There is a reason why I am retroactively updating this blog. It's because Fringe is an experience. An eclectic mind blowing experience. Some shows you love, others you despise and most don't effect you at all. Or affect. I'll never get those two right, and that doesn't bother me.
Tuesday August 8th! That was a hefty lineup of shows which looked like this:
- Men With Coconuts (Free Improv show)
- Sketch Thieves (Free Sketch show)
- Scribble (Original Theatre)
* dinner break*
- The Humours of Bandon (Original Theatre/Dance)
- Zach & Viggo (Absurdist Clown)
As you can see it was a varied day. Starting the day out with improv is always a good idea and Men With Coconuts made me realize it had been too long since I was onstage improvising. (About two weeks.... too long.)
They packed the house and deserved the butts in seats, it was lots of fun from beginning to end. The only thing is looking back at the improv I did see in my first two weeks of Fringe is, where are all the women?!? Ladies in improv need to represent themselves, we are already too few as it is!
Sketch Thieves had a great premise. Four sketch troupes perform their favourite/best sketch. After all four have been performed a random audience member gets selected to mix and match sketches to new groups. E.g. If Group A did a sketch on Henry VIII and Group D did a sketch on mermaids, Group A may now have to take the stage and do the very same sketch beginning to end on mermaids, with Group D doing the one on Henry VIII etc. Except the shuffling is done across four troupes so in the show I saw, just because Group A now does Group D's sketch, doesn't mean D does A's, but likely C's sketch. Make sense?
It was an interesting show as obviously some troupes were stronger and the groups that excelled even after the switch were those that knew how to make the 'new' sketch their own. The groups that tried to re-hash the sketch word for word or beat for beat (aka 'get it right') didn't cut it. Isn't that interesting.... trying to 'get it right' in comedy doesn't work.... haha.
Scribble started promising. A show where one performer is new to the show, every show. If you are familiar with the improv game 'Actor's Nightmare' you'll understand the essence of this new performers role in this show. If you're not familiar, google it.
Scribble is all about mental illness and the fear and anxiety that comes with mental illnesses and what those of us who suffer from it can possible go through in this world. And Bran flakes, I can't forget the bran flakes as that spin/analogy what really beaten home to the audience during the show.
I thought I would love this show, it started out promising. Even with the new performer element, it really is a one man show. (The new performer only comes into it towards the end as they open envelopes and read lines from a folder provided onstage.) But I didn't love this show and here is why.
The character suffers from an anxious OCD affliction. And their sudden obsession with a child comes up in the storyline. In fact, it is explored in a very dark, dense and confronting way. Pedophillia normally is dark, dense and confronting. The only jig is, the character starts to spiral mentally at the beginning of the show because their partner (girlfriend) moves away for a chunk of time. Not permanently. They relationship continues, long distance, and a very real love is presented to you.
When the pedophillia element comes into the show, it drives a wedge between the lovers, and the sexualizing of the child really comes into play when the main character is standing in the supermarket incapable of picking a cereal. The shoes of the child (or rainjacket, I forget which) catches his eye. Later on a park bench the same child happens by and speaks to him. This is where the play never again addresses the pedophillia, but jumps straight into his self hatred and relationship fallout about his child sex issues. Scary stuff as the protagonist is no longer likeable.
And soon after that the show is over, with no real ending as the actor, new performer and writer break the fourth wall to say how there isn't an ending as it's real life. The writer struggled to write the play, and didn't finish. It's art, it's Fringe, the audience applauds their creative zeal. But 'what the fuck' I say to myself, the main character attacked a child? Or he didn't?
Five minutes later I am finishing up in the washroom under the theatre when I overhear another audience member talking to who I find out is the Director. This audience member also wants to know why bring up the pedophillia in the first place? They didn't understand, did he go through with it and attack the girl? The Director says no, but that it was written into the script as a lot of OCD sufferers become obsessed with what they think is their sexual attraction/obsession with children and worry they could be pedophiles. They worry they could harm another. She goes on to explain to the captive audience member that OCD suffers needlessly worry, that it is one of the quirks of the mental illness, something they struggle with.
I wanted to add something to their discussion, but didn't. Partly because I don't think that it was presented well or addressed clearly in the show and partly because they still created something relevant and interesting. I figure if I want to criticize their handling of the pedophillia issue, (she was correct, OCD suffers can also suffer from an over sexualized imagination and urges) I should write my own mental health awareness show, right?!? Still, I felt it was a bit of a shame. You definitely leave with the impression he hurt the girl, and he didn't, it was only there because it is a peripheral OCD issue. They have quite a lot of this show in the bag and I think it was just that loose thread that left it from being tied neatly together.
More importantly, wouldn't audiences leaving with empathy for suffers of OCD and mental illness be more powerfully prepped, effective and knowledgable in the real world? Instead of audiences leaving associating OCD and mental health issues with pedophiles and not quite fully understanding the "link" between the two?
The Humours of Bandon has to be one of the best shows I've seen in the festival. Reasons? Well, it was bloody well polished. The 'original' script, meaning original idea, not first script, is engaging and it was tight. Great characters whose voices were distinct (meaning dialogue- not actors vocal tone) and who the actress enhanced with character and body language. It was all so smooth and fluid.
Not to mention the Irish dancing was great. Fantastic even. Not 100% flawless, but all human and heart. I walked out thinking people need to see this kind of work. And I bought a copy of the play in the foyer as I know I could learn a lot from it.
Last of the night was Zach and Viggo's clowning. I don't know exactly what it was about but I didn't care because I am now 100% a fan of whatever they are. It doesn't hurt they are both incredibly charming. The show was just silly stupid weird, the kind playful everyone at some point has been. When laughter and giggles take over and the mundane becomes the hilarious joke. I bought tickets to both their solo shows for later in the week.