Child-like wonder and disturbing sexual imagery: a preview of the 2017 Vancouver Fringe Festival

The annual Vancouver Fringe Festival is about to stage an 11-day takeover of your imagination. We’ve invited our regular Fringers, Marlene Dong and Kuan Foo, to share their preview picks. As members of local sketch comedy troupe, Assaulted Fish, they know what it’s like to participate in the Fringe as performers and patrons. Without further ado, in their own words…

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A note from our seasoned Fringers

Hi, District Locals!

You’re in for a treat at this year’s Vancouver Fringe Festival. When we were sticky-noting, internet deep-diving and YouTube-ing our preview picks, we realized many performers were new to us. Because the Vancouver Fringe operates on a lottery system, you can get a random line-up year to year. For example, one year clowns were de rigueur; another year puppets.

More recently, the Fringe’s partnership with venues like The Cultch’s Vancity Culture Lab and groups like Ruby Slippers Theatre and the Playwrights Guild of Canada have resulted in more dramatic, diverse works, including those by emerging female artists and directors. This year, the Fringe is making the festival as accessible as possible; the program identifies shows that are friendly to those who are deaf, hard of hearing or low vision.

In a nutshell, this year’s Fringe is wide-open, and that’s exactly how we’re going to experience the festival this year: with our mind and all our senses wide-open to discover new stories. Join us!

Remember our pro tips: ask a Fringe volunteer or performer for show recommendations, try to support great performances at Bring Your Own Venues (BYOVs) across the city, and make space to hear performers giving their pitches in the line-up. It can pass the time, they’re often entertaining, and you might discover a Fringe gem! Lastly, for mini-reviews of the shows we’re catching, visit the Assaulted Fish website or Facebook page.

MD & KF

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Top 12 picks for Fringe Fest 2017

5-Step Guide to Being German (Paco Erhard, 18+)
Erhard is a stand-up comedian who swears he “can make you German.” One year’s worth of study at university didn’t work on me, but maybe Erhard’s well-reviewed show will. – MD

7 Ways to Die, A Love Story (K.I.A. Productions, 14+)
If you’re like me and marvel at mask and mime work, this “romantic comedy about suicide…in full mask without a single line of dialogue” might be the ticket. – MD

A David Lynch Wet Dream (Acherontia Productions, 18+)
A 45-minute movement piece involving dance, projections and sound effects. Like most things Lynchean, be prepared for surreal kitschiness, disturbing sexual imagery and endless debates afterwards. – KF

Bombay Black (Raghupriya Society, 14+)
My introduction to Anosh Irani was his debut novel, The Cripple and His Talismans, but he’s also an acclaimed playwright. The Matka King was part of the Arts Club Theatre’s 2003 season, while multiple Dora Award winning Bombay Black graced the Granville Island Stage back in 2008. This Fringe production is helmed by Diwali Fest producer Rohit Chokhani who brought the delightful Elephant Wrestler to The Cultch in 2016. – MD

Bondage (West Moon Theatre, 18+)
Director Chris Lam returns to the Fringe with this restaging of David Henry Hwang’s provocative play about race and racial stereotypes. Lam’s excellent direction of The Nether at last year’s festival was a favourite of many Fringe goers. (Full disclosure: Chris is a former member of Assaulted Fish) – MD

Bushel and Peck (Alastair Knowles, All Ages)
Alastair Knowles is best known to regular Fringers as one half of the crowd-pleasing comedic duo James and Jamesy (I believe he is Jamesy). This time, he’s performing sans James with choreographer Stephanie Morin-Robert. Expect physical comedy, mime and dance with a child-like sense of wonder. – KF

Cry-Baby: The Musical (Awkward Stage Productions, 14+)
If you’re looking for a musical, make it this one. Not only is it based on an ‘80s film by John Waters, but you’ll be supporting a long-time Fringe BYOV and a talented emerging musical performer, Ali Watson. We’ve been tracking Ali’s work since we first saw her in the musical theatre program at Capilano University, and she was an outstanding Mimi in URP’s 2016 production of Rent. – MD

Gigantic Lying Mouth (Rhyming Optional, 18+)
This line in the show description cracked me up: “After perishing in a tragic yoga accident, Kevin finds himself trapped in the afterlife…” Who knew yoga could be so perilous? Let’s find out in Scotsman Kevin P. Gilday’s spoken word play. – MD

Gruesome Playground Injuries (Island Productions, 18+)
A blackly comedic premise – two childhood friends and potential soul mates repeatedly meet over 30 years due to experiencing terrible, sometimes self-inflicted injuries – morphs into a moving exploration of human frailty and why people hurt themselves in this early play by Pulitzer Prize finalist Rajiv Joseph. I loved this play when I read it a few years back and am curious to see how it translates to stage. – KF

Interstellar Elder (SNAFU Dance Theatre, All Ages)
Little Orange Man by Ingrid Hansen and SNAFU Dance Theatre was easily one of my favourite shows of the 2011 Fringe. Since then, Hansen has produced several more critically acclaimed Fringe shows filled with her playful energy, physical comedy and tremendous heart. My must-see for this year – KF

Katharine Ferns is in Stitches (Katharine Ferns, 18+)
Ferns is a Canadian stand-up comedian now living in Manchester, England. Going by interviews and online videos, her brand of comedy is modern, irreverent and honest. In Stitches deals with some very dark autobiographical subject matter, including child and domestic abuse, mental illness and drug addiction with “some feminism thrown on for comic relief.” – MD

Soul Samurai (Affair of Honor, 14+)
Qui Nguyen is very much the playwright of the moment with his Off Broadway hit Vietgone and one of his earlier plays She Kills Monsters being staged as part of the UBC’s 2017/2018 season. If you like your theatre witty, geeky and filled with pop-cultural reference points, this may be for you. – KF

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About Vancouver Fringe Festival

The Vancouver Fringe is a celebration of all kinds of theatre. Produced annually by the First Vancouver Theatrespace Society over 11 days in September, with over 500 volunteers supporting 700+ performances and attracting over 40,000 attendees, the Fringe strives to break down traditional boundaries and encourage open dialogue between audiences and artists by presenting live un-juried, uncensored theatre in an accessible and informal environment.

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