Vancouver Fringe Festival 2012: Part III

Featured Photograph Default

Vancouver Fringe Festival 2012: Part III

 Fringe Festival Part III. Reviews by GL and ARL.

In an interesting convergence of programming, there were common threads running through the three plays we saw in sequence at Studio 16 relating to ideas of recurring nightmares and to life moving off course. What we think our life will be and the way it actually plays out causes many of us anxiety.  What happens when the path we thought we were on diverges from our reality? In many ways, these three plays work to answer that question, although that's where the similarity of content ends.

4) Alpha by Evan Frayne

5) Breaking Velocity by Megan Phillips

6) Grey Matter by Mallory Gallant and Jamie Dunsdon

Alpha (running time 60 mins)

Created and performed by Evan Frayne
Venue: Studio 16, 1555 West 7th Street
Still to come:
Mon, Sep 10, 6:15
Thu, Sep 13, 8:30
Sat, Sep 15, 8:00

Written and performed by Evan Frayne, Alpha touches on elements of autobiography bringing Frayne's love of playing hockey and past indiscretions with alcohol to light in a revelatory monodrama.

For Ricky, a young boy growing up in the Cowichan Valley of Vancouver Island, hockey was his passion.  With his four close friends he spent hours playing street hockey in the cul-de-sac where they lived, and as they grew up, they played together on successive ice hockey teams. As captain of the winning Junior Hockey team, Ricky seems well on his way to a  professional hockey career until his off-ice drinking spirals out of control. Nightmare scenes of driving accidents, confrontations with the increasingly frustrated coach and pleas from his parents fail to avert him from his destructive path.

With effective use of  a few props and a bench that becomes a bed, a  car  and - well - a locker room bench, Frayne tells this story with honesty and sincerity. Frayne slips easily in and out of a myriad of characters and finds the emotional truth of a young man out of control as well as of the people who worry for his well being. While the story remains elusive (was Ricky's confrontation with his birth-father real or an alcohol-induced hallucination? Did he really drag a body under his car?) the heart of the play is not ambiguous. We have all felt that quiet desperation when what we want doesn't match what we've got or have access to. When we see the next generation heading down the path that we thought we were on when we were their age. Only age and experience help an uncertain future become less frightening.

Breaking Velocity (running time 60 mins)

Created and performed by Megan Phillips
Venue: Studio 16, 1555 West 7th Street
Still to come:
Sun, Sep 9: 4:30
Tue, Sep 11, 7:45
Thu, Sep 13, 5:00
Sat, Sep 15, 12:35
Sun, Sep 16, 8:00

Breaking Velocity, the show we saw right after Alpha, also explored the theme that the life path taken was not the path dreamed of. From childhood M wanted to "be a star". With themed birthday parties, she coaxed her friends into taking part in "performance". Singing, dancing and acting were her passions. She is accepted into musical theatre school in London, England and seems on her way to achieving her ambition when disaster strikes. Two weeks away from graduation an accident puts her in hospital with  an injury that is so severe she is told she will never dance again. 

Phillips has a pleasant voice and but she seemed to hold back on several of her songs. We really wanted to hear her cut loose, especially when playing such larger-than-life characters as an evangelist guardian angel who tells M to find her own path. The most showy song, and consequently, the most engaging song in the show, was a  piece in which her Aunt offers her the advice to "go into sales" complete with tap moves and a kazoo. One can see how much fun Megan is having with her own piece and how much the act of performance means to her. 

While she seems mostly recovered, she did wear a brace on her left ankle and it is not hard to imagine that the degenerative arthritis of her character is once again a bit of autobiography. M struggles with the fact that stardom may never come and that her ability to dance will never be quite as good as it once was. But Phillips defies this grim reality by creating her own work, and once again (like Alpha), purging personal demons in highly public way

Grey Matter (running time 60 mins

Written  by Mallory Gallant and Jamie Dunsdon
Venue: Studio 16, 1555 West 7th Street
Still to come:
Wed, Sep 12, 5:15
Thu, Sep 13, 10:15
Fri, Sep 14, 6:55
Sun, Sep 16, 1:30

Magic Word Theatre describes Grey Matter as a "psychological thriller through mind and memory" but it is more than that. The story of Lila - 25? or not - it is a haunting exploration of the effect of Alzheimer's disease  on mind and body.

Framing the life journey of the 25 year old Lila and the dying grandmother, short scenes from Alice In Wonderland invoke ideas of being stuck in time and circularity of thought. Plugging in and unplugging of scattered lights was both realistically jarring and metaphorically symbolic of thoughts and fears flickering through the mind. The specific choice of using the Mad Hatter's Tea Party as a linking device made perfect sense: the Mad Hatter deals in unanswerable riddles, levels of social propriety, and a nihilistic outlook in which the end and beginning are on the same track.

This play was well written and very well executed. Surprising and clever use of lighting and minimal props highlighted the exquisite body and vocal work of the performers.

On the night we went there was no program available to say who the actors were which is a pity because all three were very good. The movement and body control of the person playing Alice was impressive, as was her movement as a deer.  Don't want to give away more of the plot so I will simply comment that this was fascinating and a well performed show- worth a visit.

Addendum: Samantha Duff plays Lila, Helen Knight plays Woman/Alice, and Paul Welch plays Man/Mad Hatter.

See Vancouver Fringe Festival 2012 for reviews of:

More Power to Your Knitting,Nell!
The Abyss Burrow
Ne Me Quitte Pas

See Vancouver Fringe Festival 2012. Part II for review of