A limited-time feature for the 2004 London Fringe Theatre Festival
Doty, your obedient web master, is currently off to the London Fringe
Festival to check out the theatre scene and review copius amounts of shows
for the London Free Press. However, the paper can't print everything he
writes, which is why Chris has introduced this web page on all that's
good, bad and weird at the 2004 Fringe.
Chris' goal is simple: to
see and review all 36 shows. Sound impossible? Probably, but you never
can tell what a little gumption can do. Keep checking back between July
30th and August 8th for new daily reviews!
Ten of the Fringe
30 out of 36 shows seen and reviewed
My sincere apologies to the following shows which I was
unable to see:
The Superbowl & Other Stories, The Thom & Dan Show, Rusty Spurs,
African Woman, Sexylass and Down From Here
DOCS E-REVIEW RATINGS
epiphany, but still a damned good show
than dinner theatre
least the actors memorized their lines
your ticket money and flush it down the toilet instead
from all reviews should be credited:
"Doty Docs e-reviews"
for Mr. Doty's reviews:
must protest Chris Doty's negative review of Tremor in the London
Free Press. I found it rivetting, and certainly no one in the
audience was dozing the night I was there...And of course you
have blackouts to indicate a new scene - why does Doty have a
problem with that? I you heven't seen this show, ignore Doty's
unimaginative review, and GO!"
I have no problem with blackouts - unless they take up half
the running time of the play. - CD
"Went to the Wolf to enjoy "No More Than 15 Minutes" ...
I think Mr. Doty should shed his regional bias, quest for perfection
and realize that the future of theatre will come from students
who are still learning their craft. You can't buy experience,
you have to live it. Bravo to the cast...hiss for Mr. Doty. A
little constructive criticism with a measure of encouragement
would go a long way....let's not eat our young."
And you also have to live with bad reviews. Take a spoonful
of "Get Over It." - CD
kind of chip do you have on your shoulder about Chris (Welcome
to the Collapse) Loblaw? I do not think that Fringe reviews are
a forum for such personal attacks. If you do not like the play,
say so. There is no reason to be cruel...I'm not too sure what
your qualifications as a reviewer are (I would love to know),
but you seem to disagree with other theatre reviewers in town.
There is a growing sense in this community that a review by Chris
Doty is meaningless at best and hurtful at worst."
To quote one of my favourite films, Theater of Blood: "When
you're forced to give someone bad notices all the time you begin
to resent them." - CD
The "O" Show *****
Screamingly funny show about one woman's inability to achieve orgasm is
one of the must-see performances at this year's Fringe - even though the
story lacks a climax. Bravura showcase for actor/writer Caitlin Murphy
is a companion piece to last year's Fringe hit, Ladies Room but manages
to inject the comedy with some pointed comments about sex, relationships
and how absurd they all can be. The result is very Caitlin Murphy, very
unique and very wonderful.
A middle-aged actor attempts to workshop a recurring dream into a play,
only to be consummed by his own nightmare. Justin Peter Quesnelle is simply
spellbinding as he weaves this tale from scattered manuscript pages strewn
across the floor while Jordon Morris' courageous direction refuses to
allow reality and theatre to separate for the audience. Not for everyone
but, for those willing to tackle something different and difficult, an
unforgettable experience. Highly recommended.
My Brother Sang Like Roy
Big-hearted story of a teenager's relationship with his estranged step-brother
and how they grow to be friends, drift apart and then come back together.
What could have been treacly mush is turned into a genuinely moving tale
by performer Randy Rutherford who eschews funny voices and broad physical
comedy in favor of dialogue, character and nuance. Funny, human and unforgettable,
any empty seats at this performance are a tragedy.
The Complications of an
Average Existence ****
Belying the fact this is her first run with the show, solo performer Justina
Szecsi presents us with three memorable performances of a trio of women
whose regrets have almost taken the place of their dreams. While some
of the show's targets are obvious and the odd scene ends too patly, The
Complications of an Average Existence never ceases to deftly straddle
the line between comedy and drama.
The show's biggest asset is
Szecsi who displays a remarkable ability to physically morph from character
to character. The result is a funny, touching and poignant work that realizes
its theatrical birth free from complications.
For the complete
review, see the August 4th edition of the London Free Press
Getting Married ****
In a charming example of art imitating life, Jonathan De Souza and Heather
Brandon have used their wedding engagement as the basis for an original
musical review -- Getting Married -- starring themselves. In the musical,
at the London Fringe Theatre Festival, the two actors play three couples
who journey from proposal to marriage.
De Souza and Brandon are engagingly
at ease with each other, the latter presenting a gorgeous singing voice,
which does full justice to the acoustics of the Wolf Performance Hall
and to her future husband's clever lyrics.
Original musicals are a rare
bird for London audiences. Fortunately, Getting Married is also a rare
For the complete
review, see the August 5th edition of the London Free Press
Sea Watching (b)
Probably the best of the four dance shows at this year's Fringe - which
is saying quite a lot. Virtuoso performer Mari Osanai shimmers, endulates
and splashes her body like a pool of mercury through a breathtaking dance
routine. She doesn't so much dance to the soundtrack of environmental
sounds and electronic music as channel them through her. An intensely
creative show that will either delight or confuse you - but you'll never
be able to forget it.
In this dynamic one-man show, Andrew Zadel offers portraits of three men
drawn together by steel rails and wooden ties. As
both an actor and an athlete, Zadel uses every muscle in his body to unfold
the plot, whether it's hauling himself up the balcony of the Spriet Family
Theatre or tumbling across the stage. In a scene that's almost unwatchable,
Zadel proves as mesmerizing as a car crash when one character is fatally
injured in a railway accident.
Steel, one character explains,
is tough because it bends under extreme pressure without failing. The
same could be said of this production and Zadel's masterful performance.
For the complete
review, see the August 6th edition of the London Free Press
The Compleat Wrks of Wllm
Shkspr (Abridged) ***1/2
Decidedly not the dry, boring, vomit-free version of Shakespeare. All
37 of the Bard's plays are chopped, sliced and pureed in this irreverent
(and rather funny) review by Simply Theatre. A perpetual favorite with
London audiences, it remains the troop's best show. Dale Hirlehey directs
like a kid blowing up a balloon. He's constantly trying to coax bigger
and more outrageous gags out of the script with his two colleagues (Jim
Noonan and Neil Silcox) until the whole enterprise threatens to blow to
smithereens - which it eventually does to memorable effect.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
are Clowns ***1/2
This is a hard show
to recommend, as your enjoyment will hinge on how much you enjoy Stoppard's
ingenious but densely written farce about two minor characters in the
play Hamlet. In this adaptation, Bronwyn Glover's simpering Stan Laurel-like
Rosencrantz is the perfect foil for Catrina Whan's more assertive but
no more intelligent Guildenstern.
With exaggerated body language,
deft physical humour and a smattering of 1970s dancing, Whan and Glover
make this play their own. The duo do such a intuitive job punctuating
the text with their body movements that it's hard to believe Stoppard
didn't have red noses and short-cut pants in mind for his actors.
For the complete
review, see the August 5th edition of the London Free Press
Sera Sera ***1/2
Koyaanisqatsi meets ballet meets Kukla, Fran and Ollie. Physically remarkable
show throws in dance, acrobatics and puppetry to tell the story of love,
life and chocolate - if you're following things that closely. Best to
sit back and enjoy the marvel of Frank Turco and Esther Haddad as they
transcend the laws gravity and physicality to the tunes of The Ants Go
Marching One, Besa Me Mucho and, of course, Que Sera Sera. What is great,
Shovels and Sacks
Youthful, energetic tribute to Commedia Dell 'Arte offers up a big cast,
colourful costumes and a booming narrator. The story about two servants
trying to arrange for the happy marriage of their master's daughters is
quickly thrown out the window for series of uproarious sight gags, prat
falls and lightning-fast exits. Don't blink or you'll miss a laugh.
Coming Out ***
One-joke play (although it's a great joke) about on a squeaky-clean suburban
family who discovers their teenaged son is a (gulp!) Negro. Funny, biting
script is somewhat undercut by flat performances - although Matt McKenzie
is hilarious as the button-down dad who represses his emotions about as
well as his drinking problem. A flawed stone, but Coming Out is still
a little gem. One of the best shows I saw at the London One-Act Festival
and deserving of a return engagement at the Fringe.
The Adventures of Ron Starr,
L.A. D.J. ***
Drawing on elements
from the Fisher King, Talk Radio and the entire 1980s music scene, The
Adventures of Ron Starr tells the alternately hilarious and depressing
tale of Starr (Grant Doty), a rising Los Angeles radio host who blows
his shot at the big time and ends up working the graveyard shift on a
light rock station.
Matt Loop's meaty script is
well-marbled with 1980s pop culture and exudes a manic energy that carries
it from start to finish. Under the assured hands of director John Pacheco,
the show is fast-paced, funny and gritty. Ron Starr barely gives Doty
or its audience a chance to gasp for air. The result is a wonderfully
entertaining one-man ride down the radio dial.
Deserving Treats ***
Like whipped cream on hot chocolate, this 20-minute comedy about a woman's
inner thoughts as she sits at a coffee bar is gone before you've really
had a chance to savour the show. Writer/performer Natasha MacLellan is
funny, insecure and completely believable in this entertaining one woman
effort that's peppered with lines you'll be quoting for days. (My favourite:
"This doesn't taste like an orgasm anymore. It just tastes like sex.")
Plays like an excerpt from a larger play, which I hope we'll get a chance
to see some day.
Like its title, this play is a real puzzle. Crosswords, overlapping dialogue,
cryptic scene changes and a clock that tells arbitrary time contribute
to this offbeat and decided nonlinear story about a family suffering through
marital infidelity, an ailing mother and a sister afraid to get behind
the wheel of a car (der-ive, get it?). Solidly acted and directed with
split-second precision but Steph Bernston's script isn't quite clever
enough to reveal this is a pretty average storyline - and a dull one at
Don't You Make
My Brown Eyes Blue ***
Attitude reigns supreme in this in-your-face mixture of slam poetry and
stand-up comedy by Halifax native Taryn Della. Some thoughtful observations
on being a black woman in Canada with verse awkwardly tacked on but Della
is really is the whole show here. The rest is just gravy. Takes the place
of Father's Day in your program in case you want to go. I hope you do
or Taryn will kick your ass.
It's Funny to Us!
And it's sort of funny to me. If we had to have a smorgasbord of tasteless
sketch comedy at this year's Fringe we might as well have this show. Fart
jokes, necrophilia and Superman the Musical are all crammed into this
fast-paced and energetic effort. Performed by an equal number of men and
women which may explain why it's less sophomoric (but no less hilarious)
than similarily-styled Channel Surfing, which director/performer John
Pacheco has helmed at the Fringe. A must-see for those looking for a steady
supply of laughs.
Keep Your Eyes Open When
You Kiss ***
The Janus Theatre of Chicago gives us a Brave New World style fable about
two men and two women, brought up in isolation, who are introduced to
each other - and sex - for the first time. Staging and acting are irresistably
flamboyant and that interpretive dance that kicks off the show will knock
your socks off. However, all the play argues is that women are vain and
selfish and men have more testosterone than brains. And just how did those
Shakespearean sonnets get into the mix?
Man & Woman
A most curious play. A stock broker is forced to take dance lessons. He
falls in love with the instructor, they marry and have a child. Terrific
first half beautifully fuses dances with overlapping dialogue that mirrors
the chemistry between the two leads. Then the show goes off the rails
with a bizarre storyline about a global pandemic and the need to find
clean blood. Still, a worthwhile and entertaining effort - provided you
don't get whiplash when the plot does a pirouette.
The Unstoppable Bloodiness
of a Broken Heart ***
Despite that cheerful title,
this is a disarming and free-flowing saga of a white and red blood corpuscle
as they make their way through the human body during surgery. Vain, high-maintenance
red relies on well-meaning, infatuated white as they journey (often hilariously)
through the brain, heart and, yes, the penis. No plot, no morals, no high
school anatomy lesson here - just lots of amusing physical humour and
bizarre dialogue with little regard for the confines of the stage.
Death, The Comedy **1/2
Michael Strombie wakes up dead one morning and has to relly on his girlfriend
to make all the necessary arrangements. Local playwright/performer Dustin
Campbell returns to the Fringe with perhaps his best show although as
an actor he's still to passive to put the material across. His co-star,
Alexis McDonald, fares better as the girlfriend, turning in a credible
performance that belies the fantastic nature of the story. Modest, quirky
comedy is not without its charms and has a sweetness that's rare at this
The Merchant of Venice **1/2
Precocious, street-clothes version of the Shakespearean comedy makes an
uneasy debut with its eagre but inexperienced actors. Phil Arnold is the
best thing in the production with his juicy performance as Shylock, though
his performance is in sharp contrast with his younger, less-experienced
colleagues. You also end up feeling sorry for the Jewish money lender,
undermining the whole comedy. The third and certainly the least impressive
Shakespearean offering at this year's Fringe.
Exit This Way **1/2
Denis Couillard is commanding and dynamic in this one-man show about a
gay actor relating his life story while auditioning for television pilot.
The work bristles with sharp dialogue and excellent pacing - until we
get to that abrupt and unexpected ending. A bit of a let-down, Exit This
Way plays like half of a great play - which is why I'm giving it half
the rating it probably deserves.
Losing Berlin **1/2
Ambitious, meticulously-designed show about a woman's struggle to save
Jewish children in Nazi Germany. Writer/actor Kara Dymond gives it her
all in this one-woman effort but her performance is needlessly straightjacketed
by a forced German accent and overly complicated staging (which indirectly
led to a painful-looking fall on opening night). An earnest, well-researched
show about something we have no right to forget about - but Losing Berlin
should have been so much better.
The Book Club **
With more plot developments and dirty secrets than a year's worth of soap
operas, The Book Club asks its audience to believe its characters would
spill out the intimate details of their lives like so many subplots from
a romance novel. Hidden
love affairs, long-forgotten marital separations and deadly illnesses
- any one of which would have provided ample story fodder - are brought
up and then cast aside as if the playwright suddenly became bored with
Playwright Lucy Williams fares
much better as an actor than as a writer, building on the fine work she
presented in previous Fringe hits like The Great Escape and Grace. Ditto
for the rest of the cast, who present warm, human characters under Anne
Mooney's caring, assured direction.
Robin Rundle Drake as Janice
offers a stand out moment when her character reveals she has breast cancer.
It's a memorable, emotionally-charged scene that hints at the direction
The Book Club should have taken. But then the script shrugs off her plight
in order to cruise to a happy - and unsatisfactory - ending.
For the complete review, see the August 4th edition of the London Free
Komuso, a silent clown, enters the stage and has a fight with himself.
He does an acrobatic dance using night lights. He tries to make balloons
float to the ceiling but fails. He sets fire to a toy hospital and rescues
two sets of paper dolls. He angrily tears one set up. He blows soap bubbles
and dances with them. He dances with himself. He holds up a sign reading
"Never Again." The audience walks out of the theatre knowing
they've seen it all at this year's Fringe.
The Hunt for Treasure **
Two 16-year old boys find a treasure map and go on a hunt in a public
park, avoiding muggers and a crazy farmer with a shotgun along the way.
Perhaps they should have looked for a better script instead. Limp comedy
is given a boost by Byron Laviolette's over-the top performance as Jason,
an obnoxious screw-up you can't imagine anyone befriending. However, the
character quickly grows tiresome and ends up more annoying than amusing.
Go hunt elsewhere for laughs.
This study of a relationship between a troubled artist and his young model
deserves praise for attempting to offer up the stage equivalent of an
abstract painting - the technique its central character prefers. Scenes
are short. Dialogue is sparse. Motives are hinted at but never explained.
However, this attack by author Claire McCague makes for a pretty dull
In the hands of two strong
leads Tremor might have been an actor's showcase. But as the artist, Paul
Myer's strong physical performance is kneecapped by a pinched European
dialect while Mark Dittmer as the model seems to have difficulty understanding
why he's in this play in the first place.
Perhaps the most disappointing
thing about Tremor is its title. There are no revelations, no climax,
no drama and certainly no tremors - unless you're counting the vibrations
creating by an audience snoring en masse.
For the complete
review, see the August 4th edition of the London Free Press
Welcome to the Collapse
Welcome to another Chris Loblaw fiasco. Three employees and a light-fingered
customer get trapped in a sub shop during the power outage of 2003. While
searching for the keys to the front door, the manager gets bonked on the
head and dreams he's Sean Connery, Austin Powers and then Zorro. Hopelessly
contrived and populated with stupid characters, Welcome to the Collapse
shows that playwright Loblaw really hasn't learned much from his last
two Fringe efforts. However, with an ear for wonky dialogue and a cockeyed
view of comedy there's no denying Loblaw has created a style that's uniquely
his own. A cult following lies ahead.
No More Than 15 Minutes
Lots of yelling, lot of posturing and lots of destruction are the main
features of this fuzzy commentary on the fleeting nature of celebrities
and how the public's obsession with them is undermining society. Awful
production is sunk by poor acting, amateurish staging and atrocious dialogue.
Ichthyologists may delight with the live fish that appears on stage at
the end of the show. However, to paraphrase lyricist Larry Hart, "When
a fish steals your show you have no show."
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