Fringe Festival offers something for everyone

Black Press staff offer their annual take on a sampling of shows from the 2011 theatre festival

Trent Baumann as The Birdmann offers up a kind of anti-comedy act disguised as a standup routine for his entry in the Victoria Fringe Festival. Find him flying around at St. Andrew's school gym on Pandora Avenue this week.

One Man’s Trash

From a pun-tastic professional stand-up comedian in a too-short tie to an obnoxious 16-year-old girl, Andrew Barber’s live characters prove he’s more than just an Internet sensation.

Barber, star of the Boston Fan in Vancouver YouTube series, assumed four characters over the hour-long, one-man show, each cooly evoking raucous of laughter from the audience.

Between sets, those not acquainted with Barber had a chance to sample some of his viral videos, notably Fantasticat!, a bizarre and hilarious peek inside the doors of a cat show, hosted by his lounge singer character Philippe-John Braynard.

Fans of Barber’s videos should definitely check this out, as should anyone looking for a solid hour of laughs and a new means of procrastinating online.

***1/2 (out of five)

Remaining showtimes: Sat. Sept. 3, 5:45 p.m.; Sun. Sept. 4, 4:30 p.m.

Venue: Victoria Event Centre, 1415 Broad St.

– Natalie North

 

Little Orange Man

The first thing you need to know is you’re not a Fringe show audience. You’re a willing participant in a 12-year-old’s experiment, so prepare to get involved.

Local theatre darling Ingrid Hansen takes the solo role as Kitt, a fast-talking misfit with attention deficit disorder who needs your help – if only she could stay on track long enough to tell you what to do.

After reeling off folk tales, fun facts and a couple songs for good measure, Kitt has an important undertaking you must help her with. Don’t think sitting in the back will keep you from becoming part of the show.

****

Remaining showtimes: Thurs. Sept. 1, 8:15 p.m.; Sat. Sept. 3, 6:45 p.m.; Sun. Sept. 4, 8:45 p.m.

Venue: St. Andrew’s School Gym, 1002 Pandora St.

– Sam Van Schie

 

Tara Firm and the Lunar War Chronicles

This locally produced steampunk piece grabbed audience members from the moment the antique newsreel started rolling, offering a tale reminiscent of the old Flash Gordon adventure serials.

As pilots fighting the Great Lunar War against moon-based warriors threatening the well-being of Earth, the five-member cast believably takes one back to 1918, with funky space pilot outfits, custom gadgets and old-school naivete.

The action scenes, with Christina Patterson as the sexy and heroic Tara Firm at the centre, were executed in the hoky, yet fun way one might see in an old-time B movie.

Charles Ross is superb doubling as the story’s Brit co-narrator, along with smart-talking Rod Peter Jr. of Atomic Vaudeville. The pair’s witty historical interjections helped bridge the sometimes confusing story line.

Overall the performances overcame any slight bogging down of the script and kept one watching, waiting for the next surprise.

***1/2 stars

Remaining showtimes: Tues. Aug. 30, 10:15 p.m.

Venue: Metro Studio, 1411 Quadra St.

– Don Descoteau

 

Giant Invisible Robot

Jayson McDonald is a consummate entertainer.

Apart from the fact this is a wonderfully written, thoroughly engaging one-man show, McDonald is a sight to see transitioning from one character to the next to tell the tale of a young man and his giant invisible robot.

Robot is a repeat performance for McDonald at Victoria Fringe – he brought the show here a couple years back and won Best Male Performer and an Innovation Award for it. And it’s clear to see why.

The show is fast-paced, witty and impressive. McDonald carries the show so well it’s easy to forget that you’re watching a live show, rather than a taped performance.

This return engagement is definitely not one to miss.

****1/2

Remaining showtimes: Fri. Sept. 2, 9:45 p.m.; Sat. Sept. 3, 8:30 p.m.; Sun. Sept 4, 2 p.m.

Venue: St. Andrew’s School Gymnasium (1002 Pandora Ave.)

– Kyle Slavin

 

SmartArse

It’s been somewhere between 20 to 30 years since wee Rob Gee terrorized grade school – or it terrorized him.

Gee’s Fringe entry offers a spotlight confessional of how school and family in Leicester, England tried to shape him for the rest of life, and how he couldn’t be shaped.

Using his family and attention deficit disorder as a backdrop, Gee comes off as a poet, tender and brash, with a storyteller’s insight and a comedian’s finish.

He cooks simple life stories into an oven-fresh roll with a buttery finish, the majority of them steaming, but not without a couple of soft spots to spit out along the way.

***1/2

Remaining showtimes: Wed. Aug. 31, 8:15 p.m.; Thurs. Sept. 1, 9:30 p.m.; Sat. Sept. 3, 4:45 p.m.; Sun. Sept. 4, 7:45 p.m.

Venue: St. Ann’s Academy Auditorium, 835 Humboldt St.

– Travis Paterson

 

The Sparrow and the Mouse – Creating the Songs of Edith Piaf

This historical account of the legendary French singer is told by her half-sister and loyal sidekick, Simone.

The one-woman production, starring St. Albert, Alta.’s Melanie Gall, is told in both English and French, but it’s the language of music which bridges the gap. Gall, a classically trained soprano, might possibly be a better singer than Piaf herself, and her phenomenal voice seemed like it would blow the roof off the St. Ann’s auditorium at times.

Though many of the songs in the show are in French, the combination of Gall’s narration and her excellent acting ability allow their meaning to shine through. The only disappointment in this play is how abruptly it ends.

Piaf’s story – one of street performers, brothels and Parisian cafes – feels somewhat unfinished.

****

Remaining showtimes: Thurs. Sept. 1, 7:45 p.m.; Sat. Sept. 3, 1:15 p.m.; Sun. Sept. 4, 12:15 p.m.

Venue: St. Ann’s Auditorium, 835 Humboldt St.

– Ryan Flaherty

 

BFA: The Musical!

Everything about BFA hits close to home. The actors are local, the musicians are local and the story is set in Victoria. It even goes so far as to make nods to such local outfits as the Victoria Shakespeare Society, Fort Street Cafe and Fringe Fest, itself.

Chronicling the lives of five UVic BFA – Bachelor of… Fine Arts (arguably) – grads, this funny musical presents the somewhat harsh realities that face students who choose passion over profession.

Featuring music and lyrics from such local talents as Steph MacPherson, Sunday Buckets, Chris Ho and Immaculate Machine, the story and music complement each other quite well.

Produced and story edited by Saanich News reporter Natalie North – BFA is an engaging production that’s entirely homegrown and entirely entertaining.

***1/2

Remaining showtimes: Tues. Aug. 30, 5:45 p.m.; Fri. Sept. 2, 7:30 p.m; Sat. Sept. 3, 5:30 p.m.

Venue: Langham Court Theatre, 805 Langham Ct.

– Kyle Slavin

 

The Birdmann

Who is The Birdmann? I can tell you this: He’s definitely somebody I’d like to be at a party with.

With his tailcoat and gravity-defying hair style, Aussie Trent Baumann didn’t come around the world to do nothing on the stage, as much as he may try to convince you this is the case.

His anti-comedy act uses the format of a standup routine while at the same time makes fun of the medium. It has all the necessary one-liners and gags to entertain (or distract) the audience throughout the 50-minute show. You’ll leave scratching your head and wondering what just happened after meeting this wonderfully strange fellow, who may or may not have been making fun of you the whole time.

***1/2

Remaining showtimes: Thursday Sept. 1, 6:30 p.m.; Sunday Sept. 4, 3:45 p.m.

Venue: St. Andrew’s School Gym, 1002 Pandora Ave.

– Sam Van Schie

 

ShLong Form Improv

This piece isn’t what it appears to be. No lewd jokes on the title. No guest performers from the Victoria Fringe, as it advertises in their program blurb. And sadly, the show was without many laughs.

At least that’s how it was during a quiet third performance of the six-show run. The group began their act by bounding on stage, full of energy and handstands, but the fun soon fizzled when their combination of short- and long-form improv games yielded little more excitement than a haughty British accent and a round of human props. OK, a darned good Barrack Obama impersonation may have made an appearance as well.

The charming group – who deserve kudos for keeping the set clean – came all the way from Seoul for the Victoria Fringe, reason enough for true lovers of improv to go check them out. But for those of you who happen to miss out: don’t panic, it’s nothing you haven’t seen before.

**1/2

Remaining showtimes: Fri. Sept. 2, 8:30 p.m., Sun. Sept. 4, 6:15 p.m.

Venue: Victoria Event Centre, 1415 Broad St.

– Natalie North

 

The Donnelly Sideshow

Jeff Culbert gives a grand performance as an all-grown-up John O’Connor, the boy who hid under the bed during the Donnelly family massacre in Southern Ontario in 1880.

With his hint of Irish-Canadian lilt, Culbert as O’Connor colourfully lays out the background of the times, verbally sketching the personalities involved and interweaving them together with a combination of narrative and shanty tunes.

The story comes to its thrilling crescendo as O’Connor offers up intimate details of the night five members of the notorious Irish family were killed in cold blood, how he escaped the massacre with his life and the awful memories he carries today.

Part history lesson, part musical tribute to those who lived and died, this one-man show is ideal for a history buff or anyone who likes to hear an entertaining storyteller.

****

Remaining showtimes: Fri. Sept. 2, 7:45 p.m.; Sat. Sept. 3, 1:30 p.m.; Sun. Sept. 4, 3:45 p.m.

Venue: Canadian College of Performing Arts, 1701 Elgin St. (Oak Bay)

– Don Descoteau

 

Zack Adams: Love Songs for Future Girl

What happens when the girl you thought was the one says those four magical words: “We need to talk?”

Go back through the list of every girl you’ve ever liked and see if any is interested in a date, of course.

Love songs, apology songs and apricot songs, sung by an Australian nerd in skinny jeans get the audience tapping their toes, giggling and chiming in with a well-orchestrated boom-cha (during said apricot song).

Zack Adams knows how to tickle the funny bone of heartbreak with funny stories set to little ditties on his acoustic – with the odd Beyoncé-esque dance move thrown in.

A slow-ish start gives way to a fully entertaining show that’s never gut-busting, but has the audience laughing to jokes more suited to a younger audience, or the young at heart.

***1/2

Remaining showtimes: Fri. Sept. 2, 6 p.m.; Sat. Sept. 3, 3 p.m.; Sun. Sept. 4, 6 p.m.

Venue: St. Ann’s Academy auditorium, 835 Humboldt St.

– Erin Cardone

 

An Inconvenient Truthiness

What is the nature of comedy? What is the essence of fandom?

These are the two big questions asked in this multimedia exploration of one woman’s love of laughter and her obsession with TV talk show host Jon Stewart.

Winnipeg-based entertainment journalist Sharilyn Johnson chose her first-ever Fringe tour to share her autobiographical account of how she fell in love with the concept of comedy – the notion that some people make a career out of giving others joy – and subsequently Stewart, long before he hosted The Daily Show, Comedy Central’s wildly popular fake newscast.

Because Johnson’s story is true, it resonates with the audience, though it’s clear that she’s a writer first and a performer second.

It’s a funny and at times poignant story, but could have been more impactful in the hands of a more seasoned performer.

***

Remaining showtimes: Fri. Sept. 2, 7:45 p.m.; Sat. Sept. 3, 5:45 p.m.; Sun. Sept. 4, 1 p.m.

Venue: Wood Hall, Victoria Conservatory of Music, 907 Pandora St.

– Ryan Flaherty

Full schedule information can be found in the Fringe Festival guide, available at retailers around downtown Victoria, or online at www.victoriafringe.com.

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