We sent Julie Santini to check out the Toronto International Fringe Festival. She reports back on what she’s seen here over the last few days.
All KIDding Aside
DutchGirl Productions from Toronto
Writer and performer, Christel Bartelse, brings us All KIDding Aside, a show about a woman’s ticking biological clock and what society may be thinking of the modern-childless-woman. Director, Michelle Polak, originally from Montreal, combines her interdisciplinary background with Bartelse’s multidisciplinary arts background to create very active storytelling. From beginning to end, Bartelse’s physical theatre background remains apparent. The biggest laughs are in Bartelse’s moments of self-realization and break, where she permits herself to utter what she knows the audience is already thinking. This very physical internal debate about the things we think are right for us, the possibility of conforming to what others think is right, and the prerogative to change our own mind about something without giving credit to outside voices that may have been your own all along fuels its protagonist.
Tarragon Theatre Extraspace (30 Bridgman Ave.)
Thu, July 7 @ 2:30PM, Fri, July 8 @ 11:30PM, Sat, July 9 @ 9:15PM
Rabbit in a Hat Productions from Toronto
Paul Van Dyck directs The Harvester, a two-hander show about the bottling of liquid time to enable one to stay alive forever in a post-apocalyptic world. Humans live among robots that are programmed to be caring and responsive, much like Siri. What happens when you may be the last human on earth? The entire play takes place in one room, with a man who is confronted with another surviving individual. The story steadily builds to pack a good final punch. The props and costumes pull this 2055 world together beautifully, making certain it exists.
Factory Theatre Studio
July 6 @ 11PM, July 8 @ 5:15PM, July 9 @ 9:45
Perk Up, Pianist!
HagenDoesTheatre from Vancouver, BC
Hagen’s description of her solo show, Perk Up, Pianist!, is one of the most accurate show descriptions in a Fringe Festival program. Her show is exactly “music, storytelling, and a healthy does of the ridiculous.” Combining the most private of concerts with storytelling, Hagen reminds us the beauty of how an honest solo performance can make you so easily fall in love with its performer. Hagen steps aside from the the world she’s lived in for three decades, that of a traveling musician, to assess its patterns through the serenest of delivery. Her silliness provides something more than the word ‘fun’ can convey, which medleys with her soothing presence. Having just packed up her life in Vancouver to move to Toronto, as many do, Hagen reflects on her new city. Throughout, it seems that Hagen exposes two or more parts of herself to herself, in this show, and allows them to meet– or rather, opens the different boxes she has compartmentalized those parts in and consolidates them all into one box, which became this show.
Tarragon Theatre Solo Room
July 8 @ 5:15PM, July 9 @ 6:15PM, July 10 @ 12:30PM
Nisha Coleman from Montreal
Nisha Coleman’s Self-Exile was first produced at SOlOS Festival in Montreal, last November and it’s still beautiful. The original review can be found here. There’s something about Coleman’s presence that causes everyone to want to be in her orbit. Evidence of this can be seen after the show, when her audience patiently waits to meet her or buy her book, Busker. The most magical part of watching this post-show show is seeing how gracious Coleman remains through each interaction. Oddly, Toronto audiences don’t laugh at the same bits as a Montreal audience. Maybe they’re conservative laughers? Lighthearted moments receive a neutral response, while the audience became more vocal in dramatic moments. A woman in the back audibly gasped something along the lines of “Oh, dear…” about halfway through. It’s a small theatre of 55 seats and not all of Toronto will get to see this Montreal hit, so be one of the lucky ones and take a chance on a show you may not know much about.
Tarragon Theatre Solo Room
July 7 @ 9:45PM, July 8 @7PM, July 9 @ 2:45PM, July 10 @ 4PM
“Ze”: Queer as F*ck!
Michelle Lunicke’s solo show, “Ze”: Queer as F*ck!, begins before the audience settles into the space. Lunicke begins, center stage, before the doors close and the lights come down. This show journeys its audience through a world of labels unlike ever before. Lunicke’s personal stories illustrate how we can choose our own labels to put others at ease, how we appropriate those labels, and how we can even create our own label. The trouble of adopting a label means possible rejection from a group that calls itself something else. How can we navigate between groups and not be boxed in? I am grateful to have seen this show as it addresses terms through story by painting trails to each label. Lunicke clearly expresses her confusion in how to continue navigating the world after a major life experience. Labels can be confusing and each human experience can change you, so how do you change, and what is the responsibility of wearing that change, quite literally, on your sleeve? Lunicke makes efforts to be warm and welcoming to zir audience, and refrains from preaching any form of politics. Rather, Lunicke shares zeself with an audience in a way that may leave a few spectators feeling permission to do the same.
Tarragon Theatre Solo Room
July 6 @ 10PM, July 8 @ 3:30PM, July 9 @ 9:45PM
The No Bull$#!% History of Invention
Following his sold out success, The No Bull$#!% History of Canada, Montreal-based performer and writer, Kyle Allatt, gives us The No Bull$#!% History of Invention presented at the St. Vladimir Theatre (620 Spadina, Toronto). Allatt’s on stage persona is a cross between that history teacher you wish you had, that news anchor who made a funny, mand your uncle who wants to tell you a thing or two at family BBQs. Between “no bull$#!%” facts, word play, and the importance of a missing comma, Allatt encompasses many styles of humor. It’s clear that the findings included in this show are just the surface of the total research that has been done for the piece, perhaps a “best of” compilation. Branching from his “Top 9” list of inventions, which includes the flush toilet and the modern day brassière, Allatt cheats in as many tidbits as possible. This fifty minute discourse will certainly leave you with a few topics to pull out of your back pocket at that next awkward dinner party.
The Toronto Fringe Festival runs until July 10. Tickets and info HERE.