In review: dramatic Fringe

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A round up of reviews from some of the dramatic offerings at the Vancouver Fringe Festival.

By: Tessa Perkins

First published in The Peak.

 

For Body and Light – 3 stars

Slow and pensive, this show was poetry in motion. The poetry and music of Ian Ferrier and choreography of Stéphanie Morin-Robert, Linnea Gwiazda, and Allison Burn, combined to create a vivid atmosphere full of maritime imagery. Like the ocean tides, these dancers moved fluidly below one large light hanging above centre stage, representing the moon.

The mesmerizing poetry came alive, yet left room for imagination and interpretation. The large light, maneuvered by a pulley, changed the tone of the space as it was moved to different heights and pulled to the side of the stage. Opening the show were a young musician and spoken word duo who were extremely talented and set the tone for the show. The show ended in a puddle of water as one of the dancers stood in rubber wellingtons filled to the brim. As she moved, the water spilled out around her.

 

 

Definition of Time – 4 stars

Iris Lau’s new work in a series exploring complexities of time further delves into the theme as her company incorporates elements of theatre into their work, addressing each other in gibberish and using props to illustrate various scenes.

I found this study of time fascinating as they question what defines time for each of us. Memories, emotions, and thoughts all punctuate time, and the way it manifests itself for each of us. My favourite scene was near the end of the performance as the dancers walked across stage one at a time in all kinds of shoes and left them scattered around the stage.

 

Anatolia Speaks – 3 stars

Anatolia is a Bosnian refugee who gives a presentation to her Canadian ESL class. It begins with the basics of her new life in Canada: where she works (Superstore), where she lives (a small apartment with no fridge), and why she loves Canada (freedom to shop at Superstore). As Anatolia answers her classmates’ questions, the story of her past and all the hardships she endured to come to Canada are revealed as the presentation takes a darker turn.

This one woman show was an emotional journey into Anatolia’s past as we pieced the bits of information together to learn about her struggles. Anatolia was captivating for the most part, but there were sections that felt a bit dry and I thought it could have used something more than a bland powerpoint presentation.

 

The Zoo Story – 5 stars

Part of the Dramatic Works Series at The Cultch, Edward Albee’s 1958 play is still extremely relevant today. A bench and a conversation between two strangers is all it takes to captivate the audience of this powerful piece of theatre. It’s a commentary on social alienation, class disparities, and the universal desire for human connection — all of which resonate very well in the 21st century.

Scott Button was wonderfully subtle as Peter, a wealthy man who likes to sit on a bench in Central Park and read a book. Along comes Tom Stevens as Jerry, a working class guy who inquires which direction is north. Jerry sticks around and gradually their conversation grows as they move on to more personal matters and we learn about each of their lives. Stevens impressed me with his portrayal of this character who seems on the edge of insanity, yet is so sympathetic.

 

Macbeth – 4 stars

Set in the Dunsinane Institute for the Criminally Insane, this adaptation is also part of The Cultch’s Dramatic Works Series. Macbeth is already full of dark themes, but this production takes them even further. The murderous tendencies of Macbeth (Nicolas Taggart) and his wife are paralleled with their lust and the three witches seem to be part human, part animal. The sparse stage and black costuming adds to the grim atmosphere of the piece. Lady Macbeth (Hannah Rose Brearley) in her blood red dress and matching hair is the embodiment of their murderous rage, and although Macbeth attempts to sway her mind, he is drawn into her evil plan.

To create a feeling of being in an institute for the insane, whispered voices would sometimes play, even while actors were speaking. I found this to be quite distracting at times, and I would have liked less of it. I enjoyed this new version of such a familiar story, and I think that after a few more performances it will be even more polished and striking.

 

Versus – 3 stars

What if you were trying to write a play and then it all of a sudden started writing itself? Writer Andrea Yu toys with this idea in Versus as Andrea (Evelyn Chew) touches a forbidden Chinese figurine that begins to work its black magic and her writing begins to take place in real life.

Andrea’s friend, Pandora (Pandora Morgan) is caught up in this creative writing exercise and ends up being turned into a zombie and things get very strange. The first few scenes of this play were intriguing, but I had the impression that the story was going to take a very different direction. When Pandora became a zombie, it felt like there was some genre mixing going on, and while she was a very convincing zombie, I don’t know if it was the most effective direction for the plot.

That being said the actors in the show were able to bring this story to life without taking themselves too seriously and Chew was able to let out a few cathartic screams at family members as it seemed the black magic was affecting her too.

 

Junk – 4 stars

Who knew that junkyard scraps could be turned into such beautiful, creative instruments. Paul Snider’s labour of love is a musical about trash, but it’s also a musical about treasures. With themes of sustainability and looking out for future generations running through the songs, I loved the message he is trying to spread with this show.

The music was also impressive with instruments like the recycolin (violin made from a baseball bat and papier mache), xyladder (xylophone built from wood scraps into the shape of a ladder), and trash set (a drum set made from all kinds of trash). The oil drum tampini and various PVC tubing organ reminded me of Blue Man Group’s innovative use of sound.

I enjoyed the extremely creative instruments and there were great songs like “Pieces of Somebody’s Life” that had strong lyrics and an important message, but I felt that the show was missing a narrative and developed characters to guide us through. As a series of songs played on these very cool instruments, it was an entertaining evening, but I think it could be developed further.

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