Our first day at the 2009 Fringe involved two plays, a lot of nibbles, and the obligatory grounds exploration.
I was particularly interested to see Revolution Square, billed in the program as a multi-use area and internet cafe. What it is in actuality is a beer tent that substitutes coffee for beer, with four computers set-up with internet access. It’s a nice family-friendly idea that provides an expansive seating section, but we’ll have to wait and see if it is utilized.
The food vendors seem to be more spread out this year, with some booths actually set-up in the typically retail-only area in front of Fringe volunteer headquarters. In addition, I’m disappointed that the “Fringe midway” is gone – I wonder if poor attendance was to blame for its demise? Lastly, I’m sad to see that complimentary copies of the Edmonton Journal are not available on the grounds this year (they also eliminated this perk at the Heritage and Folk Festivals). We were told by an information booth volunteer that the Journal said that they could “no longer afford” to offer free papers. I can say that Fringe attendees are typically rabid for reviews, and people gravitated towards the papers that were readily available on site. I wonder if this change will result in a change in how people select their shows – from choosing based on star rating to choosing based on content?
Our first show of the day was Teatro la Quindicina’s The Oculist’s Holiday. The premise of vacation hijinx reminded us of A Rocky Night for His Nibs, but the tone of this play eventually changed from one of lighthearted fun to introspection and tragedy. I have to say that the pacing threw me off (Jeff Haslam’s purposeful stumbles took a while to get used to), but Barbara Gates Wilson’s almost regal presence helped stabilize the somewhat unpredictable turn of events. The end of the play has been resonating with me even now, hours later, and without giving anything away, was a reminder to embrace opportunity.
Later that afternoon, we took in LoveHateKill, also at the Varscona Theatre. Five separate playlets by five different authors ruminated on some variation of love, hate, and kill, which was a fun interpretive exercise. My favourite, in both plot and acting was “A Love Story” by Trina Davies, exquisitely brought to life by Shannon Blanchet, who is rapidly becoming an actress to watch (she was great in Teatro’s Evelyn Strange, and also starred this past season in Catalyst’s Nevermore). The playlet recounted a woman’s experience of falling in love with an accused killer, and her efforts to be with him. The rest were somewhat interesting (for example, “Social Sundays” highlighted a sadistically creative games night between couples), but not particularly notable. Mack loved the random interlude of the “Jai Ho” Slumdog Millionaire Bollywood dance.
We’ll be back on the grounds tomorrow – looking forward to it!