By: Tessa Perkins
The Vancouver Fringe is an opportunity for independent theatre to shine in all its unique glory. It’s also the place to find the best one-person dramatic monologues. There are silly shows, funny shows, and serious shows. There are shows about other dimensions, shows about practically nothing, and shows about mental illness, politics, and science. There really is something for every taste.
There are always a few shows with a reputation that precedes them when they arrive at the festival. This is partly due to Vancouver being the last stop on the Canadian Fringe circuit, and partly due to returning Fringe veterans who have gained a following in the city.
This year, one show with plenty of good pre-festival buzz is Roller Coaster by TJ Dawe. Dawe is a Jessie Richardson Award winner and Fringe veteran with numerous solo shows in his repertoire. He is a masterful storyteller who has performed in over 100 Fringe festivals. This year he brings a monologue about Trump, war, and the sad state of our world.
Another show with advance buzz is Katharine Ferns is in Stitches. Ferns is a Manchester-based comedian who makes her Canadian debut with a personal, darkly humorous tale of struggling through mental illness, domestic violence, and addiction. Laughter turns out to be pretty good medicine.
Other notable shows on my must-see list are Cry-Baby: The Musical, a teenage drama based on the John Waters film and Figmentally, billed as a circus comedy that looks as if “Charlie Chaplin stumbled into a Salvador Dalí painting.” Local comedy duo, Hip.Bang! are presenting Fin, which is sure to be a thought-provoking yet hilarious commentary on current affairs.
Aside from all the mainstage shows, the Fringe offers plenty of extra events. The new opening night party on September 7 is free and offers an opportunity to mingle with fellow Fringers while listening to live music, eating complimentary food and drinks, and planning your festival. Another free event is the live music series each night at the Fringe bar (Big Rock Brewery) including the Matinée, Rae Spoon, and Queer as Funk. The closing night party on September 17 will also include an awards ceremony.
The night before the festival, the Georgia Straight Fringe-for-All offers a perfect opportunity to sample 40 Fringe shows with two-minute snippets of each one.
Also presented during the festival is a series of new plays by female playwrights, Advance Theatre: New Works by Diverse Women. The partnership with Ruby Slippers Theatre and the Playwrights Guild of Canada features five diverse works that will be presented as dramatic readings. The Dramatic Works series at the Cultch offers a focus on playwrights of Asian descent this year, all of whom have been mentored by Sherry Yoon.
The fun continues after the festival with the Public Market Pick of the Fringe where the most popular Fringe shows will be held over, and the Pick Plus featuring hit shows from previous festivals. It’s time to get your Fringe on, get your tickets for the free opening night party, and check out some hidden theatre gems.
Georgia Straight Fringe-for-All: September 6 at Performance Works. $10.
Cry-Baby: The Musical: September 7, 9, 10, 11, 13, 16, 17 at Firehall Arts Centre. $14.
Katharine Ferns is in Stitches: September 7, 9, 10, 13, 16, 17 at Performance Works. $14.
Roller Coaster: September 8, 9, 10, 15, 16 at Firehall Arts Centre. $14.
Advance Theatre New Works by Women: Jumping Ship. September 11 at False Creek Gym. Pay what you can.
Advance Theatre New Works by Women: Go, No Go. September 12 at False Creek Gym. Pay what you can.
Advance Theatre New Works by Women: Hidden Memories. September 13 at False Creek Gym. Pay what you can.
Advance Theatre New Works by Women: Sex, Drugs & Age, The Last Taboo. September 14 at False Creek Gym. Pay what you can.
Advance Theatre New Works by Women: Happy Place. September 15 at False Creek Gym. Pay what you can.