Two Cents & Two Pence is thrilled to support the artists of the Vancouver Fringe 2018. Please check back regularly during the Fringe as we will be updating daily and on our Facebook page here.
1. Rabbit Hole (Vancity Culture Lab)
2. Poly Queer Love Ballad (Revue Stage)
3. Ruby Rocket Returns! (Waterfront Theatre)
4. Inside Voices (Firehall Arts Centre)
5. Is That How Clowns Have Sex? (Your Open Closet)
6. Hysteria (The Cultch Historic Theatre)
7. Awkward Hug (The Cultch Historic Theatre)
8. TravelTheatrics (Havana Theatre)
9. Jasper in Deadland (Firehall Arts Centre)
10. The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant (Vancity Culture Lab)
11. Miyoshi: An RCMP Interrogation (Havana Theatre)
12. Precious Little (Vancity Culture Lab)
13. Dear Elizabeth (Vancity Culture Lab)
14. My Imagination Ran Away Without Me (Waterfront Theatre)
15. Magical Mystery Detour (Studio 1398)
16. Unscriptured (Carousel Theatre)
17. Rocko and Nakota: Tales From the Land (Waterfront Theatre)
18. Baba Yaga and the Black Flower (False Creek Gym)
19. Flute Loops (The Cultch Historic Theatre)
20. Angels and Aliens (Studio 1398)
21. The ADHD Project (False Creek Gym)
22. FIX (Railspur Alley)
23. The Cockwhisperer... A Love Story (False Creek Gym)
1. Rabbit Hole
Vancity Culture Lab (Dramatic Works Series)
Rabbit Hole, by David Lindsay-Abaire is a difficult, beautiful play. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2007, it’s a realistic portrayal of a family grieving the unimaginable. Be warned, if you are a parent, it feeds into one’s worst fears.
Director Nicky Anderton has assembled a fine cast. Leslie Brownlee as Izzy seems a caricature at first but as the dynamic shifts she gives us plenty of nuance. Lori Watt as Becca fights to keep her walls up which contrasts nicely with Chris Nowland’s almost-too-casual performance as Howie. Sometimes I wished they would go deeper, but I appreciated how delicately the drama unfolded, never feeling overwrought. The role of Jason is a tough one for a young actor, but Braden Lock handles it skillfully with just the right amount of vulnerability, a dam always threatening to burst.
I will say I found the food a bit distracting. Eating on stage is a pet peeve of mine. It never seems to come across the way it needs to, and it occasionally took me out of it. I understand that Becca uses baking to channel her grief, but it seems unfair of the playwright to impose this on actors who are simply trying to tell a story.
But the play isn’t about food, it’s about a family trying to maintain normalcy in the face of tragedy. We yearn for them to break through and process, and the conclusion is as satisfying as it can be. The most devastating moments are subtle ones - it’s in the stillness that we feel the absence of the playful child. It’s a bit long for a Fringe play - too many scene changes break the flow a bit, especially having the actors sit in the “blackouts” - but it’s still worth the trek out to East Van to see capable local actors tackling a modern American classic.
2. Poly Queer Love Ballad
Sara Vickruck & Anais West
Poly Queer Love Ballad is a fusion of art forms - it’s a play made up mostly of folky-pop music (courtesy of Sara Vickruck) and slam poetry (from Anaïs West). It’s everything you could possibly want in a Fringe show. Bracingly intimate without feeling voyeuristic, West and Vickruck perfectly capture that universally relatable rush of new love and the eventual comedown.
Under Julie McIsaac’s expert direction, the two women weave in and out, and seamlessly blend their poetry and music to creating something new, unique and exciting. The use of live looping is technically quite impressive, as is the integration of pre-recorded and live music. The show still exists firmly in world of musical theatre - these characters live in a heightened reality, using music and poetry when mere words will not suffice - but there is a refreshing sensibility and hyper-awareness in the way they interact.
It’s a joy to see “non-traditional” relationships portrayed so openly and honestly in a musical, as well as re-defining what is possible within the genre. It’s funny, intelligent and sexy. Get your tickets now before you miss out.
3. Ruby Rocket Returns!
Portland’s Stacey Hallal joins Vancouver Fringe in Ruby Rocket Returns,a fun show with a provocative alcoholic female character. Hallal leads the audience and three guest actors in a tale that involves prompts from the spectators and much hilarity from the cast. Hallal plays Ruby Rocket, the Private Investigator in this film noir inspired 1930s detective tale, while the guest actors play several supporting characters. This leads to countless jokes and references about the actors’ multiple roles.
Technically, the show is flawless and the lighting is a key part of the show. The screen in the background shows a black and white video of the action happening on stage which reinforces the film noir motif. The show itself changes from Hallal standing in a spotlight and telling the audience the story, to her interacting with other characters on a fully lit stage. As it is primarily improv, there are no programmed lighting cues. The lighting tech knows from Hallal moving to specific spots on stage that it’s time for her to address the audience in her spotlight.
As will happen with improv, there were some slightly awkward moments as some storylines weren’t quite followed through, but Hallal keeps the story moving. She and the guest actors do an excellent job of going with whatever they are thrown. It’s a show that deserves consideration as you’re organizing your fringe schedule. The beauty of this show is that the story I saw, while having the same basic structure, could be entirely different than the one that you see.
4. Inside Voices: A Musical in the Key of P
Jennifer Pielak and Peter Abando
Firehall Arts Centre
A stream-of-consciousness show created by two performers and a piano is an alarming proposition. Jennifer Pielak and Peter Abando pull off this tightrope walk of a show with impressive skill and warmth. As soon as they enter the stage, we start to hear Jennifer say and sing what she is thinking and feeling, and Peter create a musical soundscape through the piano. It’s incredible to watch her incorporate details around her, like noticing an audience member she recognizes, into her description of what is happening in the moment. I was particularly impressed by watching Jennifer express her inner debates through multiple characters, each with a distinct voice and physical presence. Peter’s contribution was often less obvious, but he prodded her and contributed to the story in unexpected, interesting ways. His music walked an impressive line between familiar styles and forms, without being cliche. The clear, comfortable communication between these two performers kept the audience members engaged and interested. This is not a traditional, easy-to-digest musical, but if you’re up for the adventure, you’ll find it very rewarding!
5. Is That How Clowns Have Sex? A One-Woman Queer Clown Sex-Ed Show
Your Open Closet
The show’s title tells you almost all you need to know! If you want to be charmed by a talented, knowledgeable clown talking about sex-ed, this is the show for you. Ms Beatrice Haven leads her class with a great mix of silliness and useful facts, answering questions from her ‘students’/audience. I really appreciated how inclusive the talk was, moving past old-fashioned notions of biological parts being attached to gender. There were so many liberating moments when we could laugh about the ridiculous taboos around sex. Seize your chance to learn from a clown Sexpert!
(Fiona Ross, the educator behind the red nose, also made herself available to talk in a more serious way about sexual health after the performance. Your Open Closet, the store where ‘class’ is held, is a perfect match, and the partnership with Womyn’s Ware makes a lot of sense too. These thoughtful details really impressed.)
Direct Theatre Collective
The Cultch Historic Theatre
Hysteria is a powerful show, dealing with consent, rape, and women’s rights. Using songs, videos, scenes, dancing, and jokes, the five women approach their theme from many angles. The main storyline that emerges from the mix explores how consent could be dealt with by a fictional app, to make life ‘easier’. Jill Raymond’s writing and Eleanor Felton’s direction raise many important questions, but give the audience very few tidy answers.
Some of the strongest parts involve turning familiar situations on their heads, like new lyrics to familiar songs, or stereotypical princesses confronted by horrible dating-app ‘pick-up lines’. All five performers shared fictional stories and their own experiences with bravery, wit, and vulnerability. You need to be a little bit brave to take on the emotional weight of this show, but you will richer for spending time with the women of Hysteria.
7. Awkward Hug
The Cultch Historic Theatre
Cory Thibert is a strong, confident storyteller, who has clearly put in the work to polish his coming-of-age story. He mixes silly and tender moments deftly, and has great physicality. It was easy to appreciate how vulnerable he was; telling about his own missteps and his loved ones’ foibles with compassion and clarity. Without giving too much away, this family has an important story to share, and it’s well told.
Despite all the ingredients being there, I didn’t personally connect to the experience. Other audience members around me certainly did, and you could, too! Maybe it felt too polished? Maybe I needed a snack? No matter what my hang-up was, Awkward Hug is a high-quality show, and you should go see Cory Thibert for yourself.
Standing Room Only Theatre
Keara Barnes has outdone herself with TravelTheatrics, a passionate and playful epic poem detailing scenes from her globe-trotting adventures. Her stories range from funny, to bone-chilling, to sweet and to sobering. She whips between characters with skill and clarity, sometimes playing up to five of them in one scene. I especially enjoyed the drive down Shelborne Street in her Victoria story, the midnight swim in Malaysia, and the morning farm scenes in Ireland.
Barnes clearly has deep respect for other cultures and recognizes the value in experiencing them as best she can - by breaking out of her shell, she has a better understanding of the world. She has used her travels and her many interactions as fuel to inform her acting - it shows in her every gesture, inflection and breath.
Like a great vacation, I never wanted the show to end. Barnes is as astonishing a solo performer as they come, and her zest for life is contagious. She’ll transport you on a rollicking ride across continents without ever leaving the theatre.
9. Jasper in Deadland
Awkward Stage Productions
Firehall Arts Centre
Jasper in Deadland is a modern retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice story. From rough family lives to friends-or-dating uncertainties, Jasper and Agnes are given an update, but the adventure and love story remain. I particularly appreciated how one lover wasn’t given all the action and responsibility in this version of the story. Furthering the more progressive angle, director Erika Babins got permission to cast a woman as Jasper, so this is a chance to see an entirely new version of a new musical.
The onstage talent is very strong and they’re put to good use, taking turns as famous gods, dead souls, and part of rivers or machines. Whether singing or dancing, silly or earnest, these performers are clear, confident, and engaging.
My only concern was sound balance, as it wasn’t easy to understand some of the song lyrics early in the show. This tended to get better as the show went on, so it might be a solved entirely later in the run. Even if it can’t be, there are so many strengths in this show that it will be worth your time, no matter what. Jasper in Deadland is a real pleasure.
10. The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant
Midtwenties Theatre Society
Vancity Culture Lab (Dramatic Works Series)
Midtwenties Theatre Society’s production of The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kantis a show that will make you laugh and at times shed a tear or two. Adapted for the stage from German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1972 movie, this production is worthy of the renowned auteur’s work. It’s the story of Petra Von Kant, Nadya Debogorski, who becomes enamored of a young woman named Karin Thimm. She decides to give Karin’s life direction by encouraging her to pursue a career in modeling. This only leads to her own bitter tears as she discovers Karin’s true unfeeling character.
Fassbinder’s script is poetic and wordy and the actors do an excellent job of firing off the dialogue. Debogorski talks a mile a minute, but still draws her audience in as Petra Von Kant goes through her ups and downs. Her performance as Petra is riveting and makes it impossible for the audience to look away. Santana Berryman plays Marlena. Although she does not speak a word, she keeps her audience’s attention with little looks that show her devotion to Petra despite the verbal abuse she receives. All the actors play their parts well and do the script justice.
The technical aspects of the play are also excellent. The sound is especially impressive as the music coming from the record player moves to the stage speakers and back again without missing a bar. The music is well chosen and fills the scene changes as the actors move around props and costumes while still in character, as if the scene changes are also a part of the play.
The audience’s response was extremely favorable as they gave the show a standing ovation. So if you’re looking for somewhat of a more traditional theatre experience to add to your fringe roster, definitely give The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant a try.
11. Miyoshi: An RCMP Interrogation
Miyoshi: An RCMP Interrogation offers little in the way of answers. Technically, it isn't a play - it’s a live re-enactment of an actual interrogation. Two RCMP officers (played by Rodney DeCroo and Cheryl Mullen) interrogate Jimmy Miyoshi (Kai Bradbury), hoping they can get him to co-operate as a witness in the trial of his two friends, Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay, who are accused of murdering Rafay’s parents and sister.
It’s a frustrating ordeal. It is “dramatized” as much as it can be, but there are still some odd choices. Bradbury’s monologues are delivered as he stands in a pool of light, and addresses us directly, honestly, which is strong and effective. However, when DeCroo breaks the fourth wall, it is without a lighting change and feels too heavy-handed. Proselytizing doesn’t work here. I appreciate the passion about what’s at stake, but it took me out of scene.
There’s good work being done, particularly from Bradbury, and the dynamic between the three actors is at times electric. I just got lost in all the plot stands - for someone without a lot of detail or knowledge of the case, it can get fairly confusing. There is dramatic tension, but it’s repetitive and it doesn’t really lead anywhere. Clearly, these RCMP officers were bullies, using immoral tactics and harassment to glean information. Does it prove the innocence of Burns and Rafay? This seems like one piece of a bigger puzzle. As such it’s unsatisfying and doesn’t quite work as a piece of theatre.
12. Precious Little
star star theatre
Vancity Culture Lab (Dramatic Works Series)
Precious Little is daring and provocative in a quiet, thoughtful way. It concerns Brodie, a pregnant lesbian in her early forties, who is faced with a decision that is more difficult than she anticipated.
The magic of this play comes chiefly from two elements - first, the incredible sound design work of Zoë Wessler. It’s immersive, but not overwhelming. Second, is the understated brilliance of Thérèse Champagne. She plays various roles, but her performances as Cleva and the Ape are transcendent. Her physicality, her demeanour, her compassion and generosity as a performer are worth the price of admission ten times over.
Not all of works. The character of Brodie is not exceptionally likeable. As played by Sara Andrina Brown, she’s cold and brutally straightforward. Her surface eventually cracks when faced with a devastating choice, and it’s in that place where she shines. Elizabeth Holliday is a delightful performer, playing a number of characters with bubbly energy, but they lacked distinction. Brown and Holliday don’t have great chemistry as lovers, though in other scenes they felt much more connected.
The set is by Jared Raschke cleverly designed to served multiple functions. Director Mika Laulainen’s clear vision has done a great service to Madeleine George’s intelligent script. As I said, it’s not perfect, but there are enough perfect moments to make it unmissable.
13. Dear Elizabeth
Vancity Culture Lab (Dramatic Works Series)
I think I appreciated Dear Elizabeth more than I actually enjoyed it. It’s exquisitely designed - from Sandy Margaret’s set and props to Harika Xu’s projections to everything else in between. It’s elegant performed, too. Anthony Santiago (playing Robert Lowell) and Alexis Kellum-Creer (as Elizabeth Bishop) are charming performers and radiate warmth for each other. Shelby Bushell’s direction is clear and inventive, but they are all working with a flat script. It’s an original concept, but maybe there’s a reason there aren’t many epistolary plays. It’s basically just a reading of historical letters and occasional poetry (well-written in and of themselves).
These characters are witty and clever - it would be so much more interesting to have them engage with each other more directly. I understand it is meant to reflect Bishop's feelings of isolation, but I still craved more connection between them. The play covers a lot of ground (30 years of correspondence) and as such it feels long at 80 minutes. I’m sorry to say it wasn’t for me, but if you’re an introspective viewer with a liking for mid-20th century poetry, I would suggest you check it out. It’s definitely one the Fringe’s more sophisticated offerings this year.
14. My Imagination Ran Away Without Me
My Imagination Ran Away Without Me
The show My Imagination Ran Away Without Me is more of an acrobatic spectacle than it is a play. It does have a general story about a young man’s struggle with procrastination and various distractions. You’ll see beloved characters such as Mario and Naruto take part in his day dreams as he tries to make it through life.
The visuals are well done with scenes from video games and anime playing in the background, making the audience feel more like they are in the fantasy. However, the blackouts are unnecessarily long as the audience and performers alike wait for the lights to come up.
At times the performers are a bit too quiet and it’s difficult to hear, even if one is sitting close to the front. Luckily, the dialogue is not the main focus of this show as it is centred on the acrobatics. The beginning is a bit slow but as it progresses the poses get more complex and more interesting.
For the most part the acrobatics are quite spectacular and the performers attempt some very difficult poses. They set these up very carefully, unfortunately because of their caution much of the fluidity is lost. The final pose, which looked extremely difficult, collapsed on the first attempt. The performers, however, picked themselves up and were successful the second time. So although this show has its flaws, the performers try their hardest and it’s worth checking out.
- Ash Tisdale
15. Magical Mystery Detour
Gemma Wilcox's one woman act is a true spectacle. Magical Mystery Detour is a multi-character physical performance telling the story of Sandra at a defining chapter in her life. The 60-minute whirlwind tour of talent paints a picture of Sandra's emotional journey and the colourful cast she meets along the way.
Wilcox embodies 20+ characters with full commitment, each having a distinctive personality and mannerisms. The transition between each unique identity is clear and crisp, allowing the spectators to immediately recognise the character stood on the stage. Applause must be given to the excellent sound design, the sound of rain being muffled as a car door shuts adds significantly to the immersion of the piece.
The show's downfall comes in the writing and the choice of characters to portray the narrative. Several portrayals were notably bizarre ideas which broke the flow and engagement of the story, particularly the "perverted tree" and a "snarky fly" who enquired of an audience member what they weren't proud of in their life, which went as well as you might imagine.
Despite the impressive acting and characterisation, Wilcox's captivating presence is let down by the amorphous genre of the play. Neither a gripping drama nor a comedy, with only one joke successfully landing with complete harmony. Additionally the protagonist lacks redeeming qualities to invest in, making it difficult to root for her in the quest to overcome her struggles. For the artist Magical Mystery Detour acts as an excellent display of modernistic expression. For the audience it falls short of trifling entertainment.
- Irving Bolton
The premise of Travis Bernhardt’s Unscriptured is simple - he will lead the audience in a church service, using a religion made up of suggestions from the crowd. Obviously every show will be different, depending on the subject matter, but the basic structure is the same - hymns, prayers, call and response, rituals, and reading from the sacred text (a Google search provided by an audience member). Anyone who’s been to a church service knows what’s involved and everyone is expected to participate (but only as much as your comfort level dictates).
Bernhardt dives headlong into absurdity, finding “profound” wisdom and metaphors in the most mundane of subjects. Most of the fun comes from marvelling at what deep spiritual insights he will come up with on the fly, especially at his lightning-quick pace. There is more to it, though. By making up a religion about literally anything, Bernhardt shows us that the human hunger for meaning can lead to some pretty silly, and sometimes dangerous, beliefs. It’s all too easy to suck people into a way of thinking if there is a fast-talking, charismatic, confident leader and a promise of personal fulfillment. If it seems like I’m imbuing an improv comedy show with too much meaning, maybe that just proves my point.
In any case, I recommend worshipping at the Church of Travis - I’ve been converted.
17. Rocko and Nakota: Tales From the Land
Indigenized Indigenous Theatre
Created and performed by Josh Languedoc,Rocko and Nakota: Tales from the Landis about a sick young boy named Nakota who has no idea what’s wrong with him. He tells his classmates the tale of being sick in the hospital and his grandfather coming to visit him to tell him stories.
Languedoc’s performance takes you on a journey of self-examination as he enacts Nakota and his grandfather, as well as all the characters in both of their stories. The tales told include well known legends from First Nations cultures such as “Raven Steals the Sun” as well as personal ones of self-discovery.
I found Languedoc’s attempt at making his voice more youthful for Nakota a bit tedious. Raising the intonation at the end of every sentence does create a more youthful and uncertain impression, but it can also be a bit tiresome. However, for the most part his performance is exceptional as he flawlessly switches back and forth between characters in his story.
This is the tale of a young boy learning how to “speak his truth from his heart” and how to listen to the spirits of the land. It shows us that one of the most important things in life is knowing your truth and being able to ask for the help needed to reach it.
18. Baba Yaga and the Black Flower
Vancouver Puppet Theatre
False Creek Gym
There are not a lot of shows for kids at the Fringe. Most shows are full of adult content - only a handful bill themselves as “All Ages” and as far as I know, there are only two or three that are appropriate for very young children. I have a feeling Viktor Barkar’s puppet show works best when there are plenty of kids and parents to respond enthusiastically. An evening crowd of mostly adults made for an awkward audience and the show suffered because of it.
The story is simple, silly and very short at just 30 minutes. Barker uses antique marionettes, shadow puppets and a few larger puppets, operating everything himself. Barkar has a childlike playfulness and engages well with his younger audience members - a tender moment came afterwards when the few children in the audience got to say “hello” to the marionettes and see that Baba Yaga was really harmless (I’d have been terrified of her at that age and younger ones might be too). All of the puppets are crafted beautifully, little works of art impeccably preserved. I enjoyed getting a close-up look at them after the show.
If you have curious little ones you want to introduce to the weird and wonderful world of Fringe, you might want to give Baba Yaga and the Black Flower a try. I’d say ages 4 - 9 is probably ideal, maybe even a particularly brave 3-year-old. It’s just unfortunate that with Fringe, so many of the shows are past the age-group’s bedtime. Baba Yaga has one afternoon performance on Saturday September 15, so I hope it will be filled with the right kind of audience. If you’re a childless adult, I would give it a miss.
19. Flute Loops
Devon More Music
The Cultch Historic Theatre
Devon More’s “quarky” musical Flute Loops is a must see at Fringe this year. She plays a quantum physics PhD student who’s filling in at the merch table for her boyfriend’s band. As the crowd waits for the very late band “Flute Loops” to make its appearance she stalls for time as she attempts to explain her PhD thesis to the spectators. Don’t let the words “quantum physics” throw you off if, like me, you have virtually no background in science. This show is hilarious to the physicist and layman alike.
Her performance is brilliant as More creates sound loops and samples on the spot to accompany her rapping and singing as she explains the basics of quantum physics faster than the speed of light. She continues on to explain her thesis: how to freeze time by filling up the empty space between particles with sound. All she needs is to find the right song.
More is quirky, charming, and awkward in the best sense of the word as she explains her thesis, loses confidence, and then realizes that her uncertainty is just a “spectrum of possibilities”. So if you want a show that’s hilarious, endearing, musically spectacular, and packed with “St. Hawking” quotes then go see Flute Loops. And as a bonus you get to learn a little something about quantum physics.
20. Angels and Aliens
Peachy Keen Productions
Angels and Aliens, as you’d expect from the title, is at one level a commentary on the ongoing opposition of science and religion. Two actors, Jeff Leard and Sydney Hayduk, play three sets of characters: two angels, two aliens, and two humans. The humans are roommates who have made the “mistake” of sleeping together the night before. To distract themselves from the awkward silence at the breakfast table, they decide to try a new app iBang(as in the Big Bang, not what you’re thinking) where one player controls aliens and the other controls angels to guide the development of a planet.
The show is full of biblical, historical, and scientific references and does not necessarily favour one side or the other. Angels and Aliens presents several ideas portrayed by these three pairs of characters and they are all connected. It shows the relationship between two roommates who distract themselves with this app instead of dealing with their problems. At the same time, they represent the world and “opposing” cultures that also distract themselves instead of sitting down and talking about perceived differences. This play shows that not only religion but also science can be as much the cause of a problem as the solution.
Though the show sounds like it would be quite heavy handed it’s packed with jokes and references that significantly lighten its serious message. Leard and Hayduk are superb as they switch back and forth between characters instantaneously. Their whole bodies shift on a lighting cue as they transform from aliens to angels within a second. Their performance as well as the message of the play make it outstanding and a show you won’t want to miss.
21. The ADHD Project
Squirrel Suit Productions
False Creek Gym
Want a look at the brain of someone who has ADHD? Carlyn Rhamey will do exactly that in her show The ADHD Project. She will not only give you a deeper understanding of what exactly ADHD is, but will also take you through her personal experiences of being segregated and ostracised because of her “disorder”.
While her performance is both funny and emotional, certain visuals she includes are somewhat distracting. Some of them are endearing, such as pictures and videos from her childhood. Others are unnecessary, like showing the comments from a report card. Simply reading these comments would be more effective and not take our attention away from her exceptional performance. However, this is a minor flaw and does not take away too much from the enjoyment of the show.
As someone who has a loved one with ADHD, I feel that this show is beneficial for gaining a deeper understanding of what they go through. Her description of her life and experiences are inspirational and informative. If you know anyone with ADHD or another mental disorder, or if you’re simply looking for a great show, The ADHD Project is an excellent choice.
The Elegant Ladies Collective
The Elegant Ladies make their darkest offering with FIX, a site-specific journey through addiction. It’s not their strongest work, but it’s certainly their most important.
We wander through Railspur Alley, meeting spectres and addicts with different personal stories to share. I found the “playground” section the most effective, making clever use of the swings, teeter-totter and rocks to emphasize the feelings of isolation and desperation that come with addiction. Some of the young talent on display was particularly impressive - the poise and clarity of the cigarette smoker, the energy and angst of the blue-haired heroin addict. One of the more mature performers gave a strong, rousing condemnation of benzos and prescription-happy doctors, showing us that the most dangerous of substances can be easy to obtain.
Some of the stories felt only tangentially related to addiction and I wondered about their place in the narrative. FIX needs a bit of polish and probably some editing. In this state, it feels somewhat under-developed. I actually believe it could have a life beyond the Fringe - it strikes me as the perfect show to tour schools to educate youth on the dangers of addiction in a real and accessible way. The program is full of useful information on support resources, life-saving tips and rehabilitation. There is no judgment from them, only communion and compassion. The ending felt like a group hug; cathartic and intimate.
FIX left me wanting more, but the Elegant Ladies give so much of themselves it’s impossible not to be moved.
23. The Cockwhisperer... A Love Story
False Creek Gym
The Cockwhisperer is pretty much what you’d expect from the title. Colette Kendall’s one-woman show is raunchy and audacious. Dildo in hand, Kendall sets the tone from the get-go, vividly recounting the significant penises of her life (and the men attached to them). Her warm, husky voice puts us at ease, but don’t give her any attitude or she will call you out on it - she is a mom of three and she has put up with enough BS in her life.
It’s a mostly hilarious evening, though some of her jokes fall a little flat, maybe because they take too long to land (that’s on the audience) but sometimes due to more dated content (I don’t mean disco references, just some attitudes to sex that in this day and age don’t really feel as funny anymore).
Fair warning, there is a portion where the content gets very dark. It’s not a huge part, but it is affecting, especially given that the rest of the show focuses on more light-hearted fare - including, but not limited to, mooning, pubic lice, masturbation and random “cock facts”.
Kendall has the kind of candid energy that make you want to share a bottle of wine and get to know her better. In the end, The Cockwhisperer in not just about penises - there’s heart to it, too.