Toronto Fringe Theatre Festival 2017: Part One!

Five Toronto Fringe (theatre festival) shows in one day?! I am so tired. But it’s a good tired. They were all comedies too. Not one dud in the bunch. Them’s impossible odds, people.  Here’s a list of what I saw today.
Round One!
Graham Clark's Not Here
Graham Clark’s Not Here (Laugh Gallery) – one-man comedy show.  He was wearing a bucket over his head and the whole thing was on a screen showing his face, which was placed over his face. It worked, oddly. The screen also showed clips from Mad Max: Fury Road and Predator “when things got dull.” Oh, and the dialogue of the show – the part on the face-screen – is available for download, so anyone can put a bucket on their head and do this show in the future. For free.
Round Two! (vaginas)
The Moaning Yoni
The Moaning Yoni (Joylyn Secunda Productions) – one-woman comedy show, very funny. This woman (Joylyn Secunda) has serious physical comedy and singing talent. She acted the parts of herself, her New Age-y teacher, and her own vagina. A show about societal expectations concerning sex. And vaginas.
Round Three! (I got to drink alcohol during this show)
Vasily Djokavich: Russia's #1 State Approved Comedian
Vasily Djokavich: Russia’s #1 State Approved Comedian (Morgan Cranny and Mike Delamont) A one-man show, very funny, deadpan as hell, about Russia and Russian society. A bunch of jokes could not be said lest the performer be “shot in face” by the KGB or whatever the KGB has morphed into these days. Oh, and I got to drink Russian vodka onstage with the actor. Wooooo!
Round Four! (more vaginas)
Shirley Gnome: Taking It Up The Notch
Shirley Gnome: Taking It Up the Notch (Heartichoke Arts) – Ok, so this one-woman show is probably the raunchiest show I have ever seen. Also one of the funniest. Shirley is actually a great singer and guitar player, and the songs (about love, sex, and, well, physical anatomy) were absolutely hilarious. Not for those that are easily offended…she actually sang a charming little song about this, saying that it was OK for people to leave if they wanted. No one did.
 Round Five! (outer space)
Earth Tourist
Earth Tourist ( Chandelier Factory Productions) – This show actually had two actors in it! Whoa! It was about an alien named Sparklemuffin the Space Unicorn and her companion, a radio time-lord, trying to get back into the Astral Plane. A look at our society through the eyes of aliens. Why climb that corporate ladder? Why put a photo of yourself doing yoga on Instagram? Why pay attention to linear time at all? WHY?
It’s interesting to note that ALL of the shows I saw today (with the exception of Earth Tourist, which is from Newfoundland,) were from theatre companies in Vancouver! There must be a ton of talented, funny people there, who happen to like to make shows about vaginas, putting screens over their faces, and the KGB.
Stay tuned!
Photo credits: All photos are from the Toronto Fringe website.

The Toronto Fringe Theatre Festival!

For those of you who may not know, a Fringe Festival is an “indie theatre festival…about celebrating under-represented voices and those on the margins of the performing arts world. It’s a festival where anyone can put on any show, without having to pass through a jury – where theatre students can mount their first production outside of school, where emerging artists can get their big break, and where established artists can test out new work.

 

 

It’s a festival where audiences come for the adventure and the community as much as for the plays themselves.”

You do not have to know a lot about theatre or have a lot of money to spend on tickets in order to go to a Fringe show. That’s the beauty of it – Fringe festivals are accessible to everyone. Tickets for the Toronto Fringe range from $8 to $12 apiece, and you can literally wander up to a venue 10 minutes before a show and see something great and unexpected.

I have been involved with Fringe for many years as a volunteer and audience member, but this year I had my first opportunity to review Fringe shows and have them published on a popular Toronto theatre website – Mooney on Theatre! I was so excited! I imagined schmoozing with the stars, press tents with tons of free booze and platters towering with artfully arranged fruit and desserts, and possibly being bribed with suitcases full of money (or maybe just Canadian Tire money, since it’s a Fringe festival).

 

 

That was what I imagined, not what I expected. What I actually expected (and experienced) was a lot more humble – rushing from one venue to another in order not to miss my assigned shows, late nights at home banging out reviews on my computer, and editors asking me to “please change one more thing” at 3am.

Despite those realities, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience as a member of the press (which I have been told is now called “media” – I think I have watched this movie one too many times) – and I really hope I will get the chance to do it again in the near future!

On to my reviews!

I reviewed five shows with Mooney on Theatre this year. Here are my top three:

 

My personal number one favourite this year is for the record.

Poster for For the Record

This show, by company the night kitchen, was was a one-of-a-kind immersive theatre experience that I will be thinking about for a long time. Interestingly, it did not take place in a theatre at all, but in Kops Records on Bloor Street. The store is roomy, yet the setup makes it feel intimate – a perfect setting for a live performance. This expertly-written story about the relationship between a mother and daughter is told with tons of humour lots of heart. And, of course, music plays a huge role in the story – as it does in our memories. Read my full review here (just click on the word “here”).

 

My runner-up is Adam Bailey is On Fire by company Still Your Friend.

Adam Bailey is On Fire poster

Performer and writer Adam Bailey is the gay son of an evangelical Christian minister. How to navigate these seemingly disparate realities? This coming-of-age story for the modern world is both uproarious and heartwarming. It also features some very clever and hilarious audience participation bits. I don’t want to give too much away, but if you’ve ever wanted the chance to drink out of a truly communal communion cup…well, maybe you haven’t. But trust me – this is a show that is impossible to forget. My full review can be found here.

 

And, my third place winner goes to… Best Picture.

Photo of Jon Paterson and Kurt Fitzpatrick

This show, by company RibbitRePublic, manages to explain all 88 Best Picture winners at the Academy Awards (the “Oscars”) in a mere 60 minutes….with a cast of only three people. The actors cleverly distill the movies using famous lines, summing up of plots, and re-enactments of famous scenes. The entire show is hilarious and perfect for any film lover (or self-proclaimed know-it-all) like me. Read my full review here.

 

If you want to read my other reviews, or to view them all at once, click here:

http://www.mooneyontheatre.com/author/nicole/

 

These shows are ALL STILL PLAYING at the Toronto Fringe until July 10th! But if you can’t come this time around, I would encourage everyone to “Fringe” sometime soon! Besides Toronto, there are Fringe festivals in many cities across Ontario (Hamilton, London, Guelph, Windsor, and Ottawa), across Canada (Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Montreal, Halifax, and many more) and across the world (the Edinburgh Fringe being the biggest and most famous).

As I said before, you do not have to be a seasoned theatregoer or be carrying around briefcases full of money in order to attend a Fringe show. That’s the beauty of it – Fringe is accessible to everyone. The only requirement is to expect the unexpected!

See you there!

 

Stay tuned!

Sources/Credits:

The Toronto Fringe Festival

The Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals

The 2016 Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Photo of Fringe banner courtesy of the Toronto Fringe Festival.

Press tent photo: http://www.freyafarrington.com/2015/05/the-press-tent-manchester-blogger-meet.html

for the record photo provided by the company (the night kitchen)

Photo of Adam Bailey by Hugh Problyn

Best Picture photo by Richard Gilmore