Top 5 Plays at the 2015 Saskatoon PotashCorp Fringe Theatre Festival: Review

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Theatre and Food Trucks and Street Performers, oh my!

The PotashCorp Fringe Theatre Festival is a 10 day event that takes place in and around the Broadway area. Put on by an incredibly dedicated staff and volunteer crew, the Fringe just seems to keep on growing into something bigger and better, but its heart is still as weird and wonderful as it ever was.

One of the biggest draws for me about the Fringe is the huge element of surprise and risk that goes into everything. We cross our fingers that the weather holds out, while at the same time hoping the show you’re about to see or perform in, is a good one.

This year, aside from a few rainy days I think we made out pretty good. The streets were packed and every single show I went to was either at or near capacity and that’s great to see. With so many other interesting things to see and do during the Fringe, sometimes the actual theatre aspect of it gets overlooked and that’s a shame because there’s something so special and intimate about fringe theatre, no two shows are the same, sometimes even when it’s the same show…

So full disclosure, I didn’t make it to every show this year (sorry Love Sounds Bad and Switch Back, I heard you were both great!) I tried my damnedest and went to as a many as I could bouncing around Broadway making last minute decisions on who to see based on my own interest and more so word of mouth.

If I had one piece of advice to give when deciding what shows to see it would be to take some reviews with a grain of salt, don’t skip out on something just because it got a bad one, if it interests you go see for yourself and if you don’t like it there’s always another show just around the corner.

BEST OF THE BEST
The top 5 plays you hopefully didn’t miss out on

James & Jamesy in High Tea

James & Jamesy in High Tea

Company: James & Jamesy
Starring: Aaron Malkin & Alastair Knowles

“I always enjoy my visits with Jamesy, it’s a short time filled with magical moments.”

This sentiment given from James to Jamesy during High Tea perfectly captures how I feel about this show. The magic starts before the show does, inviting the audience to fill up a tea cup before sitting down with them. It’s a lovely opening touch on an entirely magical hour.

James & Jamesy manage to do the impossible, they make the audience forget they’re watching a show of 2 men drowning in tea in their Sunday best, because they pull you right in almost immediately (and literally) pulling audience members from their seats to take up crucial roles in their incredibly choreographed and hilarious, heartfelt adventure. While you might first be caught off guard asking to participate, they inspire everyone in the room to have fun and give it their all.

This was a show that has the ability to make you smile from start to finish and then for a good while after it’s all said and done.

I lift my teacup to you fine gentlemen, well done.

No Belles

No Belles

Company: Portal Theatre
Starring: Jade Hobbs, Melissa Schenter, Melissa Murray & the countless women in science they’re celebrating.

Man, was this ever an important show.

Winner of Best of Fest of the 2015 PotashCorp Fringe Theatre Festival, No Belles couldn’t have been more deserving.

A storytelling performance about the countless women in science who went above and beyond in their fields and whose names you probably don’t know. No Belles captured the spirit and groundbreaking accomplishments of these women while shedding much needed light on gender politics that still happen to this very day.

They made me laugh at how ridiculous the notion that “San Diego Mother wins prize” was an actual headline when Maria Goeppert-Mayer won the Nobel Prize in physics. It broke your heart to hear about the women who had their research stolen or were told they weren’t attractive enough to be taken seriously.

I can’t thank No Belles enough for putting on such an important and captivating show. I left the theatre equal parts inspired and infuriated. Those women sure have Moxy.Displaced

Displaced

Company: Ground Cover Theatre
Starring: Anna Mazurik, Katie Moore & Emma Laishram

The story of three women seeking refuge in Canada from different countries, decades apart. Trying to reclaim who they are and what they stand for, while acclimating to new customs and surroundings. This subject matter at its core is a pretty daunting and frightening journey and Displaced doesn’t shy away from the perils that can befall a woman in a strange place on her own.

This story and the performances from it were beautiful and heartbreaking. One of the things that struck me immediately about this show is how well it fit together within itself. It was breathtaking to watch the seemingly simple choreography of three women struggle through household chores turn into a beautiful rhythm and dance. The way the actresses wove in and out of each other’s stories without skipping a beat was incredible, breaking your heart with one character and restoring your faith with another. The level of support you could feel from the stage was palpable, they were lifting each other up through their performances and because of that they all shone incredibly brightly.

Loon

Loon

Company: Wonderheads
Starring: Kate Braidwood

I’ve always wanted to give someone the moon, but I’ve never thought about having it for myself, until I met Francis and saw this whimsical show.

The Wonderheads are back for their 3rd year in a row with another incredibly unique piece.

You’ll fall in love with the character of Francis, who after the loss of his beloved mother rediscovers his inner child all while trying to be a little less lonely. His journey proves that you can find what you’re looking for in the unlikeliest of places, and at the same time showing that not all great love stories are meant to last.

Whenever I see a Wonderheads show, it always bowls me over on how many emotions they can convey and make me feel while their characters wear only a single mask, it’s astounding. A simple body shift shows you exactly how Francis is feeling, and it’s a thing of beauty. These guys are experts at what they do and it’s no wonder their shows are so oft talked about. The perfect refuge when you too, want to feel a little less lonely.

Southern Dandy 75

Southern Dandy 75

Company: Otto Helmut Productions and Grahame Kent
Starring: Luke Pennock, Devin Wesnoski, Lindsay J Adams, Jared Beattie, Danielle Spilchen & Grahame Kent

A local show sponsored by a local brewery, what’s not to love?

The play written and directed by Andrew Taylor is a story of two box car hobos, one over educated and the other over confident trying to make a dishonest living and score a bottle of the fabled bourbon, Southern Dandy 75, to appease a promise they made to their landlord. Hijinks quite obviously ensues.

This show was a riot. The chemistry of the cast is clear from the very first scene and each character is expertly developed and portrayed in a very short period.

Everyone on stage benefits from the great use of language in the material, while whole heartedly committing to the physical comedy it demands.

Southern Dandy weaves a fantastic tale through and through that left me with sore sides and an unquenchable thirst for a certain bourbon.

Seven out of Sevenfold.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS / THE *FRINGIEST*
Two small shows that left a big impression

Bear Ass

Company: EvilStick Productions
Starring:Miranda Hughes, Kelly McTaggart & Lauren Younghusband

Three young women alone in the woods, what could go wrong? This was the first show I saw of the 2015 season and it was a weird and funny start. A horror tale filled with musical numbers, dance montages and bear erotica. Bear Ass was ultimately about the survival of childhood friendships into adulthood with a mix of supernatural thrown in. The performances were charming and the songs were great, I’m looking forward to seeing what these girls do next. While it may not have been perfect, it’s shows like this that keep the fringe growing into a weird and wonderful thing.

Chris & Travis Improv Show

Starring: Chris Stache & Travis Bernhardt

I received a party hat when I walked in and birthday cake when I walked out. Chris and Travis have my vote for best improv show of the Fringe.