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In 2013 I volunteered for The Edmonton International Fringe Festival and spent a lot of time seeing shows and wandering around the main festival sites. This year my schedule was busier, but I did see a few shows at The Fringe. It probably would have been better posting this during the festival, but I got too busy. Here’s what I saw at the 2014 Edmonton International Fringe Festival.
Eavesdrop: The Coffee Shop Show
The Premise: Eavesdrop follows six characters during their time in a coffee shop. Audience members wear a wireless headset to listen to the speaking parts of the show while the actors (3, each playing two different characters) act out what’s happening. It’s a show about strangers, connections, and the secrets each of us hides. I think we’ve all gone to a coffee shop and wondered, “what is going on in that person’s life?” The show was about 50 minutes long.
What I Loved: Eavesdrop took place upstairs at a coffee shop (Remedy on 109 Street). With the headphones on I couldn’t hear any of the noises downstairs. The acting was great, and I loved the creativity of this show. I think the theme of connecting with people in everyday space was unique. Also, there was audience participation, and I love shows with audience participation (as long it’s not me who has to go on stage).
What I Didn’t Love (as much): The show itself was great, although the venue itself was small, which meant there was only a limited number of people who could see the show. We also had regular customers come upstairs (where the show was) by accident, which was a bit distracting.
More Information: Eavesdrop was put on by Swallow-a-Bicycle Theatre from Calgary. They look like a unique theatre company, and I’d love to see another show of theirs again.
The Premise: The Frogs is a musical by Stephen Sondheim with a book adaptation by Nathan Lane and Burt Shevelove. The source material is a Greek comedy called The Frogs by Aristophanes (a play from 450BC). The story follows Dionysius (God of Wine and Drama) and his slave Xanthias as they travel to Hades to bring the playwright George Bernard Shaw back to earth. Dionysius believes earth greatly needs Shaw’s wit and wisdom.
What I Loved: I’ll freely admit to my bias and love for anything Sondheim. I’d heard a couple of songs from The Frogs before, but I didn’t understand the songs (out of context) until I saw this show. The plot was easy to follow (I may love Sondheim, but my knowledge of Greek plays is pretty limited), quite humorous, but also solemn in certain parts. The performances and the singing was fantastic.
What I Didn’t Love (as much): Aside from a few small tech issues like some mic feedback I enjoyed this show. It was 90 minutes with no intermission, but it didn’t feel too long.
More Information: This production of The Frogs was put on by No Tomatoes Theatre a local Edmonton-based theatre company. I’d never heard of this theatre company before, but that’s what I love about The Fringe, you discover new shows, artists, playwrights, mediums, theatre companies, etc. to enjoy. I’ll be sure to check out No Tomatoes Theatre again.
The Hobbling Buddhas
The Premise: The Hobbling Buddhas is a one-person show put on by Tim C. Murphy. It’s the real story about his decision to go to a silent, ten-day Vipassana Buddhist retreat in Quebec. The show weaves together Tim’s journey during the centre, the reasons/history for why he was there, as well as general reflective commentary about the experience.
What I Loved: The show was quite funny, and the experience sounded very interesting (but it wouldn’t be something I’d want to do personally). One-man/one-woman shows are a risk because everything rests on one person, but I thought The Hobbling Buddhas worked pretty well. The story flowed well and was easy to follow.
What I Didn’t Love (as much): This was in a BYOV (Bring Your Own Venue) at Rutherford School, and the seating arrangement made it hard to see several parts of the stage (and I’m pretty tall). I couldn’t help but compare this show to a previous one of Mr. Murphy’s I’d seen before (Kuwaiti Moonshine), and I found myself just not connecting as much to The Hobbling Buddhas) as his other show (which I had loved).
More Information: The Hobbling Buddhas was a one-man play written and directed by Ottawa playwright/actor Tim C. Murphy. I’ll be interested to see if he has another show at next year’s Fringe Festival.
Promise and Promiscuity
The Premise: Promise and Promiscuity is a one-woman show/musical performed by Penny Ashton. The story is about Elspeth, a young lady who’d rather be independent than get married (despite desperate pleas to the contrary from her mother). The show has an entertaining cast of 8 different characters all performed by Ashton.
What I Loved: Promise and Promiscuity is a fun homage to Jane Austen novels, but if you’re like me and you’ve never read a Jane Austen novel (#writerfail) or seen a BBC miniseries based on a Jane Austen novel the show is still entertaining. I’m sure there were a lot of Austenisms in the show fans could quickly pick up. There was also a lot of pop culture jokes sprinkled throughout (like how Elspeth was the secret novelist behind the famous pirate novel “Fifty Shades of Arrr!”).
What I Didn’t Love (as much): Not a complaint about the show itself, but Mr. Guy beside me decided to flip out his phone and play Minesweeper during the performance. Please, people shut off your phone when you’re in a theatre, even when it’s on silent the brightness of the screen is distracting. The actual show itself was delightful, and Ashton was an enthusiastic and entertaining performer.
Those were the four shows I saw during The 2014 Edmonton International Fringe Festival. It was a busy week, but I enjoyed what I saw, and I enjoyed volunteering. The Fringe remains one of my favourite summer festivals in Edmonton, and I look forward to going to the Edmonton International Fringe Festival next year.
Things You Should Know
Swallow-a-Bicycle Theatre provided me with tickets to Eavesdrop: The Coffee Shop Show. I purchased the other tickets with Fringe Bucks, which I received for volunteering. I was not required to write about these shows. All opinions within this post are my own.
The Edmonton International Fringe Festival takes place for ten days in August at various venues throughout Edmonton. Festival dates vary per year.
If you are visiting Edmonton you can book a hotel here.
Have you been to The Edmonton International Fringe Festival?
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