Walking the grounds this year, it appeared that vendor numbers are down, with less food and merchandise kiosks on site. At least, the glut that usually line Gateway Boulevard and 104th Street are missing; I wonder if less permits were distributed this year?
I asked Dickson and Mack to join me for two shows on Friday evening. The first was The Power of Ignorance (Stage 5), a show that was impossible to get tickets for when it premiered in Edmonton in 2003. I am not a fan of solo performances, but after this, I now know that I simply have to choose the ones involving stand-up comedians. Chris Gibbs was hilarious as the (de)motivational speaker Vaguen. He had the perfect voice for the part, and could have easily been cocking his eyebrow for the duration of his satiric performance. Much of the punchlines were delivered rapid-fire, so I can’t say that I picked up everything, but the script was extremely clever, pulling apart popular expressions and universal truths. I also enjoyed the segue ways into his childhood – the anecdotes humanized Vaguen, and rounded out the play nicely by providing a storyline of sorts to follow. Get tickets while you can – the play garnered a 4.5 rating in the Saturday Journal.
We had some time to wander and relax before our second show, so ended up sitting in the near-empty beer tent on “Westjet Way” (compared to the standing room only one next to the Walterdale), and saw at least four Die-Nasty cast members leaving the tent. So if you want to do some celebrity-spotting…
Die-Nasty has been on my hit-list for years, but the late showtime has always been a deterrent, so I was glad to finally be able to participate in this Fringe tradition (Stage 8). I was sad to see that Jeff Haslam was absent from the cast, but Davina Stewart/Mark Meer/Leona Brausen had their A-games going, so that made up for the void somewhat. At the other end of the spectrum, I suspect the actress who played the Constable was smashed, because she was annoyingly disruptive and intruded on quite a few scenes; hopefully she straightens up for the rest of the Fringe run. There were many inside theatre jokes (including Ron Pederson’s comment about the pretentious “scarf-wearing” public, a reference to his recent letter to See Magazine and the subsequent ripple effect), but much of the humor came from the snide remarks directed at the changes in this year’s festival (buying tickets at “West Edmonton Mall”). It occurred to me that this troupe of actors are very lucky to have such a venue to publicly air out their grievances with the Fringe leadership – but if anything, they’ve earned it. In all, this episode wasn’t as funny as the season finale I attended back in May, but I can now remove it from my Fringe to-do list.
It is no secret that the Fringe is my favorite time of year in Edmonton – I can just about hear Julie Andrews’ voice in my head as I pass the painted busker squares, jewelry vendors, and mini-doughnut stand.
Of course, the main attraction being theatre, I was interested to see if the vibe of the Fringe had shifted at all since the axe fell on sales at the venue door. Picking up my tickets at the unmarked “will call” window in the Arts Barns took a little longer than it should have – it seems one of the patrons at the counter had had some trouble with his online purchase confirmation. To be fair, the festival should be allowed time to work out the inevitable kinks of a new system, but the staff seemed terribly inefficient and ill-trained, deferring their queries to the one person who seemed to actually know what was going on. The queue at the main box office was also very slow-moving; I hope this is not the case later on in the festival, otherwise last-minute decision makers will be forced to adopt a new show selection strategy. As for the satellite box office locations (which weren’t open until later that night), I know I’m not the only one who thinks that they look a tad…corporate. With the necessary gate protecting computer equipment (and employee) built into the wooden structures, purchasing a ticket somehow feels less personal than simply approaching volunteers at a makeshift stand in front of a venue.
We watched one show – Matt & Ben (Stage 1), a satire about Damon and Affleck’s rise to fame in the form of Good Will Hunting ‘falling from the ceiling.’ Being a fan of Jocelyn Ahlf (Ben) made this an easy early pick, and she did not disappoint. She demonstrated great comedic timing once again, and her zealous embrace of silly quirks really distinguished her from her co-star. Belinda Cornish was weaker in her portrayal of Matt, but she did better as the ghost of J.D. Salinger. The storyline as a whole was less about “male bonding” as the program portrayed, and more about two foil friends trying to find their way in the world together and as individuals. It was light Fringe fare, and a good way to start off the weekend (both Colin MacLean and Liz Nicholls were in attendance, so expect reviews in the papers tomorrow).
On to day 2!
While I can’t take credit for the clever post title (I gleaned it from an Edmonton Journal article), I was happy to read about news from the Fringe front.
The Edmonton International Fringe Festival has chosen its new theme: “Live and Let Fringe,” a play on the 1973 James Bond film, Live and Let Die. Not a bad connection, as it will be 2007 (the year of double-0-7). When I told a coworker about it, she rolled her eyes, but we both agreed that anything would be better than last season’s “Hi Yo Fringe…Away!” My personal favorite, however, would be 1998’s “A Clockwork Fringe,” though I didn’t start attending the festival until the following year.
As for companies drawn from the lottery, I will be looking forward to Chris Gibbs’ return, Matt Alden’s new play, and the Screwed & Clued production. Only eight more months to go!