Standing in line, waiting to get in to see the next play, it is a tradition to ask the people near you “Are you having a good fringe? What have you seen? ” And everyone has a recommendation that makes you want to add another play to the schedule, which becomes impossible if you want to eat or sleep.
The Winnipeg Fringe Festival offers 188 events, spread over 30 venues over a ten day period. I am here for a week of fringing with my sister. Jean is an experienced fringer, so we preordered tickets to 11 shows. I just went with her recommendations and we cut her long list of 30 down to 11 using a very sophisticated method. Either she had seen a show by the actor before or we liked the title.
The first method meant seeing two very different shows by a west coast performer, Mike Delamont, both of which were great. The Devil reveals that The Devil is really just a middle management guy in a cardigan. It was hilarious. (Apparently God is a Scottish drag queen, according to earlier Delamont plays.) Mama’s Boy is the story of a boy’s relationship with his alcoholic mother. It was funny, sad and very moving. It got the only standing ovation we have seen.
The second method took us to shows like “The Ladies Guide to Deceit and Debauchery”, “Dr Whom”, “Hotter than Potter” and “Roller Derby Saved my Soul”. We loved them all. Two are magic shows, with very talented performers. Carisa Hendrix the creator and performer of Ladies had us all in stitches from the first moment and amazed by her magic tricks to the end. Keith H Brown called his show Hotter than Potter after it was described that way in a review. But he warns you right away that Hogswart has no place in the show and neither does a sexy Harry! But some wonderful magic tricks and a charismatic performer.
Roller Derby Saved My Life was another one woman show performed by Nancy Kenny. There was roller skating and a great story about …you guessed!
Doctor Whom had a three person cast, supported by two audience menbers selected to play the Tardis and the Faithful Sidekick. Both audience members got into the spirit of things and added a lot to the show. It was done in improv format and was very funny. The ending was very topical, as the new Doctor was revealed as a woman.
Two other shows had more than one performer. Schrodinger’s Cat has been the weakest play so far this week. It gave me time to have a little nap and catch up on my sleep. The Canada Show was a quick review of 6000 years of Canadian History. Very funny and with a sharp first nations’ flavour.
Beers About Songs is hard to describe. It is a story told in songs, so opera comes to mind, except the songs are guitar ballads. The title suggests beer, but the story is actually about partner abuse. It was very powerful and very funny, a hard combination. Ryan Wells is also a member of Sound and Fury, who performed Doctor Whom.
Shakespeare Crackpot was a great lecture about the refusal of the academy to consider the evidence about who wrote Shakespeare’s plays. So it was a weird mixture of criticism of teaching and lots of information about the Bard. A great lecture, with lots of fascinating information: this could be a great Forum presentation.
Desdemona was a three woman play, looking at what went on in the women’s rooms while Othello and the boys were not there. Desdemona is not an innocent. She is a woman who wants to be free and see the world, but has to satisfy her desire for adventure by being a part time whore for Bianca. Bianca really just wants to get married to Michael Cassio and have babies. And Amelia is not the faithful maid, but a disappointed woman who would love to get rid of her husband. Different but fascinating and very well acted. Another Forum possibility.
The Winnipeg Fringe venues are close enough together that you can walk between them. Two major groupings are in the downtown Exchange District and at The Forks. This means there are restaurants and patios clustered near by, so can can spend time between shows relaxing in the sun on a patio. In the Exchange District a small park has been converted to an outdoor performance space, surrounded by an outstanding collection of food trucks. We saw an Australian Chinese Polish clown perform twice on the seventeen foot pole, held inplace by four volunteers from the audience. He used to be with Cirque du Soleil. Funny and amazing.
So the conclusion? We should try the Toronto Fringe next summer, if we can. Or consider another trip to Winnipeg. I doubt if Toronto will compare well, largely because the whole of Winnipeg seems to be involved. There is great media coverage and a host of 800 volunteers to keep things moving efficiently. In Toronto, we barely knew it was happening.
Below is a list of the shows we saw, performers and my rating on a five star scale.
The Devil – Mike Delamont – 4
Roller Derby Saved My Life – Nancy Kenny – 4
Schrodinger’s Cat – Dan Robertson et al – 3
Doctor Whom – Sound and Fury – 4
The Ladies Guide to Deceit and Debauchery – Carisa Hendrix – 5
Mama’s Boy – Mike Delamont – 5
Beers about Songs – Ryan Adam Wells – 5
Shakespeare Crackpot – Keir Cutler – 4
Desdemona – Paula Vogel – 4
Hotter Than Potter – Keith H Brown -4
The Canada Show – Ryan Gladstone and Bruce Horak – 4
Just to keep things complete, here is a list of shows we did not see, but wanted to after meeting the performers in line and listening to their sales pitches or listening to audience recommendations.
Tough – Erin Rodgers
Fruit Flies Like a Banana: World Tour – the Fourth Wall
Your Princess is in Another Tower – Was Babcock and Nancy Kenny
Josephine – Tod Kimbro
Roller Coaster – T J Dawe
Olive Copperbottom – Penny Ashton
The Honeymoon Period is Officially Over – Gemma Wilcox
6 Guitars – Chase Padgett and Jay Hopkins
Eastport – Laurie Duncan
Letters to West 113th – Jeff Newman and Hannah Rud