The Fringe Festival is on its 30th run this year, but I only discovered its majesty in 2013. Its small-sized venues provide just the right amount of intimacy at a show, offering both the prestigiousness and closeness that allows the performers to speak to the audience, and vice versa, a technique used extensively in the Fringe For All preview event.
Fringe For All is the event used to promote Fringe shows. It packed 40 show previews into a roughly two-hour time span, and each show was allowed two minutes to show off what makes it special.
The shows that immediately stood out to me were those that took a different look at storytelling and acting, or that had a unique quirk that set them apart. Of course, at Fringe, these qualities are pervasive. Take the terrifying, charming, Tim Burton-esque Aiden Flynn Lost His Brother So He Makes Another, for instance. This silent preview had Aiden Flynn (Morgan Murray) teaching his apparently zombied brother (Danielle Spilchen) how to walk one step at a time, leaving an air of mystique from the mix of childish love and logic that could make such a horrifying situation come to being.
The Greatest Monkey Show on Earth has a similar quirky effect. The name in itself suggests the cliched nature of such a show, but the preview wasn’t simply based around a tired monkey costume act. Ross Travis showed his strength of comedic timing, as he simply flipped between goofy acrobatics and screams to blank stares, yet had the crowd laughing harder than in any other preview.
Dr. Frightfeld presents “Dead Air” features a radio host (Grahame Kent) giving a radio performance while assuming the audience can’t see him. This gave room for the silent sound-effects creator (Robert Grier) to show the extent of his lackluster sound effects through the use of his voice and plastic keyboard, and the speaker to tell the audience to “turn off their radios right now!” and smoke like no one was watching.
Roller Derby Saved my Soul featured Amy (Nancy Kenny) explaining how to pick the perfect name for roller derby, with “the perfect mix of violence and sexuality,” like “human menstrual crisis,” or “Justin Cider,” the latter of which she made sure to explain explicitly, as she couldn’t understand it without “saying it really fast” a few times. The show promises to play with the audience’s comfort levels to get at its main themes of finding oneself and one’s sexuality, all through the eyes of the excited, charming Amy.
Of course, many traditional storytellers were there, whose shows are surely as captivating as their more quirky counterparts. The Dark Fantastic is dramatically reminiscent of, and at least as captivating as, Welcome to Nightvale. Paleoncology features the charming Kira Hall avoiding her family problems by obsessing over dinosaurs, and dressing up as one.
Also, I was surprised by how intriguing I found Verbal Diarrhea, Actual Diarrhea, Heartbreak, Disorder, considering the preview featured Gerard Harris telling the passionate, expressive dramatic monologue of Cher’s “Life After Love,” before he promised that it had nothing to do with the show.
Of course, not every play is going to conform to my personal tastes, but that’s one beauty of Fringe. There were many shows, for instance, whose frankness and honesty promise to tackle important issues tastefully. Meatfloaf Jesus, for instance, offers a mix of music by artist Meatloaf set against the backdrop of Christianity, passion, and finding one’s sexuality. Eating Pasta off the Floor featured one moment of Maria Affinito being embarrassed by her loud, insulting mother, that promises an intriguing narrative.
Want to be amazed? See Junk, a musical with instruments made from junk, or the juggling in Eye Candy. Want to be moved? See The Human Body Project, an unscripted show featuring Tasha Diamant talking about nudity and vulnerability, while being nude and vulnerable.
All the creativity and talent that is going into this year’s Fringe certainly can’t be summed-up quickly. Read the descriptions, see what stands out to you, and you’re certain to come away from a show with something more than what you went in with.
For more information,visit www.vancouverfringe.com.