Adventures at the Edmonton Fringe: Day I
An improvised musical, fire jugglers, fairy tales meet film noir, amazing acrobatics and a one man reenactment of the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy; what do these things have in common? The Edmonton Fringe Festival of course!
So I made it all the way to my parents’ house in Bruderheim, Alberta (a little town outside of Fort Saskatchewan…which is just outside Edmonton) and got ready to depart on my first day of fringing. For those of you who don’t know, ‘fringing’ is a hip colloquial term for attending a fringe festival. I totally and down and hip with the whole fringe festival scene and have been picking up little things like that all day.
By sheer dumb luck I was able to find parking within a block of the main fringe entrance (a feat that I highly doubt I will be able to accomplish again tomorrow and the next day) and basically skipped with excitement and joy to the box office. Well…to be completely truthful I skipped in the direction I thought the box office was in, wandered around lost for about 10 minutes then skipped my way happily to the box office to get my tickets, all thew while taking pictures of various exciting and non-exciting things.
Because I found parking earlier than expected I had 30 minutes to burn before I had to get in line for my first official show. I decided to waste no time and start seeing some theatre right away. What theatre can you see between fringe shows you ask? Street performance theatre of course! After passing two living statues (one of which looked suspiciously like a weeping angel), a handful of buskers (including a tap dancer!) and countless vendors, I found a couple of fantastic street performances. Throughout the whole day I watched at least a half a dozen street performance theatre shows and enjoyed them all as much as I did the shows that I actually bought tickets for.
Over the day I saw three shows (with various street performances in between). Here’s a quick review of each. I’ll try to keep it brief.
The 11 O’Clock Number!
The first show I saw was an improv show. I was tentative at first to see an improv show. You never know what you’re going to get with them. On a whole I am very surprised by how many shows at the fringe were improv shows…Anyway, this particular improv group was different because they created improvised musicals! Which was actually delightful. I enjoyed it much more than I expected, but the group did a wonderful job.
At the beginning of the show the host of the group got the group to give them a location, a genre, the name of the musical and the name of a song that would fit in the musical. They actually ended up using my suggestion for the location: a library (it was the first thing that came into my mind, give me a break). The genre was “mystery,” the name of our show was “Due Back on Friday,” and the name for one of the songs was “Bookworm.”
Since none of you will ever get to see this show, I’ll tell you a bit about it. It all happened in a library and it revolved around two couples that were trying to pass a History exam in order to graduate from high school. Two of them were young high school students, the other two were senior students who had been repeating high school for fifty years. The six actors played various roles through-out the show. Including a librarian who was sick of kids bringing back their books late so she started switching the book covers on the books (and thus making the students fail history and not graduate). There was a lovely moment I loved when one character mentioned Snoopy as a WWI fighters ace. It made me giggle. In the end they caught the librarian (who they had labeled the “Bookworm” while they were investigating the switching of the book covers).
The show more or less ran a lot like most improv shows, but the whole thing was accompanied by a pianist and a drummer. The host would create scenes and generate ideas and the actors would do their magic. The only thing that was really different was that every once and a while the host would say something like, “and now Ben and Jannet sing a song called ‘What is History’” or “she then sings about her glory days as a young librarian.”
They were all decent singers, none of them actually wowed me with their singing though. That could be because they were creating the lyrics and music in their heads as they sung. There were a few times where two (or three) people wanted to say a line at the same time and talked over each other, but that’s sort of to be expected with improv. It also became very apparent that one of the actors had the job of creating the choruses for the songs he was in, especially the group numbers, and then everyone would chime in with him after that. And the one time they attempted any dancing (your basic step touches) was a hilarious disaster.
But I’m making it sound like it was bad or something. I really enjoyed the show, it was entertaining, laugh-out-loud funny, and the music was actually quite fabulous. It’s a show that I would love to see again…which I know is impossible because “Due Back on Friday” was created right before our eyes as a non-repeatable piece of theatre and their lies its beauty. Every performance of theatre is unique, but this is especially true for improv shows. I would, however, be just as excited to see them perform again so I could see a whole new musical be created.
This show was good. It definitely was great, but it wasn’t quite bad as a play either. I liked it, but didn’t love it. Nor did I hate it.
Princess Confidential was a cross between classic fairy tales and film noir. The story itself was about a private eye detective who is visited by a princess who’s lost her memory. They two then reenact fairy tales trying to find the story that fits the princess and thus discover her identity. I thought the script was brilliantly written and the show was very well directed. What I had problems with was the actors. The show involved two actors, the detective and the princess, each of which jumped in and out of different characters within the stories. They were both quite good at this, but both of them had troubles with lines. Such a simple thing but it really pulled my focus away from the show. Each actor fumbled with their lines on more than one occasion. The quality of the acting on a whole reminded my of university theatre. It wasn’t bad…but it wasn’t of a professional caliber either.
There were definite moments that I liked though. The male actor portraying all seven dwarves was quite humourous. There was a lovely moment when the detective was playing Rapunzel and using his tie to represent her long hair. The princess was playing the Dame Gothel and hid scissors behind her back after discovering Rapunzel has been having a prince as a visitor. She takes the scissors out from behind her back and goes to cut his tie…and then actually cuts it! It made the whole audience cringe. I think a little shriek even escaped my mouth. It was a really nice tie.
One Man Lord of the Rings
I had really high expectations going into this show. It’s a pretty well known show and I’ve heard a lot of good reviews about it. It was, however, not how I expected. I was ready to not like the whole show with how the first few minutes went but it quickly became one of the funniest and funnest shows I’ve seen. Charlie Ross, the solo performer, was one of the most brilliant actors I’ve ever seen. His characterizations and impersonations were all brilliant. He was incredibly physical and a master of sound effects. At one point in the show he convincingly portrayed 10,000 orcs marching to Helms Deep. It was rather stellar.
The show was clever, witty and silly. Ross stayed connected to the audience the entire time and continually made asides to the audience about their reactions. His interaction and relationship with the audience was amazing to watch. He did mess up on one line but was so open with the audience and was able to make fun of himself that it didn’t even matter. It added to the humor of the show (in a similar manner to actors messing up in an improv show). My favorite part of the show was actually his use of silence. The show was so fast pace and zany and crazy, but every once in a while he would pause at just the right moment and then deliver a brilliant punch line. He was a master of the both the dramatic and comedic pause. All in all it was a wonderful play and I’m very excited to see his One Man Star Wars Trilogy tomorrow.
And that concludes my first of three days at the fringe. Of the plays I saw today I’d have to say that One Man Lord of the Rings was my favorite, but The 11 O’Clock Number! was a close second. So much fun was had and I’m excited to do it again tomorrow and the next day!
Posted on August 20, 2013, in Reviews, Theatre and tagged charlie ross, comedy, detective, Drama, edmonton, edmonton fringe, edmonton fringe festival, Entertainment, fairy tale, film noir, fringe, fringe festival, fringing, Funny, Humour, improv, live theatre, living statues, Musical, Musical Theatre, musicals, Mystery, one man lord of the rings, one man star wars trilogy, princess, private eye, Review, tap dancer, the 11 o'clock number, theater, Theatre, theatre review, weeping angel. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.