateful for the Program Notes, giving the background of the story and information about the plight of the North Atlantic Right Whales, that are in great danger of extinction. Lovely young voices, some memorable songs and the projected photographs of East Coast seascapes add a great deal. As others here have said, this is a perfect family show, which will delight and inspire audiences of all ages. Definitely a stand out show at this year’s Fringe!

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Cana-Duh

Circus of the Stars

Cleaning Up (2 reviews)

  1. Cleaning Up – A Well-Polished Show that You Shouldn’t Sweep Under the Rug

    Cleaning Up is ostensibly a story about people who deal with what others “leave” behind, but this charming and hilarious show is, at its roots, about the wonderful (and sometimes not-so-wonderful, yet still memorable) moments and people that we take with us along the way.

    There is so much to love about this show. From the delightfully endearing and conversational nature of playwright and lead Tammy Vink, to the wonderfully entertaining, wink-and-a-nod-melodrama of Sookie Mei, to the charming versatility of Dinah Watts (who embodied several ancillary roles and went from bratty to tender with aplomb), the three main actresses weave together a story that is exceptionally paced, light-hearted, and eminently relatable.

    Not everyone has been a cleaner, but all of us have experienced that “What do I do now moment?” Whether it’s freelancing, asking for your first raise, or negotiating a contract, we’ve all experienced that what do I do now moment? And we’ve all found ourselves in a position where we have to fake it until we make it.

    It’s clear that these three have a wonderful chemistry and it is apparent in every scene and every moment. In addition to be comfortable with each other, the three are also clearly at home on the stage and able to roll with whatever eventuality comes at them. In the opening night performance, Watts, while embracing her inner 70s douchebag, lost control of a particular prop — essentially at risk of drinking her fake moustache. But without missing a beat, and with a touch of ribald humour, she kept the show going and added a memorable beat to a tight-knit production.

    There are some clever cultural references throughout — from Wayne’s World-inspired flashbacks to Twilight Zone-themed asides. And Vink’s seamless narrative style transitioning from establishing the scene with the audience to participating in the action, never felt rushed, forced, or out of rhythm. Vink and Mei were able to transition from crowd to stage with incredible dexterity and the pacing never flagged.

    In the end, Cleaning Up felt less like a production, but more like a conversation. We were not performed to, but rather engaged in a one-way dialogue of a friend sharing career war stories.

    Cleaning Up is one show that you won’t want to sweep under the rug. It’s a well-polished show that’s a must-see show on this year’s Fringe circuit.

    ****

  2. From the London Free Press

    Fringe Review: Theatre Soup makes Cleaning Up fun
    JOE BELANGER

    Cleaning up someone else’s dirt was never on my list of career options.

    It’s still not, especially after watching Theatre Soup’s latest London Fringe offering, Cleaning Up, a play written by Tammy Vink and performed by Vink, Sookie Mei and Dinah Watts on at TAP Centre for Creativity.

    It’s a taut, tidy script, wonderfully performed by these veterans of the city’s theatre scene.

    If you go:

    What: Cleaning Up, written by Tammy Vink, presented by Theatre Soup, directed by Dinah Watts, performed by Vink, Watts and Sookie Mei for London Fringe.

    When: Tuesday, 6:30 p.m., Thursday, 8 p.m. and Saturday, 2:30 p.m.

    Where: TAP Centre for Creativity, 203 Dundas St.

    Tickets: $15.

    Cleaning Up is the story of a young, unemployed woman who decides to start her own cleaning company to earn a living. She (Vink) succeeds, gets busy and hires another woman (Mei) to help.

    The show’s opening is brilliant with Vink as the narrator and Mei acting like one of those model’s from a 1950s vacuum commercial dressed in a uniform, posing suggestively, never breaking a sweat and always smiling.

    Then Vink launches into the reality of the cleaning world and the people you encounter.

    Watts is fabulous as a string of quirky characters, from the sweet, 91-year-old widow, Gloria, a cheap customer, an evil child, a rude lady, and even a slimy 70s-style male porn star.

    Along the way, we discover some of the surprises that await house cleaners, from “shower poo” to doggy doo behind the sofa and a child who deliberately doesn’t flush the toilet and loves to taunt the help.

    All three performances are strong, their timing impeccable and characters well defined.

    Cleaning Up is a delightful romp that will endure long after you’ve left the theatre.

    jbelanger@postmedia.com

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CLIT WIT! (2 reviews)

  1. Clit Wit! Is one woman’s coming of age as a feminist and although the themes and ideas expressed were fairly standard, she was able to infuse them with her own unique perspective and a touch of humour.

    Collette Kendall starts her story with a sex dream gone bad, which then weaves through her life — growing up and experiencing all of life’s wonders as a woman. These include being a younger sister, being the subject of unwelcome advances by a friend’s wing man, being raised by parents with strong influences, and how that impacted her when she became a mother herself.

    Kendall shares how each of these experiences influenced her, explains the lessons she learned, and how, ultimately, she grew from them.

    Kendall brings a Samantha Bee-esque vibe to her delivery, which works well as she works to balance her often harsh-reality based stories with a touch of humour.

    While there was a little bit of movement in the show, Kendall spent most of the time reading from notes behind a podium stand, or referencing images that were projected onto a screen. The content was funny, but the delivery negatively impacted the work. Kendall indicated, after the show, that Clit Wit! is still a work in process — recently written and still being developed. Once she has command over the content and is able to come out from behind the podium, then she should shine. We saw the potential in the first five minutes of the show, and if she’s able to continue that level of confidence, performance quality, and engagement throughout the show, Clit Wit! is sure to be a standout on the Fringe circuit.

    3 out 5 stars

    ***

  2. She used that excuse – a work in progress – at one of her past shows. Not acceptable. If she’s not ready to deliver a polished performance she should stay home. Once bit, twice shy.

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Danger Zone

Dog’s Misery Swamp (1 review)

  1. Dog’s Misery Swamp: A comic tragedy or a tragic comedy?

    The playwright David Jacobson shines in this one-man show set in a small town dealing with an environmental disaster caused by industrial waste, thus the title “Dog’s Misery Swamp.” The town is populated with interesting characters: one-armed Uncle Jack, the war vet, and the main character, his nephew; a billionaire industrialist with an extremely bright daughter, Rapunzel, whom he tries to keep from going out by building her a lab and giving her a microscope. Rap, as the nephew calls her, is fascinated by bacteria, which happens to start the convoluted plot going with her ideas gleaned from studying its behaviour through the microscope.

    Each character, from the blind bird-watcher to Saint Helen Keller to the conjoined twin body guards, is aptly portrayed in voice and gesture by Jacobson, with no props. The plot is complex, with enough twists and turns to strain credulity at times, but the opening night audience seemed right with him to the end of the eighty-five minute show.

    The plot is driven by the story of bacteria, the good and the bad, and the show’s website lists various resources for further study. If you see the show (even if you don’t), be sure to check out his website.

    Jacobson has managed to weave complex science into an engaging story that will make you interested in learning more about bacteria. I sense that Jacobson could write a full-length play and with Dog’s Misery Swamp, he has given us a mere taste of what is yet to come.

    His play is an extraordinary display of intelligence and entertainment and I recommend that you make the time to see it at The Arts Project.

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Flute Loops (4 reviews)

  1. Viral YouTube sensations #TheFluteLoops are finally here in London! Except, not for their opening performance. Come on, guys, it’s the height of bad behaviour to not show up for your own Fringe show. Zero stars!

    However, their merch table attendant filled in with an unexpectedly adept impromptu performance of her own, which would be worth doing as a Fringe show itself. They Might Be Giants, Gilbert and Sullivan, Berlin Philharmonic watch out: she’s got patter songs combining quantum physics and classical music that would make Richard Feynman and Tom Lehrer swoon in appreciation and jealousy. More than that, though, she’s got a story to… well, imply… that at times hints at past Fringe shows like Berlin Waltz and Silent Party Interlude.

    If the band doesn’t deign to make an appearance for their other scheduled gigs, maybe she’ll do it again. It’s Fringe, after all. Keep your eyes on the big picture and enjoy the show.

  2. “You only get a Schrödinger joke if you never hear the punchline.”
    Stephen Hawking: “I didn’t say that”
    “You will Stephen, You will”
    Stephen Hawking: “I’m dead”
    “Only in this universe, Stephen.”

    Flute Loops is swarm of pop-mashup physics puns and references that bear a convincing resemblance of the superheated ejections one would expect from a collision between “Third Rock from the Sun” and “The Big Bang Theory”.

    It catapults off the launchpad into the realm of very high energy physical fun around very high energy physics and then cools into a sometimes uneven rambling angst, punctuated by a very clever musical device that is weakened somewhat by reuse without significantly different content.

    It’s a bit of like a taking an excursion to Gamma Sector 12B, which turns out to be a somewhat less exciting outing than expected, but which redeems itself by taking place being aboard a particularly flashy and impressive vehicle driven by a first class rally driver.

    ***

  3. FLUTE LOOPS is a beautifully immersive lecture on physics and string theory melded perfectly with the Devon More’s musical performances. Her heartfelt singing and stringing are sweetly matched with her descriptions of vibrational states and quantum gravity, and I emerged from the show a little more knowledgeable than I went in, and I say that as someone who stopped understanding math and science classes by Grade 10.

    The educational material is matched perfectly to More’s character arc: she’s a physics student working a merchandising table at an indie band performance forced to put on a show when the band fails to appear, and she has to improvise her music using only what she knows.

    More finds precisely the right balance between music that’s seemingly improvised and music that’s clearly the product of contemplation and rehearsal, and there’s a delightful sense of success as she finds her voice onstage and achieves a happy medium between science and song.

    There’s also a fascinating conflict as More expresses her preference for science and dismisses music as empty diversion, but then confesses to an existential horror of knowing that all matter and all humans are composed of empty space acting out cold and mindless mathematical functions compared to the warmth she finds in music. At points, More turns to the audience for solace and support with a hilarious yet simple questionnaire and she integrates audience participation beautifully.

    FLUTE LOOPS is a smart, spellbinding show from a charismatic and gifted performer who is full of life and heartache and shares all of it through her instruments and dialogue.

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Fool Muun Komming! (4 reviews)

  1. Fool Muun Komming: Alien Encounter

    Sam Kruger, last year’s winner of Outstanding Solo Performance, is back with a new show featuring The Alien who is coming to meet The Earthlings. What will happen this time? Last year, the alien tried to learn language by intercepting texts and his verbal experimentation was brilliant. This year’s virtuosity is on display in his physical embodiment of the alien, who moves with the flexibility and beauty of a mime well-versed in the art of physical comedy.

    The alien talks to the audience and a few times acknowledges that “You look confused.” Indeed, we are. There’s something important that he needs to tell us but he keeps distracting us with his antics: throwing invisible balls; reading our minds; presenting a love story using only his index fingers on either side of his nose; and summoning other imaginary characters to join him on stage.

    The voice in the sky, the moon, who prefers to be called “Love Rock,” interrupts the fun to urge the alien do what he’s supposed to do. (Is that disembodied voice you, God?) But alas, the alien tells us that the voice of the moon does not exist and we feel the emptiness that this admission brings. His loneliness and isolation moves us and a surprise ending leaves many in the audience wiping tears from their eyes.

    The beauty of this show cannot be described in words but must be experienced. The latest installment is entertaining and moving. Be not afraid to meet something other-worldly at The Arts Project.

  2. Fool Muun Komming: Return of the Alien

    You read the full title of Sam Kruger’s show – Fool Muun Komming -BeBgWundrful/YEsyes/4sureHi5TruLuv;Spank Spank:SOfun_Grate_Times – and you think, “What is this?” You begin to watch Kruger’s show, and you think, “What is this??!!?” Then suddenly, you find yourself mesmerized by this perplexing creature, willingly following him wherever he takes you. The voyage is not linear, and sometimes not understandable – is this his real story or is it all in his head?

    With his only prop a garbage bag, this strange and charming alien fills the stage with a very physical and profoundly touching performance. For those of you who had the chance to see his show last year, it deserves another viewing. A lot has changed, but the essence – Kruger’s expressive range and his powerful, playful physicality – remains. This is Fringe theatre at its finest: unconventional, unexpected, and unbelievably good.

  3. Fool Muun Kumming! features an alien intelligence approaching planet Earth and sending out a message heralding his arrival. For an hour, actor Sam Kruger performs as an alien explaining his purpose, mission and journey and Kruger is vividly compelling. His alien is a marvelous creation, a vast intelligence who has taken on a human form.

    Kruger’s character is awkward yet earnest approximation of humanity whose stand-up, electroshocked hair seems to have been dropped awkwardly onto an otherwise bald head and whose movements suggest he’s imitating human actions he’s seen without having ever carried out in his own body.

    While a portion of the show is devoted to Kruger performing his impressions of humanity’s culture from playing catch to dancing, Fool Muun Komming! eventually shifts to darker ruminations on the human propensity for self-destruction, the temporary nature of life and how the loneliness of each person is similar to being an alien stuck on an asteroid in outer space.

    As the show closes in on a conclusion, the show takes on urgency and desperation as the jokes fall away and Kruger finally reveals his alien’s true reasons and his function. There’s a peculiar and heartfelt poignancy as the show embraces its own finite situation both within the show and it’s timeslot in the venue and the play is captivating from start to finish.

  4. Wow.
    One sentence to describe what I just saw? – I’m not sure.
    Very interesting to see an alien’s take on what Earth is and who we are as Humans.
    I found it to be a very interesting, thought-provoking and giggle-inducing piece of theatre.

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Fraser the Hypnotist presents Life Happens (1 review)

  1. Gentle Fun at the Expense of Others’ Influences

    By Jay Menard

    For an hour-and-a-half, Fraser Frase takes attendees on a journey of the mind — with some heavy suggestions guiding them there. In the end, the result is a hilarious show where the audience are the stars as he guides hypnotized participants through a variety of actions, visions, and even celebrity encounters.

    To be fair, I did spend the about 15 minutes of the show with my eyes closed. I never got hypnotized, but I was put through the process. And during that “hypnotic vetting period,” the action amongst the crowd is likely less exciting than what the candidates experience. But overall, it’s a lot of fun.

    Fraser begins the show with some traditional mentalism using envelopes, cards, and staplers. And then he moves into the meat of the show. Fraser starts with 15 people on stage and slowly whittles the crowd down to a more susceptible number — in our case, there were four remaining.

    The cast is put through the wringer, but in a fun and endearing way. They’re made to see celebrity crushes, play with imaginary animals, and explore other assorted characters. There’s a touch of adult themes — but nothing that’s going to embarrass the participants. The only thing that’s probably not tailored for a 2018 audience is encouraging a hypnotized participant to speak “Chinese.” That might have the potential to be offensive to some.

    But otherwise, it’s an exciting, entertaining, and belly laugh inducing show — with the right “victims.”

    There’s nothing particularly new with Fraser’s show, but there’s something to be said for mentalism done well. It’s a great deal of fun and if you attend, make sure to bring your friends — after all, if you can’t be laughed at yourself…

    ***

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Gamer Boy (2 reviews)

  1. Gamer Boy – a Seriously Funny Production

    What happens when you’re chasing a dream, but can’t let anyone know you’re running after it? In Gamer Boy Patrick Avery-Kenny answers that question in hilarious fashion — and also discusses what comes next once that race is run.

    Gamer Boy is a story of Avery-Kenny’s dreams to be a professional gamer, centred around when a 13-year-old Avery-Kenny earned his way into a Halo gaming competition, then had to concoct a plan and deceive his parents to travel on his own to the 2006 Free-for-All Tournament in Dallas, Texas.

    Avery-Kenny mentions a couple of time how he’s got an overly competitive personality, and it’s evident in how well-crafted his show is. His timing is impeccable, his body language and use of props is well-conceived, and the audio-video integration he and director Hailey Hill have concocted is perfectly matched.

    There is a “Holding-Out-for-a-Hero” training montage that’s an absolute highlight and features a pitch-perfect synchronicity between the action on the screen and those of Avery-Kenny. It is the most hilariously choreographed thing I’ve seen on a Fringe stage in years. And, without spoiling it, there’s an audio-recording moment near the end of the play that is more than just the cherry on top of the ice cream — it’s the whole damn orchard.

    There are so many subtle, yet noteworthy, moments in the production. From the inclusion of an 8-bit version of Blink 182’s what’s my age again, to a hilariously cavalier representation of stowing luggage, to presenting childhood photos where he emulates Napoleon Dynamite imploring you to “Vote for Patrick” there are little moments that add to the overall whole.

    Avery-Kenny is a genial, genuinely entertaining performer who has crafted an at-times uproariously funny show that has a heart. He may be a Gamer Boy, but he’s got serious performing skills and this is a show well worth seeing — even if you have to sneak out and lying to your parents.

    ****

  2. Gamer Boy: Game on

    So 13-year-old Patrick Avery-Kenny has a dream – to be a professional video gamer. Of course, everyone scoffs. So competitive Patrick decides he’s gonna prove he can do it. Which sets off an entirely unbelievable, but completely true, series of events.

    Twenty-five-old Patrick is not the most polished storyteller, but that works perfectly for this wonderful show. He captures perfectly the manic energy and occasional short-sightedness of his 13-year-old self – it’s fascinating to see both Patricks almost simultaneously. He gives us one of the cleverest and well-choreographed training montages in the history of training montages, and shares an amazing epilogue that he had the foresight to capture. It’s a well-told tale fueled by Doritos and energy drinks and a whole lot of chutzpah, and a trip for all who join him.

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Grade 8 (1 review)

  1. Hey Eddie:

    I never thought I’d want to repeat Grade 8. But I’m definitely going back next week.

    The teacher is so cool. The stories are, like, so real dude. You’d think you were the only kid in the class and she was your best friend.

    And if you ever wanted to shout out “We don’t need no education!” in class, now you can! Not only will she let you do it, but she wants you to! Then, if you’re lucky she’ll do, like, the BEST EVER! cover of one of John Lennon’s songs. Like you’ve never heard it before. And lots more.

    I think I’m gonna learn electric guitar because it’s be so cool for her not to have to sing to sound queues, and I know you can’t just double the cast off a Fringe show so I’d do it for free. Like then the music would be there right in the show instead of kind of separate from it. Maybe she could put a record player on stage – Oh but she probably knows that stuff. And you know what would be even cooler – if she would own the whole classroom. I mean she spends so much time in one little place up front in the middle.

    But I’m going back. Next week!

    Your buddy,
    Freddie

    ****

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Hell Yeah! An Evening with the Devil (2 reviews)

  1. Hell Yeah! An Evening with the Devil – Mandy Patinkin! This is a Great Show

    Mike Delamont is a veteran of the Fringe circuit and has graced the London Fringe stages for years — often as God, the Scottish Drag Queen, and last year as himself in a deeply personal production about his mother. But this year, Delamont has released his wild side and gives the Devil his due in Hell Yeah! An Evening with the Devil.

    Delamont is a true professional. He’s built up enough cachet to be able to phone it in once in awhile, but he consistently delivers hilarious writing, structured content, and an incredibly immersive performance. He eschews the Scottish brogue and frumpy dress for a drawl reminiscent of a southern preacher, hikes up his slacks, slicks down his hair, and buffs his Ned Flanders-esque “Dr. Fuzzenstein.”

    Hell Yeah introduces us to the Devil, and he explains his relationship to God — loved him early (think Old Testament-era, punishment-heavy Lord); not so fond of him once he “found Jesus.” He shares how he’s not a Fallen Angel in the truest sense; how the Devil’s music is way better than “Jesus Music” — and that it’s a great recruiting tool; who the One Horseman of the Apocalypse is (hint, he’s already here); and how he managed to insert an extra book into the Bible under the publisher’s nose. We even get a guest appearance via FaceTime from an old familiar face.

    Ultimately, he wants to show that’s he’s not really evil. Just more of a dick.

    The Prince of Darkness also shows that he’s an excellent improvisational comic. The middle segment of the show features the Devil answering questions from the audience, which we’re encouraged to submit before the show. It’s a display of on-the-fly humour that shows both Delamont’s quick wit and significant experience. For being the only non-structured part of the show, it doesn’t derail the pace at all. It fits in seamlessly and is a welcome contribution.

    And, as anyone who has seen Delamont in London before can attest, he’s well-versed in the foibles of the Forest City. He takes a few shots at the city — but not in a mean-spirited way, of course. He’s not evil, remember, he’s just a dick.

    You can’t go wrong with a Delamont Fringe show and Hell Yeah! Is no exception. He’s polished, professional, and a master of his craft. He embraces his characters so deeply. He made us believe as God and, in Hell Yeah! he truly gives the devil his due. As usual, it’s a must-see stop on the London Fringe circuit.

  2. I have enjoyed Mike Delamont in the past but I did not find this show funny. His responses to the audience questions were not humorous and reference to devilled eggs and devil’s food cake just seem like tired old jokes. I also found the volume of his mike was way too high – very loud.

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House (3 reviews)

  1. HOUSE – An On-the-Ball Performance of Verbal Surrealism

    Daniel MacIvor’s HOUSE, as performed by Jon Paterson, is a show that is at once extremely compact and incredibly expansive. It is a show that both is perfectly confined by TAP Centre for Creativity stage, but demands a release of its boundless energy. It’s exhausting, uplifting, depressing, and enervating — all at once.

    The show can be described as a manic ballet of verbal surrealism that all takes place within a two-square-foot area. Paterson rarely strays from his simple chair in the middle of the stage. A single white spotlight illuminates him and, even in his brief forays breaking the fourth wall, the audience is drawn into the intimacy of the performance.

    It’s a one man show on a small scale, but Paterson brings in multiple characters, each with their own verbal style, idiosyncrasies, and tics — all within the confines of that chair. He switches from story to story, from fantasy to reality (to perceived reality?) all within a fraction of a second.

    And just when you feel you have a handle on the narrative — just when you think you’ve got a comfortable tether upon which to hold, he snatches it away and draws you further in.

    It’s an awesome display of physical and verbal talent — and you’re left walking away from this HOUSE with questions that will follow you all the way home.

    ****

  2. Jon Paterson gives an outstanding performance as Victor, the only character in this exceptionally well-written play by Daniel MacIvor, Through Victor’s recounting of his experiences in group therapy, at work and in his strained relationship with his wife Marianne, we get a realistic portrayal of a troubled but fascinating man who is trying to navigate the difficult circumstances of his life.

    Victor is in group therapy because he suffers from some form of psychosis. (He insists that he is fucked up but not weird; as he explains, you’re born weird but you become fucked up.) His condition makes him an unreliable narrator and we can never be sure which parts of his story are true. It seems that many of the challenging circumstances he faces are of his own making.

    But thanks to Paterson’s intense, riveting performance, we nevertheless empathize with Victor. Paterson inhabits the character so completely and convincingly that we can’t help but feel his sense of loneliness and isolation. Without the aid of dialogue with or commentary by other characters, MacIvor and Paterson create a nuanced portrait of a very complex man.

    This is a wonderful production. The writing is excellent and Paterson’s performance is extraordinary. Go see it!

  3. Wow oh wow never have I been so wet! From tears of anxiety and discomfort. But in a good way!
    This show is incredibly powerful and rivetting. Jon’s performance was so captivating and profound, that I (pro)found myself unable to get out of my seat after the end of the show.
    Also my eyes wouldn’t shut. That’s how much I wanted it to continue.
    I would definitely recommend this show to any human being with a soul. Or without! Really, everyone should see it. But beware…. It will change you. Forever.
    ⭐✴️

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I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (3 reviews)

  1. This was a fantastic performance. It has love, loss, anguish and grief: all of the characteristics for a great drama. But add to that beautifully choreographed dancers who seem to defy gravity itself. The dancers manage to evoke human emotion without a spoken word. You will be spellbound!

  2. I Never Promised You a Rose Garden: a promise kept

    For many people – and I’m one – dance is a foreign language. “I’m not going to that – I won’t understand it.” Or “I’ll see it, and probably enjoy it… but I won’t understand it.” Someone in this artistic team has tried to help – the program includes a show synopsis. But you won’t need it.

    The dancers tell a series of intertwined stories. Using little more than their bodies and faces, they show us characters and choices and deep, sometimes destructive, emotions. And we understand – we get it with our heads, and I, for one, got it with my heart. All of the performers in this show are skilled and strong; Kris Grzella and Allexa Schabel, the male lead and his love interest, are riveting.

    It is a joy to find a show this compelling and moving – that they’ve done it almost without words is a testament to the talent of this troupe. I Never Promised You a Rose Garden is a standout show in this year’s exceptionally strong lineup.

  3. I saw your production of I never promised you a rose garden at the fringe and would like to be put on a mailing list to be notified of future productions. Thank you

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I Was a Sixth Grade Bigfoot (2 reviews)

  1. A tightly written and well performed personal narrative, Big Foot weaves autobiography, history and popular culture into a compelling tale of childhood and growth. Equal parts touching, educational and funny, this show offers enough to pull it above the typical “this is my life” one-woman show. I particularly liked the usage of hoaxes, myths and monsters to add whimsy to a story otherwise grounded in the cruelty of children. I don’t actually have a lot to say about this play because I think it genuinely speaks for itself!

    The props, pace and performance of this piece reflects the professionalism of Cyndi Freeman and is a fun show for those looking to revisit and reimaging growing up.

    4.5 / 5 stars

  2. Anyone who’s never been bullied is terribly lucky or totally isolated. But Cyndi Freeman presents her youthful recollections with a far more insidious twist, detailing the how her sixth grade classmates turned her teachers into her oppressors and twisted her own sense of right and wrong until at times, she was just like them.

    Freeman details her childhood anecdotes with a peculiar mix of adult reflection and childhood recollection. She’s 53 and looks 30, and I WAS A SIXTH GRADE BIGFOOT’s greatest onstage asset is her versatile face which at times looks earnestly innocent but then her eyes darken and give her youthful visage an aged horror. Her demeanor for each segment of her story is truly unpredictable, at times caustically grim and at others distantly amused, keeping sixth grade savagery horrific enough to feel it without being so unpalatable as to flee.

    I WAS A SIXTH GRADE BIGFOOT is particularly effective in presenting the sheer futility of bullying: the need to achieve status through tearing others down only leads to mistrust and fear with even those spared an attack perpetually fearing that they’ll be next. Freeman shares heartbreaking anecdotes where her childhood best friend turned on her, where authority figures decided that bullies couldn’t be bullies because they were popular, and when the emotional intensity is too much, she shifts into into seeming tangents involving an explorer’s futile yet financially viable search for Bigfoot.

    The Bigfoot anedcotes are a fascianting point of focus in this show with Freeman not quite establishing their relevance and in some ways stepping back to invite audience interpretation. In some ways, Bigfoot’s mythical and undiscovered status allows this supposed creature to be fetishistic object where people project their own longings, obsessions or failings onto Bigfoot. At times, Bigfoot seems to be a place of relief, a safe space where Freeman has a few moments to be free of her classmates.

    Throughout the narrative, Freeman has a raw, primal ferocity that commands attention matched with a focused, earnest demeanor that feels intimate, almost like her show is being presented only for you, and at times, her performance is so vivid as to be transporting until the listener feels like they are living Freeman’s sixth grade life.

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Infinite Sequels (25 reviews)

  1. In “Infinite Sequels”, David Stones (The Poet) gives a dramatic reading/recitation of poetry to the accompaniment of recorded music and the beautiful violin playing of Joe Lanza. Stones has created a dramatic setting for the poetry which provides some narrative structure but the essence of the show is the poetry itself. The precise meaning of the words is not always clear but the overall effect- along with the haunting strains of Lanza’s violin- is often very moving. Sometimes imprecision can yield emotional significance.

    Stones’ rendition is clear and forceful, often with echoes of Leonard Cohen in his phrasing and rhythm. At times the words themselves will remind you of Cohen: “They’re going to find that black box in our wreckage and let us know what failed.”

    Like Cohen, Stones is at his best when talking about the inevitable losses, disappointments and regrets that shape our personal narrative. But it’s not the failures that haunt these poems but the possibilities that are no more: “I almost got started, I almost began.”

    At one point Stones tells us (through his poetry- there is no other dialogue but that between the poems and the music) that “poems are like nails we drive through truth to expose the stains”. Here and elsewhere in the show Stones seems to insist that the important truths cannot be reduced to factual observations about the world around us. Instead, they lie behind or beyond those facts and, frustratingly, just beyond our grasp.

  2. Not knowing what to expect when we went to see Infinite Sequels, we were thrilled to be totally engaged from the very beginning! It was an amazingly intimate experience to have David speak to us in “poetry” with the musical accompaniment woven throughout. Our hearts were made to wonder at the truths in our lives and what our “black box” may reveal at the end of our life’s journey. An hour very well spent. Thank you David!

  3. Joe Belanger of London Free Press heralds Infinite Sequels as “a brilliant, beautiful piece of theatre”. Boy, does he have that right! David Stones as The Poet and Joe Lanza as the Violin are magic together. Loved it! The writing, production and performance – all by Stones – are riveting, thought-provoking and hugely entertaining. A unique theatre experience – not to be missed!

  4. We watched in awe as David performed. He held the audience and gave a very thought-provoking performance. With the music and violin playing we were totally captivated by the whole performance. We would recommend this hour of artistry to everyone. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and talent with us David.

  5. An excellent hour in the company of poet David Stones and violinist Joe Lanza, captivating. It is one “not inconsequential” thing to write poetry but David takes this into a new realm of performance artistry, the words, music and staging all carefully arranged. Thank you for a beautiful hour of reflection, laughter, wonder.

  6. Infinite Sequels: Sex and Violins

    … and love and longing, sadness and passion. David Stones, the Poet (and the poet – he is both the writer and the performer of this work), shares his thought-provoking words in this powerful show. He is accompanied in more than the usual sense of the word by violinist Joseph Lanza, who joins Stones with music, and gentle physical and facial gestures.

    One of the many joys of the Fringe is finding a show that you won’t have seen before. At its core, this show is a poetry reading with music, and a few props. But the two talented men elevate the simple concept, giving us a virtuoso performance; the sum is far greater than the already impressive parts.

    Stones’ says, “I was almost something.” His show is very definitely something, a moving and memorable experience.

    1. Thank you so much, Laurie, for sharing your kind words and generous perspective of my work. It is a joy and a privilege to present my poetry to people who appreciate the power of language and its role in helping us understand and negotiate this curious labarynth that is life’s journey. And Joe Lanza is a gem. With him by my side I’m sure I could pretty well churn out a volume a day. Enjoy the rest of The Fringe….

  7. My husband and I are not frequent theatre-goers, nor do we read/listen much to poetry. We thoroughly enjoyed the performance. The violinist provided very effective punctuation to the poetry, and David Stones’ performance made the poetry accessible and real. The poet and the violist are both extremely talented.

  8. A well executed performance by the poet David Stones and his violinist Joe Lanza,
    We enjoyed the reality of the chosen words and the smooth but sharply mixed tones. A must see .

  9. Stunning performance by the poet and lovely mix of recorded music and live performance. The spoken word as delivered by David Stones takes poetry to a new level of understanding, with a timbre that keeps the listener attentive and engaged – the hour passed too quickly…great poster and one wonders where to buy the poets work?

    1. Thank you, Joyce, for your kind words. The Violin (Joe Lanza) and I are having a blast presenting our art to our audiences. And to each face transfixed and so moored in the moment of my words is, I think, a real gift that I will always treasure. You ask about how to access my work. Well, the book that started it all is still available tbrough Amazon with a simple Google of “Infinite Sequels Amazon” or through online Indigo and Chapters. My second book, “Such A Frail Book Of Endings” awaits publication. Meanwhile I’ll just follow The Violin around. When he plays, I write. And I write, he plays…..

  10. Captivating …..
    Refreshing ……
    Thought provoking …….
    A very enjoyable performance David Stones and The Violin – Joe Lanza. Well done

  11. A powerful performance by David Stones. Poetry is a schoolboy memory for me, that left a negative memory of words that had no meaning to me.
    David has opened Pandora’s box for me.
    The mixture of superb descriptions the most simple thought or thing taking a shape and easily understood.
    His words became movements and vocal descriptions that for me made this a visual understanding of the emotional pain that was forcing his body to shape the meaning of his pain and anguish.
    I cannot wait for his new work.
    The musician was absolutely marvelous.
    He moved and played as though he was the poets shadow. Well done David Stones and Joe Lanza. Thank you, Alan Goouch.

    1. Thank you Alan Goouch…. One objective of my show is to lift the poetry off the page for people, to instil and communicate with each word, each gesture, each note. My poetry is as much spoken art as written. I’m deeply pleased that you found hot points of meaning and resonation in my words. Joe Lanza and I thank you for attending and for your generous perspective of our art.

    2. David Stones “The Poet” and the violin player Joe Lanza were so engaging. It was a very powerful performance. I recommend it highly!

  12. You won’t believe this is poetry; it’s way too exciting, musical, and down right entertaining… edge of the seat stuff start to finish. 5 stars

  13. The spirit & mystique of Leonard Cohen are alive & flourishing in the poet David Stones. Of love, of sex, of humour, of the unanswerable life questions does David continue to ponder (but not pander to) Cohen’s timeles abilities with words. Powerful stuff. A tight, tough, riviting hour of splendid, original entertainment masterfully staged by Stones & beautifully embellished by Joe Lanza. Hallelujah!

  14. I had an amazing experience tonight. I had the opportunity – rare in the modern world – of spenidng an hour in the company of “The Poet”, a man who loves words and knows how to use them. If you care about the subtlety, delicacy, mutability and power of words, this is a MUST SEE show. There were moments when I simply closed my eyes and let the images conjured by David Stones have free reign in my mind. Attend this show and you will see words, thoughts and images differently than you have before. I guarantee it. What a delightful hour!

  15. What a show!
    For one too short hour I was totally transfixed by the power and passion of the poet’s words, his artful performance and the complementary soulful sounds of The Violin. This show is not just for lovers of poetry, it’s
    for anybody who has lived, loved, lost, wondered……

  16. Finding just the perfect word or phrase is what gives poetry its meaning and David has an infinite way with words. You’ll be mesmerized for an hour as he finds meaning in his life and in our’s. Bravo David!

  17. Whether you are moderately inclined to enjoy poetry or you are a hard core lover, this is a show well worth taking in. David Stones is an engaging performer who does more than read his poetry. He breathes life into it. He draws you into the sadness and joy of each poem with a passion that is impossible to ignore. Enhanced by the wonderfully subtle violin playing of Joe Lanza the two weave you through an hour that is not only thoroughly entertaining but simply enchanting. Highly reccommended.

  18. The human voice , combined with expressive poetry, are a magic combination. David Stones brought them together with passion Both his voice and the violin were two strands of music, intertwined to great effect. I first became a Fringe fan many years ago in Edmonton. Am delighted two see the Fringe and Stones together. Lets hope it is a long relationship.

  19. An amazingly intimate and honest portrayal of a poet’s struggle to understand the human experience. David’s passion for music and the spoken word were evident in this hour-long glimpse into the world of “almost.”

  20. David and Joe are a fabulous team for this show. The poetry is spellbinding, and is greatly enriched by the musical accompaniment. An hour very, very well spent.

  21. “Infinite Sequels” is EXCEPTIONAL in all categories and is ART at its finest! It is rare to leave a performance and to feel like you are floating, and to feel emotion just under the surface waiting to bubble up, and to want time to just think about it all, to recapture the images created by the word, to reflect on the messages, to not want it to end — that is true ART! It is one of the most moving performances I’ve attended in years. I laughed, I cried, I heard, I saw, I empathized and I reflected. I am still reflecting today on the depth, the truth and the inspiration of such powerful and beautiful poetry that was presented with such great passion. David Stones, The Poet, painted vivid pictures for us with his words, his presence and his poetry. Joe Lanza, on violin, matched the mood, passion and message of the poetry like a true master. BRAVO to both!

    1. Thank you Eeva Stierwalt…I’m just guessing but I think you enjoyed the show…It’s such a pleasure to present my words. Thank you for listening. Thank you for attending,
      They are not words, are not language, until they are heard…..thank you Eeva Stierwalt.

  22. Captivating!
    So thought provoking!
    We were thrilled to attend lnfinite sequels, Saturday evening.
    The violin accompaniment and music is superb.
    David is truly amazing .

    We are also enjoying David’s book. Buy tickets before it’s over!

  23. David’s performance came from his heart and soul. His use of words was sometimes subtle, sometimes not so much. Joe’s violin accompaniment added another dimension to the experience. Thank you for the images you created.

  24. Do not miss this absolutely beautiful piece of art. Some of the imagery was so beautiful and thought-provoking I just wanted to live in it’s Grace a little while longer. I wass thrilled to discover,on his website, that I could purchase David’s poems from Infinite Sequels from Indigo. It’s already on its way and I plan to spend more time in that imagery this summer while I am up at the cottage. The combination of the music, the words and the performance was absolutely spellbinding. If it was also offered as a recording I would definitely purchase it just to listen to it again. Bravo.

    1. Hi Karan:….First, is this a Karan I know or not?….let me know if you can, via dmstones@rogers.com Apart from that, Karan, Thx so much for the splendid review…. Words like that make it all seem worth while. FYI in addition to the book which you’ve now ordered (about half of the show poems are in that volume) my final show on Saturday is being videoed. I intend to market that, depending on video and audio quality, but would be pleased to provide you with a comp’d copy as a thank you for your generous perceptions of my art….. Just reply to the URL above, and thx again for your encouragement and support….. D.S.

  25. Brilliantly written and performed, and that’s putting it mildly. David Stones’ abilities as a poet, speaker, and performer shine through in a way that’s almost blinding. Joe Lanza on violin couldn’t have been more perfect to accompany the unforgettable story I was being told as I sat in my seat, hanging on every word. I’m a poet and performer myself, so I can recognize and appreciate top-tier work. Infinite Sequels is unquestionably one of the best poetry performances I have seen. Period. Never once did I feel like I was “just watching a guy recite poems.” The experience was immersive, visceral, genuine; the audience felt like we were being spoken TO, and not spoken AT. I could go on but I won’t. Please go see this if you still have a chance.
    Phenomenal work. Just one more reason why David Stones is someone I look up to as a Poet.

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Jon Bennett: How I Learned to Hug (4 reviews)

  1. Fringe fans who have seen Bennett’s previous shows such as “Pretending Things are a Cock” and “Fire in the Meth Lab” know that he is an extraordinarily gifted storyteller who can blend humour and poignancy into an engaging and highly entertaining tale. These gifts are once again on display in “How I Learned to Hug”.

    The story of how Bennett started to hug again after renouncing all public displays of affection for seven years begins (if that is the right word) at the Montreal airport where he has been detained after a can of pepper spray is found in his bag. When an invasive cavity search proves unnecessary, Bennett blurts out “I love you” to the Jay-Z lookalike female officer. Her response of “You don’t know what love is” prompts Bennett to prove that he does by telling her the story that is the show.

    The tale takes us through Bennett’s experiences with love, from his first boyhood crush, to the heartbreak of betrayal that caused him to refuse to hug, to the companionship of a drunken sailor who has just come out as gay, and finally to the woman who convinces him to hug again. All of this occurs at breakneck speed and is somehow knit together into a coherent and entertaining whole.

    Of course, this being a Jon Bennett story, my description is far too straightforward to do it justice. It leaves out, for example, his tendency to “Forrest Gump” away from painful moments, the importance of his Nan’s bundle of sticks and why Bennett spends the entire show in a dress. Bennett is such a wonderful storyteller that the magic he creates through his stories cannot be captured in a simple, narrative description. You have to hear it from him.

  2. I was one of a group of five who saw this show. All of us loved it.
    If you are not comfortable with sexual content, then prepare to be uncomfortable. This is quite a show. It never dragged and was well written.
    I actually don’t care for the picture that promotes the show. It is not really appealing, and the show certainly is.

  3. This is a polished, well rehearsed show (take note Colette Kendall) and very funny to boot. Jon is an accomplished storyteller and performer.

  4. Embrace the Opportunity to See Bennett’s Best Show Yet

    Jon Bennett is a masterful storyteller who is a veteran of the Fringe circuit. And How I Learned to Hug is likely his most well-rounded, heart-warming story. Over the years, from Pretending Things are a Cock to My Dad’s Deaths, we’ve seen him grow and develop as a storyteller, infusing ribald humour with warmth — and with How I Learned to Hug, we see him fully build an uproariously hilarious show upon a foundation of heart, vulnerability, and sensitivity.

    How I Learned to Hug is a story inspired by a customs experience at Montreal’s Trudeau Airport, where he feels he needs to justify the fact that he has felt love in the past. For the next hour, he regales us with his stories of loves lost and found, and how they, for a period, forced him to eschew the idea of hugging and public displays of affection.

    Bennett, as he’s shown over the years, is a master at integrating photo evidence of his past to punctuate story points. Even his “running” movement is charmingly endearing.

    Bennett does reach into the audience at times to share personal experiences. He skillfully uses the crowd work to integrate us into the story. It’s not overused, it doesn’t feel forced, and it immediately gets us on board with the story. For a story about not hugging, the audience is instantly embraced into the show.

    It seems every year that we say Bennett’s show is a must-see and this year’s no different. He has skillfully built upon the foundation that previous shows establish and we are left with a unique blend of gut-busting laughter and emotional resonance in his wake.

    Embrace this incredible opportunity and see How I Learned to Hug.

    *****

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Luddite’s Rant (2 reviews)

  1. Luddite’s Rant: Come for the songs, leave with a mission!

    This show, starring Dan Ebbs as a busker and directed by Jake Levesque, is an interactive and entertaining one-man show featuring some serious questions about our role on this planet: do we deserve it? Were the dinosaurs with their pea-sized brains smarter than we are?

    As you walk into the theatre you see a familiar sight: a garbage bin overflowing with used cups, newspapers, plastic water bottles, and assorted other things we are used to seeing because apparently most humans are unable to walk the extra ten steps to actually throw something in the garbage but think it sufficient to just hurl something they don’t want toward the target. This familiar sight is an image of the unintended consequences of progress.

    A “luddite” is someone who resists modern technology. And yet our busker asks us to turn our phones on silent at the beginning of the show but not to turn them off. Suspense builds. Why? I thought from the title he would ask us to throw our phones away. But he knows that everyone in the audience has one, uses one, and needs one. What are the unintended consequences of progress?

    The answer is not all doom and gloom. The busker tells us stories, acts out various characters, strums the guitar and sings some wickedly good songs, such as “Beigeland.” Make sure you pick up a program in case you want to sing “We’re all in this together” by Margaret Does. We learn about The Miracle Game and about London’s sister city in China. We’re part of the problem but we each of us can be a part of the solution. Our busker convinces us to “be the change we want to see in the world.” “Luddite’s Rant” is “An Inconvenient Truth” meets “Woodstock.”

    An inspirational and educational, but above all, entertaining show.

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Mark Toland: Mind Reader (2 reviews)

  1. Mark Toland amazes us with a series of “mind reading” tricks. He knows the word or number you have in mind, the city you would like to visit and the name of your childhood crush. And he reveals all of this with charm and humour.

    Of course, we know that he isn’t reading our minds. We know it’s a trick in which he uses inference, good guesses and manipulation. But none of that detracts from the pleasure of having your secret word revealed. And none of that lessens the “How did he do that?” feeling at the conclusion of every trick.

    Toland will surprise and amaze even the skeptical.

  2. Mark Toland: Mind Reader – A Night of Wonder and Mystery

    Mark Toland is quick to tell you what his “powers” aren’t — he’s not psychic. Instead, he’s an astute people watcher who has honed his talent and gift to the point where you’re going to enjoy a magical experience each and every night.

    Toland asks specifically that people do not share too much of the show, as he wants to preserve the mystery. And it’s a request we’re all too happy to honour, because this is a show that defies description and must be experienced.

    Toland is wonderfully self-effacing and conversational. He doesn’t approach his show as a spectacle, but rather embraces the audience and brings them into the conversation. We’re brought in close — but not close enough to be told the secrets — which makes the wonder and mystery all the more impressive. We are part of the show, we know we’re not “plants,” and we’re involved with the trick — but, for the life of us, we can’t understand how it’s done.

    I will honour Toland’s request to not say much about what happened during the show, other than to say that there were countless gasps, a few shocked expressions, and more than a few “no f*in way”s.

    Toland is at the top of his game and it’s an experience just to watch him play the audience. You won’t regret being a willing participant in Toland’s mind games.

    ****

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Moments in Movements (2 reviews)

  1. As the sole constant element in the improvised dance show Moments in Movements, curator Connor McPhail has a lot on his shoulders. It’s his responsibility to guide a varying group of dancers from London’s Breath in Mvmt and other companies, a live musician, and performers from other Fringe shows (Jake Simonds and Amica Hunter on the evening I attended) through a series of games and artistic exercises in an entertaining manner. Based on his hosting job in the first performance, he’s more than up to the task; in one scene he somehow managed to weave a coherent story around dancers portraying a ballpoint pen, an anxious giraffe, and a hotel lobby (all suggestions from the audience).

    Will McPhail and the dancers be able to keep things running as smoothly and artistically at every show? Maybe not. Then again, maybe they’ll outdo themselves. Whatever happens on a given day, it will be interesting and different and unique, and isn’t that what Fringe is here for?

  2. If a great Fringe were a champion set of meals…
    – Some would be full meal deals like ‘Before the Fall’,
    – Some would be banquets like ‘I never promised you a Rose Garden’,
    – Still others light and refreshing lunches like ‘Grade 8’.

    ‘Moments in Movements’ is different again. And delightfully so. At first I thought, desserts!. But desserts are not a sufficiently diverse sort of thing. They all tend towards one end of the taste spectrum.

    No, ‘Moments in Movements’ is more like a platter of amuse-bouche. A splitter splatter of really interesting bits and bobs, all different. Some showcase the chefs’ skills and inventiveness. Others revel in just plain fun.

    Many improv shows strive to cloak themselves in a sense of unstructured informality, but often, and to a degree necessarily, they betray a sense of routine. Of course, this is often needed to tie things together and control the apparently random flow so that the audience gets their dollar’s worth. In ‘Moments in Movements’, Master of Ceremonies Connor McPhail really succeeds in making this show feel unstructured, and builds the atmosphere of a relaxed get together between the performers and audience.

    And, bonus!, there is an extra topping of freshness that comes from the fact that there is a different group of performers for each show. Not the slightest whiff of staleness.

    Finally kudos to the many performers who make a small house work well. Connor does this particularly well, keeping the show moving even when the audience’s collective contribution dries.

    Of course, with a different cast your mileage may vary. You may go even further. (Ed. Note: Mixing gasoline and food metaphors not recommended)

    Great idea, well executed!

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Old Fart (4 reviews)

    1. I’ve got a list of who’s claimed each show, but not when they’re seeing it. The best I can say at this point is that there will be someone there, and we’re working to have all of the shows reviewed by Sunday night.

  1. Wonderful show tonight. Standing ovation. Sold out show. Had to put more seats in. Thanks to a terrific audience. Singing, laughing and even some tears. Next show Sunday at 4:30pm.

  2. A playful, light-hearted romp through life, Old Fart reflects on a life lived and lessons learned. Some tech problems hindered the opening performance, but the show uses the stage well with some effective use of props and Tim Bourgard, as always, is a delight. The show itself was predictable at times but endearing throughout, but did retread some of the well worn paths of the ‘quirky senior’ genre. I felt like it could have benefitted from spending a bit more time in the weeds of aging, but in the interest of keeping things light I understand the direction the show took.

    A silly sing-a-long, Old Fart will appeal to Fringers looking for some lighter fare with a warm heart.

    3.5 / 5 stars

  3. Wow, Another SOLD OUT show! STANDING OVATION!! What a great audience. They are laughing, applauding and singing along with the “OLD FART”. More Shows. Tuesday, June 5, 5:30 pm. Thurs., June 7, 8:30 pm. Saturday, June 9, 2:30 pm. Come on out for a fun show!

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Para Dos (1 review)

  1. Pointe Tango (Alexander Richardson and Erin Scott-Kafadar) presented the world premiere of their dance program “Para Dos” to a full and very appreciative house at the McManus Theatre Friday night.

    The program consists of several short pieces— mostly duets but one solo dance for each of them— in which the talented pair combine elements of ballet, modern dance and the tango. The inventive choreography is performed to a variety of accompaniments, from tango music to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata to “I want to fall in love with you”. In each piece the performers display their mastery of dance, executing beautiful and difficult steps and lifts. Scott-Kafadar proves that she can dance beautifully in any footwear, whether ballet shoes, heels, or barefoot.

    The variety of genres and the technical mastery of the dancers make for an impressive performance filled with moves that elicited appreciative gasps and applause throughout the program. They executed the demanding choreography flawlessly. The performance would be enhanced if Richardson and Scott-Kafadar displayed more passion and sensuality (it is the tango, after all) but perhaps that will happen as they become more comfortable with the program. In the meantime, it is a show that any fan of dance should see.

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Performer Showcase

Police Cops (5 reviews)

  1. Police Cops is a gut-bustingly hilarious, 70s/80s-style buddy cop drama teeming with tension, blatant foreshadowing, and lots of shirtless hugs.

    The Pretend Men are a comedy group made up of Zachary Hunt, Nathan Parkinson, and Tom Roe — all of whom hail from London, England. The three work so well together and their precision, skill with physical comedy, and time throughout the show really bring the story to life.

    The story takes place in the late 1970s and early 1980s. And, yes, the show comes complete with the tropes and stereotypes of the time. Sure, it may seem a bit over the top at times but that’s just part of the fun and excitement we feel as we follow rookie Police Cop Jimmy Johnson along his quest to be “The Best Police Cop Ever!”

    Johnson starts by tracking down one of the best in the business, a man by the name of Harrison. They quickly become best buds and work hard to bring down a drug lord named Hernandez. But things eventually go sideways.

    The three men play a handful of characters. And most of their costume and set changes are already placed on stage in boxes before the show starts. The concept of changing right on the stage would intuitively be distracting, but with the hectic pace of the show and its humour, it actually works. One also gets the impression that the trio is improvising some of the scenes as they go along — and that may make each show unique.

    The audience was ready to go anywhere with the trio — even if that meant turning into horses and carrying babies across the desert. Yes, the show was so engaging that we willingly went along with babies riding horseback.

    Police Cops is a perfect mix of physical and improvisational comedy, all built upon the foundation of an extremely cohesive, believable storyline.

    And as with any great cop show, there will be a sequel. We can only hope to see these Police Cops again at the London Fringe.

    5 out of 5 stars

    *****

  2. We found the show ‘Police Cops’ to be hilarious, action packed, and we loved the constant on stage costumes changes. The performers funny and quick with improv’s when things didn’t go as planned…made for many big laughs!
    Would highly recommend this fast past very funny show!

  3. Perfection! Brilliant in the North American definition of inspired, exceptionally clever, talented. I hope they come back to do their sequel, Police Cops in Space. Unbelievably polished writing, performing, adlibbing!

  4. I saw this show about three days ago and am still laughing about it. I could see it again.

    I highly recommend it. Lots of great lines, and the comedic acting is fantastic. All the actors seemed to be having a great time, and it is contagious. This is so worth seeing.

  5. My husband And I saw the show and we found it utterly boring could not wait for the show to end.

    1. Hi Johanna (and your husband). I’m genuinely curious to learn what made it boring for the two of you? I can think of a lot of possible criticisms (in theory; I liked the show a lot) but I can’t come up with any ways in which it could be described as uninteresting.

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Quack (1 review)

  1. I will admit I have never seen Swan Lake but I think I will after seeing Quack. The scene starts with the most famous part of Swan Lake. However, a swan falls and we are soon among the characters of her dreams, some frightening, some laughable but all with a duck or water theme. A light show with examples of various styles of dances that all ages will enjoy.

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Rebellion (4 reviews)

  1. Rebellion — An Overwrought Vision Obscures the Most Important View

    If one could focus exclusively on the dance and tune everything else out, Rebellion would be an excellent dance show. The performers, from The Dance Movement, execute the choreography beautifully. They are strong dancers as an ensemble, performing flawless synchronization when called for, and standing out as individuals when given the chance.

    Unfortunately, direction and production decisions makes it impossible to tune the others out. And the dancers are obscured by directorial decisions that are implemented with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. The performance suffers as a result and the dancers are the victims of the decisions.

    The show bills itself as “an energetic exploration of insubordination and revolt in modern culture.” And instead of letting the dance speak for itself, Rebellion makes sure to hammer home that theme at each and every point.

    School shootings, nuclear war, social media isolation, mental health, racism, our place in modern society — all are presented. It’s not fair to say they were explored, because that would insinuate a progressive exploration. Instead, the themes are blasted to the audience with all the subtlety of a flashing neon light.

    It often seems like the spoken word elements are more important than the actions of the dancers. Frequently, the dancers are obscured and rendered as secondary — or even tertiary (when you factor in lighting) elements of the show. At one point, dancers are rendered stationary props for a speech by former President Barack Obama. In a section where the speech implores us to go beyond the superficiality of social media and embrace unique, individual relationship, all the dancers are obscured by lighting — rendering them an faceless, anonymous mass, as opposed to celebrating the very individuality that we’re being encouraged to do. And the overuse of the slowly raised fist effect descends into self-parody. We are encouraged to listen to the words, more then letting the dancers speak for themselves — and that’s a shame.

    It’s too bad because the dancers are extremely talented. Based on dance alone, this is a four-star show and there are a number of performers and performances that would be worthy of being highlighted. Unfortunately, they’re not given the opportunity to take centre stage because an overwrought vision gets in the way of the view.

  2. Clearly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

    I saw Rebellion and thoroughly enjoyed it. It seemed very well received by the others in the audience as well.

    While the reviewer is entitled to his opinions, of course, I wanted to comment on something I thought was implicit in the review: Rebellion is dance.

    To me, within the context of the Fringe Festival, Rebellion is intended as art, not “just dance”. If the dancers are “obscured” it was probably intentional. If the dancers are “stationary” – or absent for the stage altogether for a few moments – that was likely by design. If the lighting was low that was surely on purpose. If the dancers become “props” temporarily while a former President speaks what’s wrong with that as part of a larger presentation?

    Whether or not you appreciate and value the art put on stage in Rebellion is subjective and open to debate. I would encourage people to approach viewing the show with an open mind, regardless of whether it’s performed by dancers or anyone else. I did – and I enjoyed it!

  3. Rebellion was an incredible show.

    Watching these dancers portray such important issues was an incredibly humbling experience for me… Finding out that the average age of these dancers was to be about high school age and younger was baffling and inspiring. The topics that were addressed in this show were so prevalent and so relatable and the fact that these dancers were so young had even more of an impact on me/ the audience. This show was not about showcasing the talents of the students of this particular studio, it was clearly created to be an incredible platform from which the dancers could have some sort of impact on the community in which they live, and the peers with whom they interact in their day to day lives.

    “Rebellion” is not a show to watch if you’re expecting to see a typical dance recital. This show has clearly been put together by someone (or a group of people) who understand(s) what topics he/she/they is/are trying to cover and in turn, what audience he/she/they is/are trying to reach.

    I believe (as a performer, dancer, teacher for more than a decade of my life) the director and the dancers/performers of this show have created something remarkable. I applaud the director, the performers, the stage crews, and everyone else that contributed to such an important piece of art. Congratulations, you are part of something bigger than what some people are incapable of understanding.

  4. CHANGE YOUR FOCUS…CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE
    Dance as an Art form is meant to evoke a raw, emotional response. Rebellion does just that- so many emotions and so many amazing moments. Through the layers of spoken word, music and dance, the dance artists find their voice through owning the movement. They take the power back through demonstrating power in team and power in trust and power in storytelling. The story is real. The struggles of this generation are real. The emotions are raw. The dancers capture all of the emotions and send them out to the audience. The artistic director’s vision and intention is for the audience to discover their own meaning – independent of her influence. We must filter through the layers of stimulus on stage just like the filtering through the layers of constant sensory stimulus and stress in our daily lives. Change your focus….change your perspective. I choose to focus on the beauty of the artistry, courage over fear, compassion over grief and joy over sadness. This extraordinary artistic director owned the story. These inspiring young dance artists owned their story, and owned the stage. Amazing !!!

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Recovery Show (1 review)

  1. Recovery Show – a Triumph of Raw, Exposed Honesty and Bravery

    The title of Clara Madrenas’ Recovery Show is not so much of a misnomer, as it is a misdirection. The title is intended to be reflexive — representing the shared recovery from mental and physical ailments by Madrenas and her partner. But the truth is that, after leaving the production, it is the audience who is in need of Recovery time following one of the most open, honest, and visceral productions to be mounted on a Fringe stage in years.

    During the play, Madrenas talks about how, during a particular stage of psychosis, she felt that the only way she could heal her ailing partner was to grasp a glowing orb that appeared on their bedroom wall, and transfer its energy into her partner by cracking open his chest, exposing his organs, and manipulating them.

    That’s an apt metaphor for Recovery Show — as Madrenas metaphorically rips open her being and exposes her soul to the light. She does it not to be judged, but rather to be understood — and to help others understand their experiences. Like the mirror neurons she discusses late in the play, the audience shares the catharsis and empathy to which the story builds.

    The production is housed in a small venue, with minimal staging. Madrenas, decked head to toe in black, stands barefoot on an all-white stage. There is a stool in the middle behind a lighting deck, as she subtly controls the lighting as she speaks. On her right is an easel with paper and a black jacket; on her left hangs a white lab coat. The latter two items figure prominently, as Madrenas cleverly uses the persona of an agent and a doctor to foreshadow events by explaining themes. The doctor focuses on the clinical aspects of psychosis. The agent focuses on the power of the brain — explaining how little is actually used, how much potential there is should it be unlocked, and how implementing stressors can help to push those barriers — until they break.

    Madrenas candidly shares her history with visions, compulsions, and psychosis. Her story comes to a climax as her partner is hospitalized and at risk of dying, whilst she is obligated to travel to post-genocide Rwanda for research. Her experiences there mesh with her visions and lead to an eventual break. And, ultimately, a recovery for both.

    This is not a light-hearted topic, but Madrenas presents in a caring, honest, and genuinely soulful manner. She uses her voice and cadence to great effect — slowly building up to a crescendo and making the impact of her challenges, sorrows, and psychosis all the more poignant in doing so. She adds a dash of humour here and there — after all, the brain can adapt to anything, so by adding sprinklings of lightness throughout, it makes the tension all the more persistent.

    Madrenas is exceptionally respectful of the audience. She doesn’t talk down to the crowd. She presents complicated topics directly and with conviction. As her agent states, the presenter respects us, so we are compelled to return that level of respect.

    If there is a flaw, it’s the venue. Hacker studios is tight, which is perfect for the nature of Recovery Show, but it’s also not overly soundproof. For a show that’s filled with such raw, naked honesty, the street volume from passers-by only serves to violate the sense of intimacy that this production demands.

    This is a show about recovery — and relapse, as she states, is always an option. But no matter what happens, the Recovery Show is a celebration of honesty, truth, and bravery. It’s not an easy show to watch, but it’s a show that demands to be seen.

    ****

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Red Bastard: Lie With Me (3 reviews)

  1. At the beginning of this one man show performed almost entirely in a red body suit filled with huge balloons encircling his waist, Eric Davis demonstrates easily that every member of the audience has lied at least once- if only by agreeing that they have read and understood the terms of the latest software update for their smart phone. Having established that we are all “liars”, Davis moves on to the vagueness and hypocrisy of the “rules of love”.

    Through a series of questions directed at members of the audience, Davis tries to convince us that we either don’t know the rules of love or we wilfully ignore them whenever they conflict with our desires. The interrogations are sometimes funny, sometimes embarrassing, sometimes cringe inducing, but the point is made.

    Davis quickly makes clear that the purpose of this exploration of our hypocrisy is not only to embarrass or discomfort us. To do so he introduces the backstory of his quest to understand and accept his own emotional needs. We are confronted with the inherent conflict involved in pretending to be a swan (monogamous for life) while really being a dirty pony (no explanation necessary).

    This more serious aspect of the show develops into moments of attempted intimacy with members of the audience. Davis invites a few people to join him on stage to participate in simple activities (dancing, sharing a mango) that can be surprisingly intimate if one is willing to abandon, at least temporarily, one’s inhibitions. The final scenes remind us that, sometimes, the artifice of theatre can allow us to experience something real.

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed this show. Engaging and talented performer + thought-provoking and funny material = good time.

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So Tevye, Could You Use Another Daughter? (3 reviews)

  1. So Tevye — Unbalanced Screed on Faith Fails to Live Up to Its Name

    So Tevye may not need another daughter, but it clearly can use some refinement, edits, focus, and better pacing. There is a rudimentary foundation of a story in this play, but a lack of subtlety in delivery and challenges with its pacing causes that promising potential to be lost.

    The production is Monda Halpern’s So Tevye, Could You Use Another Daughter. And there’s a certain chutzpah involved with name dropping Tevye in a production. Due to the iconic status of the character (known from Fiddler on the Roof and the Tevye series of novels from whence the film and play were inspired), you’re setting expectations extremely high about the quality of the content, at very least. When those expectations are elevated, it’s beholden on all involved to live up to them.

    Unfortunately, this presentation falls far short of that internally established standard and the production suffers as a result.

    There are some good moments — almost exclusively relating to Deighton Thomas’ performance as Isaac. He provides a thoughtful, nuanced portrayal of the family patriarch, who attends at his daughter’s house — to be almost immediately berated for dating a younger women not of the Jewish faith.

    The other two characters: Sonia Halpern’s Hannah and Lyle Goorvich’s David, exist on either side of the performance spectrum. For the most part, Halpern equates volume with passion and her constant delivery method of shouting doesn’t allow for any subtlety of emotion. With no valleys, the audience becomes numb to the peaks, and renders the dialogue less effective. Goorvich bulldozes through his lines in a relatively passionless monotone — seeming to rush the lines rather than emote them.

    The rest of the staging is fine. A simple table with three chairs, a secondary table where Hanna deposits her groceries, allows for the focus to be on the three actors. The challenge comes with the interaction between the characters. The conversations feel stilted and forced, there’s little natural cadence, and there were even a few awkward pauses — including a prominent one at the end of the show — that serve to disrupt the flow.

    It all adds up to a play that has a deeply emotional foundation — discussing questions of the fundamental nature that faith plays in one’s life, and the impact of the Holocaust and the memories possessed by its survivors on the diaspora — but is unable to build upon that foundation in the structure of this production. It’s an interesting concept — in the Tevye tales, his daughters leave the faith due to their relationships with non-Jewish men; in this production, it is Hannah who sees her father and ex-husband dating outside the faith. That’s potentially a clever modern twist on a traditional story.

    There’s something there. There are multiple interesting topics broached in the play, but the focus on volume and a rushed conversational cadence don’t allow those ideas the time and space they need to breathe and come to fruition.

    **

  2. Just the text and effort to explain yourself is so rinky dink. Brevity my friend…bad, good, and inbetween. That’s it. Love ya and thanks for the review.

  3. Saw “So Tevye,” at TAP. What a wonderful show. Beautifully acted. Poignant, powerful. Congrats Sean Quigley, director.

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Something Loved (13 reviews)

  1. The play Somethig Loved is well written and the choreography is out of this world. The acting is very professional and the skating is awesome.
    It is a must see, you will not be disappointed.
    I saw it yesterday and was very satisfied.
    I am a great fan of live playes, Gordon

  2. Loaded with emotion and a wonderful message wrapped in a talented young group of performers.

    Skating on stage? It was fantastic, a feast for the eyes. I don’t say this very often, but this is a DO NOT MISS show! London Fringe has done it again, bringing in fresh ideas and talented artists. Something Loved is something great.

    Go see this show!

  3. This performance opens with the story of a grandmother reluctantly being forced to downsize into a retirement “condo”. As her granddaughter helps her pack, montages of her earlier life are shown through the exquisite footwork of dancing skaters. Although the lead ins to the dance sequences were slightly confusing, the story is strong. A lovely story with surprising ending.

  4. Such a powerful show. I didn’t want the skating to end. Everyone gave 100% energy and you could feel the emotions of each character. Awesome job everyone!

  5. Beautiful. A few sound issues near the end, but it didn’t stop the tears. Wonderful story with two powerful actresses that made me believe every word and the skaters/dancers were hypnotic. To move like they did on such a small stage was so amazing to watch. I may go see it again this week. Bring tissues. 5 out of 5 stars!

  6. Lovely show! A very touching storyline enhanced by beautiful inline skating unlike anything you’ve seen before. A must see!

  7. I just saw this show on Sunday. Most of the above reviews are pretty spot on. I wished that I read them before coming to the show so that I would have been prepared with a box of tissues! The story is absolutely lovely, and very relateable seeing as everyone’s parents, and grandparents get older and face these choices. The skating was beautiful and highly entertaining. A very imaginative way to help tell the story. I highly recommend this show!

  8. I happened to catch the Sunday show. Warm and heartfelt story telling with a solid cast, and sublime inline dance choreography. Emotionally engaging with a light comedic touch, the writer does a good job of taking you onto a journey into the past/present of a family dynamic. Was rather surprised by this show, some nice talent…I highly recommend it.

  9. A great show….it will make you laugh and it will make you cry….and it will make you think. Great acting, wonderful singing and the skating is beauty and grace in motion. This was my first time at a Fringe show and it was definitely worth it. If you can only see one Fringe show, go see Something Loved…and then call your grandma if you still have one..

  10. GO SEE THIS SHOW and bring tissues! Glen Doyle’s writing is captivating and moving. Both heartfelt and beautifully delivered, this talented cast will undoubtably tug at your heartstrings. The impressive skating displayed by the skilled cast of skaters (choreographed by Roselle Doyle) is beautiful, entertaining and clever. 100% worth the drive from Toronto!!

  11. Wow! I was spellbound. This show is something special. Magic, I would say. There is a wonderful blend of tender exchanges between a grand mother and grand daughter, and amazing inline skating choreography. Such beauty! I knew from the start this was to be extraordinary. Silhouetted skaters, with flowing costumes, introduce this presentation with grace and beauty. The love between the two leads is palpable. Thank you so much for this joyous, show.

  12. What a lovely experience. The story telling was strong, the dancing was stunning, the warmth was real. I left wanting more! Congratulations to the cast and crew for pulling together an unforgettanke evening. I can’t wait to see more of your work!

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Splintered (2 reviews)

  1. A living “photograph” of departing steamship passengers is the inspiration for Breath in Mvmt’s newest performance, and the troupe uses it to great effect in an evolving series of vignettes. The first version of the voyage goes almost immediately and tragically wrong, leaving the stage strewn with the floating bodies of the drowned; from there, time rewinds and a different version of events is presented, and the theme-and-variations approach continues throughout.

    As always, Breath in Mvmt’s choreography ranges from fluid to almost brutal; they thrive on imperfection in both subtle and overt ways. “Splintered’ may be the most accessible work they’ve done in terms of story, and it’s another (small-t) titanic success.

  2. Breath in Movement never fails to evoke awe and emotion with every year they present at the Fringe. This being their 6th year, Splintered continues the trend with their evocative dance interpretation of fear and the unknown. Lighting and music was amazing. As usual, Breath In Movement gives a great show and it is a show that you should not miss.

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The ADHD Project (4 reviews)

  1. The ADHD Project is a wonderfully told story of Carlyn Rhamey’s life with ADHD. It’s a story that’s filled with warmth, humour, a touch of sadness, and hefty dose of uplifting messaging that combines to have you fall in love with the story and the storyteller alike.

    It’s hard not to like Rhamey. She’s vibrant, engaging, and fills the room with the force of her personality and joy. She punctuates many lines with a wonderfully expressive face and body language — which makes her moments of sadness and melancholy all the more jarring. Her story is crafted in such a way that we feel her highs and lows, and are not mere spectators, but partners in her quest to understand who she is, how her brain works, and where she fits in a society that’s all too quick to put people with ADHD in a box.

    Rhamey weaves multiple characters throughout her story. She talks about her relationship with her parents and siblings, impersonates bullies and “friends” whom she encounters along the way, and even takes a stab at replicating the French accent of her collegiate disability services councillor (though, to be fair, her “French” has a healthy dose of Tony Montana-era Pacino in it — and, to also be fair, she’s fully aware of her French “prowess.”)

    The story begins and centres around her Grade Three and Four years, where she’s transitioned out of the general class and into a “Spec Ed” program. She shares the good and the bad — the former being the individualized support she received; the latter being the isolation inflicted by a youth culture that’s quick to exclude — or worse — anyone that’s deemed different.

    She then proceeds through subsequent years — from discovering performing in later elementary school (complete with a Dopey-inspired epiphany — trust me on this one), to finding her way through high school and college. To eventually discovering her dual passions of theatre and supporting the educational needs of people with disabilities.

    In the end, Rhamey finds a way to reconcile the good and the bad of her neurodiversity, and provides wonderful encouragement for those either living with neurodiversity — or living with someone with neurodiversity. And whether you’ve had personal experience with it or not, it’s a story that at once opens the mind and touches the heart.

    ****

  2. Attention and distraction are generally taken for granted. The average person can focus while accepting that diversion is inevitable. But The ADHD Project’s main character is someone with a mental disorder where concentration and inattention are constantly in flux, turning tasks like paperwork or parking into desperate quests of frustration and hilarity.

    This one-woman show is a series of autobiographical anecdotes presented by Carlyn Rhamey who plays her stories for laughs while still presenting the aggravation of enduring them. Rhamey demonstrates astonishing skill as she babbles through her biography with a seemingly stream-of-consciousness style that’s always intelligible and lands every joke. Her timing is perfect even with a mental disorder that impedes timing; that’s how good she is! The script criss-crosses between time periods with crisp transitions that anchor the audience for each tale.

    Throughout the show, Rhamey presents her life as a lighthearted trainwreck. Losing a car is amusing instead of frantically terrifying. Humiliation is dismissed with a wisecrack. Being bullied is one bullet-point on a lengthy list of concerns. The constant sense of loss – losing time, losing opportunity, losing hope, losing possibilities – is omnipresent.

    While this one-woman show primarily depends on Rhamey’s voice and physicality, there are multimedia segments: family videos of her childhood are projected on a screen and shown with psychological assessments and reports on her educational accommodations. These brief additions are enlightening: the onstage Carlyn is a vivid, endearing creation, but the videos show a child either hyperactive or drained and the paperwork describe her through a lens of deficiency and impairment, adding darkness and hardship to the antics onstage.

    There are a few moments where Rhamey permits Carlyn to be in in genuine distress and she truly excels at presenting the panicked, agonizing terror of her brain and body feeling outmatched by the demands of the world around her.

    As Carlyn battles for her academic future and to prove her value as a human being, Rhamey presents a darker, almost despairing tone that adds tremendous dramatic weight and the most impressive aspect of The ADHD Project is how a contradictory mental disorder is presented with clarity and detail, providing an education while still being this specific person’s story.

  3. Living with ADHD is Fun (Sometimes)

    Storyteller Carlyn Rhamey shares her experiences with a personal assistant (her brain) that doesn’t process information in typical way. Her account of her life with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is no pity party, but a celebration of who she is with all of her foibles and self-compassion. Her awareness of the difficulties of living with ADHD helps us see that it is a different style of processing information in the brain rather than a disorder. Her story moves us as we identify with the lack of understanding she has encountered in her life. Last evening’s audience showed with their laughter and their tears that she is loved and admired for her spirited life and her ability to get up on the stage and speak about it with honesty and eloquence. A captivating story that shouldn’t be missed!

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The Awesome 80’s Prom (1 review)

  1. The Awesome 80s Prom — Radical? Tubular? Take Your Pick. This Prom’s a Blast.

    There are moments and shows where you say, “They get it. That’s Fringe.” Describing what’s “fringey” is hard to do — you just know it when you see it. The Awesome 80s prom fully embraces the Fringe ethos and delivers a show that makes the most of its story, cast, and event its venue.

    The Awesome 80s Prom, put on by London’s Original Kids Theatre Company, is a fully immersive experience — even before you enter the venue. The cast mingles with attendees in the line, fully in character. One big-haired, puffy dressed prom queen candidate angles for votes with the patrons. A convertable rolls by — guys and girls hooting at the crowd; upon its return, one football player spills out and immediately vomits on the ground.

    Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Wannaget High prom of 1989.

    One you enter the venue, St. Peter’s Cathedral Basillica’s auditorium, you’re greeted with a full-scale blast from the past. Huey Lewis & the News’ Back in Time emanates from the DJ stage, posters and photos adorn the walls, and a veritable menagerie of 80s stereotypes walk by and mingle around.

    The main setting of an old gymnasium is perfect. But that’s just the start. This is not your average production. Though the gym is the focal point, if you only stay there, you’re going to miss so much of the show. Cast members wander around and engage patrons in conversations, you’re encouraged to join in on the hijinks (a steady stream of men old enough to know better followed a couple of jocks into the washroom to give an old school ‘swirlie’ to the school nerd.)

    You can explore the students’ lockers, catch up on the clubs and activities on the posters, and — ultimately — vote for the Prom King and Queen.

    But that’s not all. This is a production that features:
    Copious dance numbers
    A break-up in the middle of the dance floor
    A few other breakups
    A few corresponding makeups
    Crimped hair
    Nerds
    Jocks
    A girl with dental headgear that’s co-ordinated with her dress
    “Heathers”
    A missing necklace
    Choreographed dodgeball (yes, choreographed dodgeball)
    A case of mistaken bear-dentity
    A Groucho Marx disguise
    Dance circles
    Dance battles
    Detention slips handed out for everything from “bad hair” to being “too underdressed”
    An awesome recorder version of Salt n Pepa’s Push it
    Purple Rain!!!
    Bubbles
    A slow-time battle
    And a killer soundtrack (especially for those of us of a certain vintage)f

    There are also the homages to classic 80s fare like Say Anything, Thriller, the Breakfast Club, Scooby Doo, and Ferris Bueller.

    The show is what you make it. You can interact as much or as little as possible. There’s so much to see and do that you can feel you’re missing out. And even if the ending can be predicted, that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. The process of getting there is just so much fun.

    The risk with shows like this is that they can be overly cheesy — or even hokey. These youth performers are to be admired for how much they’ve committed to their roles. They’re fully invested and fully engage with the crowd. There are so many opportunities to interact with the cast and they make each and every one feel natural.

    It’s long, I’ll admit it. There’s a bit of a lag three-quarters of the way through and the show could probably be tightened a bit. And, just like any real 80s prom, that gym gets a little stuffy and sweaty. But those are minor issues considering how enjoyable the total experience is.

    Whether you’re a child of the 80s or on either side of that demographic, this is a show you shouldn’t miss. It takes full advantage of its setting and is a fantastic representation of what Fringe is truly about.

    ****

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The Cardboard Countess (7 reviews)

  1. This is a wonderful show! Young actors tackling serious issues, but with so much humour too. I loved the outdoor location. Highly recommend!

  2. Erika Toraya *****

    Awesome- the concept, the writing, the acting. An excellent duo and a message to learn from. Creative, talented!

  3. What a cool location! With the actors around me, the message was really impactful (and sad). . Everyone…from the teens to the Countess to the adorable child were so good! I hope more locals come out to see this show, it is truly a unique experience.

  4. Love the show! Really felt a part of the action and I really felt as though she was speaking directly to me. I felt myself nodding lol and smiling. What a wonderful experience that I will treasure. All the actors did an excellent job from the speaking parts to the silent parts. Highly recommend this show!

  5. Due to unforeseen circumstances in which two reviewers were unable to attend two performances of “The Cardboard Countess”, TiL won’t have a review of the show until it returns for its Tuesday performance. My sincere apologies to the cast and company, with hopes that the reviews from audience members will encourage others in the meantime.

  6. “The Cardboard Countess” is sort of an environmentally-friendly version of ‘The Fisher King”, as told by “Fraggle Rock”‘s Marjory the Trash Heap crossed with Glinda the Good Witch. With its songs and audience interactions the story seems targeted at a younger audience, but the dialogue is laden with flowery obfuscations from one character and sailor-level cursing from the other; there’s even a brief flash of what might be attempted suicide. With the play’s setting in the Rotary Reading Garden outside the central library, the actors are at the mercy of traffic noise, the elements, and the sheer fact of being outdoors rather than on a stage, so dialogue is easily lost to an inopportune turn away from the audience or a passing cargo vehicle. There’s a worthwhile message or three in there, the primary one echoing other current shows like “Dog’s Misery Swamp” and “Luddite’s Rant”, but it takes some digging to get to them.

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This is Step One (4 reviews)

  1. I really, really wanted to like this show because Jess McAuley is such a gregarious personality on stage but when all is said and done, This Is Step One largely fell short in the crowded autobiography genre that seems to be dominating this year’s Fringe. My biggest frustration is the script seems marred by the “this happened and then this happened and then this happened” linear pathway that felt more like catching up with someone you haven’t seen in a while rather than a complex drama with depth equal to the performer’s ability. The show is unblinkingly honest and wanders into dense serious topics but rarely seems to slow down to actually engage with the gravity of the experiences or draw the audience into the world of the main character beyond the shock factor of the difficult stories shared. Similarly, the ‘cleaning’ motif, the use of AV and the all-too-common ‘love yourself’ culmination of the show all seemed tacked on rather than actually integrated into the story, which left them to awkwardly stand out rather than serve as the story scaffolding I believe they were intended to be. My favourite part, by far, was when the show did slow down (during the climax) to actually work through what was happening and reveal what was happening within the character as opposed to just retelling what was happening around her. More of this could really elevate this show’s story to the level the performer is able to deliver.

    Kudos to McAuley for bravely telling her story, but I think this one needs a bit more work before it’s ready for the big stage.

    2.5 / 5 stars

    1. I’m going to have to disagree with this review entirely. This is Step One did its job: she took the first steps in admitting a problem and opened up a discussion on rape culture and how we view women’s sexuality and police in punishment. In turn, McAuley punishes herself and turns to cleaning, which (as she says) creates a need to hide away and have a facade. 2.5 stars is extremely harsh. Please go see this show – it is topical, poignant and unapologetic. The “big stage”? Its Fringe. This is Festival is EXACTLY where she needs to be.

      Go get ‘em Jess. We’re cheering for you.

  2. I also will disagree with this review.

    This is Step One is not a show about “loving yourself”. Jess says it herself actually (not a spoiler!), “I don’t believe in that passive-aggressive, mantra-bullshit” (my favourite line because I also don’t believe in that either!); if ANYTHING she talks about forgiveness and closure… like, for real. She actually says THAT. This show is about learning to accept when we’ve been used and abused, and how to stay strong in the face of adversity – gaslighting is a prominent theme, and you can tell it has done a number on her perception of herself. So here are my thoughts:

    1) The cleaning motif could have been stronger, yes, but it’s interesting because Jess uses adjectives and allusions to cleaning that are subtle enough to catch. Again, could be stronger. So I will give the reviewer that.
    2) She DOES do, “and this happened”, but it was not repetitive, nor was it often. It’s a coming-of-age story. It can be linear because she’s going to the very back of her closet (which is her life to her early childhood… again, not a spoiler) and coming to her twenties. It’s a storytelling show. She’s obviously going to talk about WHAT’S HAPPENING RIGHT IN FRONT OF HER BECAUSE THESE ARE HER EXPERIENCES WITH ABUSE. Sorry. That is the point of storytelling – it ALL is happening, in reality, now. That’s what makes stories compelling… they’re entirely real, and the character facing them in that moment. Also, she starts out with the classic “Hi, I’m Jess – and I’m a [insert confession here]” just like she did at the showcase. Doesn’t it seem only appropriate to treat it like we’re sitting with her in her living room catching up on her life? She’s confessing and analyzing her past…
    3) You can feel empathy for her, and it made me think of my own daughter-in-law and how much she’s been through in her own life. I want to send so many women to see this show. Because that’s who this show is for: sexual abuse victims and people that don’t understand the full impact of rape culture.
    4) When she does slow down (as the reviewer mentioned, one point I will entirely agree with), it’s beautiful. There’s this moment of solidarity, and a breath of fresh air.
    5) Jess’ stories are quite jarring and not easy to digest. If you’re a survivor of abuse, you will relate. However, I noticed she gave trigger warnings. SMART and much appreciated. It’s bold and brave, and she should be getting more than a kudos. This woman has stepped forward, despite any consequences that could potentially come her way, she’s doing it. There are women that need this show – they need to hear that other women experience these things and that they are valid.

    Just like Nancy said, GO JESS GO!!!

    This show is important. It’s needed and it has a place at THIS festival, “the big stage”. And this review simply doesn’t do the show justice – because I sure as heck left feeling like I could kick down a locked and bolted door at Fort Knox BABY!!!

  3. Full disclosure: Jeff and I are super married BUT I still also disagree with his review. I think This Is Step One was a brutal and raw and vulnerable and vitally important #metoo story, and more than worth your time to go out and see. McAuley was winning, funny and honest…and obviously so, so brave. To each their own and such, but as far as I’m concerned, “go Jess go” indeed!

  4. When performer Jess McAuley steps onstage sharing tales of cheating between two boyfriends and other misadventures, she sets a tone of self-mocking goofiness. But as she delves into stories of prom and her encounters with men go from awkward to invasive, it becomes clear that under every lightweight joke is seething frustration and fury, slowly simmering until it comes to a boil.

    McAuley is a master of the single-person confessional format, walking through a child’s life experiences with an adult’s perspective and gradually revealing a common thread of abuse and sexual harassment woven through every troubled experience she shares. She finds exactly the right weight for each anecdote, initially assuring the audience that she’s laughing too only to indicate at the midpoint that the laughter is more a security blanket for herself than for others.

    The only shame is that the video clips and image projections often don’t seem as well timed as McAuley’s jokes. But her performance is effective, carefully transitioning from comedy antics of giving up university ambitions to stick with a lover to a two horrific nights with men who abused her trust, and the shift is so gradual it’s unclear when This is Step One shifted from comedy to comic trauma.

    There’s an impressive balance in the show where the audience is invited to be amused, and their laughter makes it easier to digest the more disturbing aspects of McAuley’s story. There is a frightening darkness at the core of all these recollections, held at bay in order to allow both performer and audience to function without ignoring injustice, cruelty and worse. And there is a quiet, steady resolve as This is Step One notes that recovering from the bad and the worst is not a large scale event but a series of incremental advancements.

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Tragedy + Time Served = Comedy (1 review)

  1. Straddling the line of autobiographic exposition and stand-up comedy, Time Served takes a long, hard look at one man’s life lived on the margins in Vancouver, British Columbia. Evocative and uncomfortable, this show competently charts a difficult path between dealing with serious questions (like addiction, social exclusion and cycles of violence) and biting social commentary. The content and delivery can be jarring at times, but I feel like that is the point — we’re supposed to feel uneasy and question not just how we would feel if placed in the protagonists shoes but the ways in which we are so accepting of simplified and marginalized the experiences of those moving in and out of the legal system in Canada.

    Funnier, harsher and honester (?) than an episode of Orange is the New Black, this play invites us to look into a world we like to pretend doesn’t exist and I would encourage everyone to grab a ticket and take a long, hard stare into the abyss.

    4 / 5 stars

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What YOUth Can Do

Wooster Sauce (1 review)

  1. The British are Coming in Wooster Sauce

    The world media has been going crazy over all things British, with the frenzy over the wedding of Meaghan and Harry, the popularity of the TV series Downton Abbey, and now Jeeves and Wooster at the Fringe! I can’t hold back my love of this show!

    Jeeves is a well-known character created by P.G. Wodehouse, in a series of stories skewering the British upper class written from 1915 to 1974. The script for “Wooster Sauce” has been adapted from these stories by John D. Huston and Kenneth Brown into a one-hour confection of wordplay and dry English humour. The consummate actor John D. Huston plays all of the roles in the one-hour play through variations in gestures, accents, and body language, using only one costume (okay, actually two) with a chair and a screen as the only props. Much of the show is dialogue and the accents and mannerisms of each character are beautifully crafted by Huston. His fine performance is matched only by the virtuosity of the writing, and the character of Jeeves has some of the greatest lines, such as advising Wooster: “You would not enjoy Nietzsche, sir. He is fundamentally unsound.”

    Such clever writing and consummate acting deserve a wide audience. You won’t want to miss this show.

    In the words of P.G. Wodehouse from Something Fresh: “As we grow older and realize more clearly the limitations of human happiness, we come to see that the only real and abiding pleasure in life is to give pleasure to other people.” John D. Huston in “Wooster Sauce” does just that.

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Workshop: Introduction to Argentine Tango with Pointe Tango (Para Dos)

Workshop: Paper-Made Bunraku with Lost & Found Puppet Co. (Beaver Dreams)

Workshop: Slapstick Comedy with A Little Bit Off (Bad Habits)