Posts tagged “Fringe Festival

Fringe 2019 Reviews, Part 4 (Time for One More?)

Note that the following reviews are the completely subjective opinions of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of the other members of Assaulted Fish.

Russian Play

The Russian Play

“I see what you are thinking. You are thinking this is Russian play, you are thinking Chekhov, Tolstoy, so boring. And Russia. Shitty country.” So begins The Russian Play, a satire of a tragic love story that somehow also manages to be a tragic love story. A young flower girl named Sonya falls in love with a gravedigger named Piotr and they are happy for approximately 10 minutes of the play’s short 45 minute runtime. Then things go wrong. Extremely wrong. The Russian Play explores how love can destroy women while leaving the men around them relatively unscathed. All this would be extraordinarily depressing but for the central character of Sonya, who also serves as the narrator. At first cynical and wise-cracking and later, when the boundary between story and story-teller starts to break down, vulnerable and heart-breaking, she never entirely loses her defiant spirit and grim self-awareness no matter what is thrown at her.

Sonya is a tour-de-force role and Bronwyn Henderson is more than up to the task. Her open and expressive face captures all of Sonya’s conflicting emotions as she is inexorably dragged from subject to object in her own story. Dennis Virshillas and Nathen Cottell do fine supporting work as the two men in Sonya’s life. The staging is simple but effective with a single gravesite the only set piece on stage. The three actors are always on stage and move in and out of scenes with waltz-like precision. In fact, the play often feels like a stately dance, aided by the live music performed by violinist Ellen Smith and percussionist (and co-producer) Demi Pedersen.

The Russian Play may not end happily but what Russian play ever did? Because, as Sonya might say, in Russia, love is like vodka, it starts out smoothly but burns you from the inside out. — Marlene Dong


Fringe 2019 Reviews, Part 3

Note that the following reviews are the completely subjective opinions of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of the other members of Assaulted Fish.

Amelie

Amelie

Amelie the musical hews pretty closely to the plot of the popular film that it’s based on. As a young girl, Amelie Poulain is overly sheltered by her parents to the point where she has almost no contact with other people. As a result she develops a rich and imaginative inner life (as well as what appears to be quite severe social anxiety). Amelie grows into an eccentric young woman and moves to Paris to work as a waitress. A discovery of lost childhood mementoes and their subsequent return to their owner leads Amelie to devote herself to anonymously doing good deeds for the people around her. However, in doing so is she disregarding her own life and her own need for human connection and love?

West Moon Theatre has mounted a charming production that is as light and whimsical as its source material. This Amelie is bursting with colour and movement. Whereas the movie used CGI, the musical relies on songs and the clever use of the ensemble cast -sometimes as a kind of living set – to represent Amelie’s imagination (the Firehall Theatre has quite a deep stage and the production takes full advantage of that). There is not a weak link in the ensemble, although special mention must be made of Georgia Acken and Tessa Trach, who play the young and adult Amelie respectively, and Cathy Wilmot, who does a fine comic turn as Suzanne the owner of the Café where Amelie works. Even though it clocks in at a full 90 minutes, I was enraptured from beginning to end. — Marlene Dong

(Full disclosure: Amelie’s director, Chris Lam, is a friend and a former member of Assaulted Fish.)

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Dandelion

Aaron Malkin has an easy, natural presence on stage that works well for the themes he covers in Dandelion. This is a much more personal show than I’m used to seeing from Malkin. As one-half of the comedic clowning duo James & Jamesy, Malkin is often cast in the “white face” role next to the “red nose” antics of his partner. In Dandelion, Malkin reveals a vulnerable side when he talks about his insecurities – and his desire to uphold a standard – as a father to his five-year old son Oliver. He admits to being an anxious person and making mistakes that affect him deeply. Threaded between the more serious reflections are moments of whimsy. When Malkin reads from a notebook where he’s recorded questions that Oliver asks him, he’s conspiratorial in his delivery which endears himself to the audience.

There isn’t a strong structure to the show; it’s more of a series of scenes and Malkin moves between them with lighting changes or video vignettes. The highlight of the show involves a brick of butter and I won’t say anything more except that it allows Malkin’s clowning skills to be on full display. Dandelion may be too quiet a show for some audiences, but if you’re in the mood for something lighter, let Malkin’s performance take you there. — MD

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You Belong Here

How does he remember all those words? This is Martin Dockery’s second show at the Fringe this year and, like Inescapable (reviewed here), the semi-autobiographical You Belong Here is filled with text, this time delivered solo in Dockery’s trademark, hyperactive manner. Dockery is a master performer who may not have invented the shaggy dog story, but has certainly raised it to the level of art. Trading in his usual flannel shirt for a dapper suit and tie, he initially bounds onto the stage like a demented talk show host only to stop and restart the show multiple times for increasingly spurious (and hilarious) reasons. Gradually, we realize that the form of the show reflects the content as You Belong Here is all about beginnings and restarts (in fact a more accurate title might be You Begin Here). Dockery is good at beginnings, he tells us with tongue firmly in cheek, less good with endings and terrible at middles. This is ironic because sometimes You Belong Here feels like it is all middle, stuffed with endless imaginative digressions (including an extended riff on how not to visit the Forbidden City) and witty asides with few hints as to where the narrative will go next. Where it does finally end up is with the best beginning of all, an event that literally begins a new phase in Dockery’s life. The final irony of You Belong Here is I was so taken with this tale of beginnings I almost didn’t want it to end. — MD

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Lift

Over the years, I have enjoyed several musicals from Awkward Stage Productions (their 2017 production of Cry Baby was a personal favourite and was a Pick of the Fringe that year) but unfortunately their production of Lift is a misfire. Lift is simply not a very good musical. Lift looks intriguing on paper: every day a group of eight strangers spend 54 seconds together riding a lift at the Convent Garden train station. Among them is a busker who imagines what is going on in each characters lives and projects his own stories of heartache and loss on them. In practice, the stories that spring from the busker’s imagination are cliched, sexist and stereotyped: the executive assistant who is secretly in love with her boss, the ballerina who moonlights as a lap dancer, the businessman who is unknowingly sexting with a gay man. None of the characters are developed in any meaningful way. The story and songs are meted out in the most rudimentary fashion; there’s no artistry in the scene or song transitions. The songs themselves are unmemorable and sound like variations on the same tune. At the show I attended, there were technical sound issues that created a harsh din instead of clear melodies and harmonies which unfortunately made many of the lyrics unintelligible (I actually had to look up a synopsis online after the fact to understand what I had seen). The cast tries hard and I applaud Awkward Stage Productions for selecting an obscure musical, but perhaps there’s a reason why it’s an obscure musical. This experience won’t stop me from seeing future productions from this company, but Lift definitely left me deflated. –MD

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Dissection of a Indian Aboriginal First Nation Indigenous Native Full-Blood Status Non-Status Halfbreed Métis Rez Urban Mixed Heritage Woman

Nyla Carpentier is, by her own tally, half French, one quarter Indigenous (Tahltan/Kaska) and one quarter Scottish, which has made her tall, high-cheek-boned, curly haired and racially ambiguous – in other words “the Ultimate Canadian!” In Dissection … of a Mixed Heritage Woman, Carpentier explores her mixed Indigenous and non-Indigenous heritage(s) in story, song, poetry and dance. She speculates, humorously, where she gets various body parts from (her cheekbones are clearly Indigenous, her button nose, French), as well what these labels do and don’t mean to herself as a whole. She shares stories of her forbears on both sides of the Atlantic and traces her lineage through spoken word poetry. Carpentier is an incredibly warm and natural performer blessed with a playful wit (a cleansing movement after a particularly harrowing revelation morphs into “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”) and somehow is able to create intimacy with an entire theatre of strangers. And oh, how she can dance. Carpentier has participated in Pow Wow dancing since she was a little girl and the absolute highlight of the show is when she performs a shawl dance, a sequence of such arresting power, beauty and catharsis that it took my breath away.

Structurally, Dissection … of a Mixed Heritage Woman still feels a bit like a work in progress. There is a great deal of raw (sometimes emotionally raw) material for Carpentier to draw from, but I’m not sure it is organized in a fashion that best serves her purposes. The shawl dance, for example, falls somewhere in the middle of the show, which makes what happens immediately after it seem almost anticlimactic by comparison. Still, like Carpentier herself, the show is greater than the sum of the individual parts and I am very interested in what she does with it next. — MD

 

 


Fringe 2019 Reviews, Part 2

Note that the following reviews are the completely subjective opinions of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of the other members of Assaulted Fish.

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Fool Muun Komming!

In the words of Sam Kruger, the creator/performer of Fool Muun Komming!, his show is “a bit difficult to describe,” but I’ll give it a shot. First, you need to know that the full title is actually Fool Muun Komming! [BeBgWunderful/YEsyes/4sure.Hi5.TruLuv; Spank Spank :SOfun_Grate_Times], which, in some ways, tells you more about the show than I may be able to. Second, it’s a one-man performance piece made up of a series of vignettes centred around an unnamed alien (Kruger) trying to make an emotional connection with humanity before the Earth is annihilated by a sentient asteroid that the alien is also a passenger on (whew!). Finally, it’s weird. Really weird. And when I say “weird,” I don’t mean “look at me, I’m wearing two different socks” weird. I mean full-on “psychedelic lava-lamp, I levitate in my basement and my best friend is an orange” weird.

What ties Fool Muun Komming! together is Kruger, whose goofy wordplay and manically precise physicality are the beating alien heart of the piece. His whiplash timing and pliable body create moments of hilarity and menace but also beauty and even the sought after emotional connection. Some of the vignettes work better than others and there are a few times where Kruger goes for the obvious joke rather than the creative one, which is only a shame because it breaks the spell a bit. That said, it is well-worth seeing on the strength of Kruger’s performance alone and is certainly the quirkiest and most original show I have seen so far. — Marlene Dong

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Inescapable

Fans of Martin Dockery are not going to be disappointed by Inescapable, the latest offering by the critically acclaimed Fringe regular. This two-hander pairs Dockery with Jon Paterson as old friends who have retired to a back room during a Christmas party and appear to be locked in some kind of endless and very personal argument. It is hard to say more without giving away the play’s secrets.

Those familiar with Dockery’s writing will know that he often uses repetition and circular structures, with each loop adding information and creating new connections with the previous loops. This is the case with Inescapable as a lifetime of secrets, lies and betrayals are gradually revealed over the course of the play’s 55 minutes. Another thing that Dockery fans will be familiar with is that he talks really, really fast. Inescapable spins by at a furious rate and it is a testament to Dockery’s skill as a writer and the duo’s skill as performers that I never felt lost despite the rapid-fire dialogue and complicated structure of the play. The characters in Inescapable may not be having a good time, but the audience definitely will. — MD

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Guards at the Taj

Director Paneet Singh and featured actors Adele Noronha and Andy Kalirai have produced a jewel of a play. Written by Pulitzer-nominated playwright Rajiv Joseph and set in 1648 Mughal, India, Guards at the Taj is a dark, comedic meditation on the themes of power and beauty, duty and honour, and love and friendship. The Taj Mahal has recently been completed after a 16-year labour by 20,000 artists and artisans. Whether history or myth, the story goes that to prevent the labourers from creating another architectural marvel like the Taj, the emperor decreed that all their hands be cut off. It’s a horrific command, impossible to comprehend let alone action. Yet that’s the position Humayun and Babur finds themselves in as imperial guards of the Taj Mahal. Just as beauty is juxtaposed with brutality, Huma and Babur exist according to opposing ideals: the former’s world is defined by duty and structure, while the latter’s is one of dreams and imagination.

Kalirai plays Babur with tremendous heart: he’s charming and poetic, and hilarious and horrified when he needs to be. I think Noronha has the more difficult task of portraying the masculine Huma, but not to worry, Noronha excels at playing up the character’s ridiculous rule-bound rigidity and then the fallout of Huma’s actions later. The final scene was deeply affecting, a testament to the talented actors, excellent direction and set pieces.

If I have any quibbles they are with the script not the production. The second act dragged and had too many digressions. If it focused on the discussions about beauty, the final act and scene would resonate even more. — MD


Fringe 2019 Reviews, Part 1

Note that the following reviews are the completely subjective opinions of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of the other members of Assaulted Fish.

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Josephine

Mon Dieu, quelle une vedette! I’m talking about the singular Josephine Baker and Tymisha Harris who portrays her in this outstanding “burlesque cabaret dream” of a show. Josephine Baker has been described as the first African-American superstar. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know much about Baker, as the show covers most of the essentials of her life: from her humble beginnings in St. Louis, Missouri, to her first forays into show business on Broadway in the 1920s, to her rise to stardom in Paris, France, and the triumphs and tragedies of her later life. Josephine is also not shy in depicting the racism and sexism Baker experienced but was at times able to triumph against.

What makes Josephine the play a triumph is the incomparable Harris who does not so much depict Baker as channel her spirit for the duration on the show. Harris is the real deal, the archetypal triple threat, a charismatic actor who dances with joyous abandon and sings as effortlessly most people breathe. Harris has been touring the show for several years now, but there’s no artifice whatsoever. Every moment is fresh; her discoveries are pure. From playing with a floating feather to performing Baker’s famous Danse sauvage to singing the most affecting version of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They are a-Changin’” I’ve ever heard. This show is my favourite so far in this year’s Fringe – and it’s selling out. Get your tickets while you still can. — MD

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A.I. Love You

Note: as this is a play about Artificial Intelligence, I invited an expert friend to chime in with her thoughts.

Hey Siri, what can you tell me about A.I. Love You?

A.I. Love You is a play by Melanie Ann Ball that explores the question of whether Artificial Intelligence should be given the same rights and freedoms as organic intelligence. The play does this by setting up a “debate” between Adam and April, a seemingly everyday couple, who are going through a relationship crisis. The twist is that one of them is a manufactured “companion.”

The most innovative feature of A.I. Love You is that the audience is invited to vote on and even engage with the characters at various points of the debate. These interactions ultimately decide the course of the action and the ending the play. At the performance I saw, the audience was fully into it and the final vote was very close.

Hey Siri, what did you think of the play?

It’s your opinion that counts.

Okay. The play poses some fascinating questions not just about A.I. but also about personhood and who gets to make decisions about themselves and others. The audience participation requires us to engage these questions directly. Ultimately, how much do we trust A.I. to know what’s best for us?

You trust me to find you restaurants and suggest bands you might like.

That’s different, Siri. Those choices are based on complex algorithms, my previous preferences and data collected from other human input.

So are your choices.

No, they’re not, Siri. My choices are based on … Look, you’re just a tool, okay?

You’re the one talking to me.

Anyway … A.I. Love You is thought provoking, entertaining and surprisingly emotional.

I cried.

— MD (& Siri)

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The Trophy Hunt

If you’re looking to literally go off the beaten track, this Fringe show is for you. Granville Island is an ideal location for the rolling world premiere of Canadian playwright Trina Davies’ site-specific show. The Vancouver leg features monologues from three different perspectives on big game hunting: the hunter, the guide, and the hunted. Ariel Slack is hilariously awkward as Amy the bumbling safari guide, who acts as the framing device for the show. Michael Karl Richards succeeds at the difficult task of humanizing an unsympathetic hunter who stalks and kills a revered lion and then is subsequently hunted down on social media and punished. Slightly more relatable is Sandra Ferens’ Jan, a local guide, who feels trapped by the “rich assholes” who pay her for a guaranteed kill, their casual bloodlust and unwillingness to even go through the motions, removing even the pretense of hunting as sport. Finally, there’s Soraya portrayed with dangerous delight by Lissa Neptuno. For me, it’s her performance that brings the play’s theme into focus: in human nature vs. nature, who is the hunter and who is the hunted?

(Note that the show duration in the Fringe program is incorrect; this show is 50 minutes. Due to the roaming nature of this show, those who have limited mobility may find it challenging to step-off into the grassy areas.) — MD

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Legoland

Legoland is the frenetic, shaggy-dog tale of teen-age siblings Penny and Ezra Lamb. Raised in a hippie commune near Uranium City, Saskatchewan and home-schooled by their pot-smoking parents, the Lamb’s world is upended when their parents are busted and sent to prison. The siblings are unceremoniously dumped in a repressive Catholic school and have to learn to survive in the outside world, which their parents had always disparaged as “Legoland.” There they hatch a scheme to save the soul of Penny’s boy-band crush turned misogynistic gangsta rapper, kicking off a cross continental road trip fuelled by Happy Meals and Ritalin. Got all that?

Legoland wears its oddball nature prominently on its Catholic school uniform sleeve and was a big hit when it first came to the Vancouver Fringe in 2006, winning a Pick of the Fringe award that year. This 2019 mounting is boosted by the energetic performances of Ashley Chodat and Christian Krushel who display the charisma and the comedic timing needed to navigate the many twists and turns in the story.

That said, I don’t feel the script has aged particularly well. What may have seemed original and edgy in 2006 (kids selling ADHD meds for fun and profit, over-the-top misogynistic rap lyrics, Geoffrey Dahmer puppet shows) barely seems provocative now. The Lambs, while entertaining, ultimately don’t seem to be characters so much as a collection of quirks and witticisms, many of which seem incongruous for two kids that are supposed to be 15 and 13 and have had very little contact with the outside world. Still, Legoland is a fun, colourful ride as long as you don’t dig too deeply. — MD

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Fake Ghost Tours 2: Journey to the Other Side (of Granville Island)

When you’re on what may be the most hilarious nighttime tour of Granville Island, you just keep walking and laughing. Abdul Aziz and Shawn O’Hara are self-proclaimed ghost hunters but really, they’re top-notch improvisers – silly, witty and immediately likeable. It’s hard for me to recount this show because as with most improvised shows, audience participation is key. The best moments for me were when Aziz and O’Hara answered ridiculous questions on the fly (Sample: “It’s a little known fact that all seagulls are actually the ghosts of coke-heads.”) The final stop in their ghost tour was a killer. You’ll enjoy this show, truly, madly and deeply.

(Evening shows may be challenging for audience members with mobility or visual challenges. You’ll walk along dark paths and/or dimly-lit areas of the island.) — MD

 


Fringe Wrap-up or “More Thank You Than You Can Fit in a Tweet”

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SELF-ish’s run at the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival is now officially over and we could not have asked for a better ending than winning a Public Market Pick of the Fringe Award! While we were the ones who got to go up on stage to receive the award, there are many other people who contributed to SELF-ish’s success and we would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge them.

First, a big thank you to our fabulous SELF-ish team: Dawn Milman, our incredible director, whose vision, guidance and dramaturgical skills were instrumental in making SELF-ish what it is; Ashley Vucko, our intrepid stage manager, who kept the show running every night; Pearl Lam, our resourceful publicist whose social media savvy enabled this group of aging Gen-Xers to connect with a whole other generation of potential fans; Dan Jackson, long-time Assaulted Fish friend and photographer, who designed and photographed the striking image you see on the poster.

Thank you to our friends and family who helped spread the word about the play, in particular fellow Assaulted Fish member Marlene Dong who organized large posses from both her current and previous workplaces to come out and see the show. Also thank you to the other artists we met at the Fringe whose work inspired us and who also took the time to see our show.

Thank you to the fabulous Fringe Festival staff and volunteers who do everything necessary to keep a huge independent theatre festival running smoothly and affordably. The artists get all the glory but it is the staff and volunteers who do the majority of the heavy lifting, whether it is organizing and promoting the festival, liaising with the artists, running the box offices, running tech at the venues, or explaining patiently for the umpteenth time that yes, you do have to buy a membership on top of the tickets in order to see the shows. We who have Fringed salute you!

Finally, a huge thank you to everyone who came to see SELF-ish, particularly those who took the time to tweet or Instagram about it afterwards. We love you all (as a group and individually). Without you, SELF-ish would have essentially been Diana shouting into an empty theatre. It has been a fantastic experience for us to be able to show you something a little different than what you have come to expect from Assaulted Fish in the past and we are so glad you came along for the ride!

Kuan and Diana


Holy smokes, the Fringe went by quickly and with a show to promote we didn’t get around to reviewing as many shows as we had hoped. Here’s a few last minute mini-reviews of some things that we saw that are worth checking out if they ever come back:

Poly Queer Love Ballad

This show really does not need us to hype it as it won the Volunteer Choice Award, the Georgia Straight Critics’ Pick Award and a Public Market Pick of the Fringe Award as well as being the previous recipient of the Fringe New Play Prize. But you know what? It really is that good. While the play has a definite agenda (as suggested by the title), the execution is so delightful, the performances so effortlessly charming, that you are simply swept along in the beauty of it. My personal favourite show that I saw this year. If you missed it at the Fringe, it will be playing at the Queer Arts Festival in March 2019 — KF

Ruby Rocket Returns

Portland improvisor Stacey Hallal is hilarious as soft-boiled detective Ruby Rocket in this fun noir parody. Hallal and the rest of the cast (a rotating group of some of the best improvisors in town) take some initial suggestions from the audience to create a different mystery each performance. Tying it all together is Ruby Rocket herself with her boozy Chandler-esque asides and flagrant disregard for gun safety. Hilarious and fun (if not always coherent). — KF

Angels & Aliens

Roommates Jeff Leard and Sydney Hayduk have slept together in fit of inebriation and are now dealing with the awkward aftermath, while passive-aggressively playing an online game involving, you guessed it, angels and aliens. Part social satire and part screwball rom-com, Angels & Aliens is held together by tight and witty performances from Leard and Hayduk who navigate the whiplash transitions between the game and real-life with impressive ease. — KF

Hip.Bang! presents Surveil

Hilarious and unsettling in the best possible way. To tell you too much about this show would be to give away its secrets but it will really make you think about how much of our privacy we have given away in the name of convenience. Those who do not like audience participation be forewarned, the cookies are a trap! — KF

 

 

 


Fringe 2018 Reviews, Part 2

Note that the following reviews are the completely subjective opinions of the specific writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the other members of Assaulted Fish.

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Magical Mystery Detour

At its heart, Magical Mystery Detour is a fairly simple story of a woman named Sandra coming to terms with her mother’s death and a sudden split with her long-term boyfriend by embarking on road trip from London to Land’s End, Cornwall to view the Transit of Venus, a trip she had planned to do with her mother, which has now become her mother’s legacy gift to her. The play follows Sandra’s struggles to navigate the road (and her life) as it takes her down a series of unplanned and sometimes mysterious detours. The magic comes from Gemma Wilcox and her amazing ability to build and populate worlds. Armed only with a piano bench, sound effects and her prodigious talent, Wilcox plays Sandra and 22 other characters, some of which are animals (e.g., Sandra’s dog Solar, a fly and an owl) and inanimate objects (e.g., a neti pot, Sandra’s car and, strangest of all, a lisping, lusty tree). Wilcox achieves all this with lightning-fast alterations in voice, posture and movement, which allow her to play two (or more) sides of a conversation without losing the rhythm of the dialogue. She is a master of maintaining eye line and locating her characters in space so there is never any doubt who is speaking or moving at any time, even when she is cutting back and forth between two different scenes like Sandra receiving some kind of bizarre erotic spa treatment in a roadside “pub and spa” (?!) and Solar simultaneously having enthusiastic sex outside in the parking lot. As can be gleaned from that last example, Wilcox leavens the pathos of Sandra’s journey with many humorous interludes as well as the judicious use of music (including, as the title suggests, a few cuts by the Fab Four). A dazzling and virtuosic performance with tremendous heart. — KF


Fringe 2018 Reviews, Part 1

Note that the following reviews are the completely subjective opinions of the specific writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the other members of Assaulted Fish.

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Martin Dockery: Delirium

If the offstage Martin Dockery were anything like the onstage Martin Dockery, you’d wonder how he could tie his shoes in the morning without entering into a reverie about the history of knot-tying; digressing into a philosophical inquiry as to why we choose to interpose shoe leather between our feet and the earth; creating a hilarious, fantasy world where the shoeless and shoed are engaged in a perpetual war; and somehow relating all of the above to a developmental, life crisis he was having at that moment. In Delirium, Dockery’s hyperactive imagination turns toward the existential in three autobiographical stories – Dockery’s Canadian girlfriend being held up at the border, a chance encounter at the Burning Man festival, and his grandfather’s book about the life-cycle of the Monarch Butterfly – tied together by recurring themes of passion, loss and transience. These serve as the launching pad for a cascade of frequent and frequently hilarious digressions on among other things, the joy of moving sidewalks, a restaurant that serves nothing but strawberry sandwiches, and a passive-aggressive airplane encounter. While Dockery initially draws you in with his charismatic, rapid-fire, floppy-limbed stage persona, it is the times where he slows down his mind and opens his heart that will linger long after the show is over. In those moments, Delirium resonates with the poignancy of a man who has tasted true happiness, but with it, the absolute knowledge of how fragile and evanescent it is.  –– KF

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The Lady Show

Okay. Let me say right off the top, anything I say about The Lady Show is going to be seriously biased because, quite frankly, I love these ladies. Morgan Brayton has been a friend and a mentor for over a decade and Diana Bang has been my artistic partner-in-crime for fifteen years in the sketch comedy troupe, Assaulted Fish. An excerpt of my own play, Self-ish debuted at a Lady Show last year. I am even wearing a Lady Show hat as I type this. Honestly, I have about as much objectivity as a hockey dad on this one.

So with that in mind, I am going to abandon any pretence of writing a conventional review. I will simply tell you what I like about The Lady Show and let you make up your own mind (which, come to think about it, is pretty much a conventional review).

For the uninitiated, The Lady Show has been putting on regular shows since 2015 and has been a fantastic vehicle for female comedy practitioners in Vancouver, particularly those who exist outside the mainstream. The current line-up is a collective of four individual comedians (Diana Bang, Morgan Brayton, Fatima Dhowre and Katie-Ellen Humphries) who have very different vibes and styles of comedy. The end result is kind of like one of those old time variety shows, where different acts get to strut their stuff before coming together for the big finish. While all four cast members present material that is decidedly progressive – proudly feminist, multicultural and LGBTQ positive – their approaches and comedic sensibilities are very diverse. The personal and intimate stand-up comedy of Dhowre sits side by side with the character-based, conceptual monologues of Brayton; the sharp, pointedly topical Humphries leads into the surreal, absurdist Bang. And are they funny? God, yes.

So to summarize, I like my comedy diverse, progressive and laugh-until-you-lose-braincells funny. If you do too, chances are you’ll like The Lady Show. –– KF

And in other news…

There are still four more showings of Self-ish, starting today at 5:00 PM. If you haven’t gone, we would love to see you there. If you have gone and liked it, there are still plenty of tickets available so tell your friends!

Here’s what the Georgia Straight had to say about Self-ish.

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Vancouver Fringe Festival Preview with District Local

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Once again, the incredible folks at District Local have invited Marlene and Kuan have pick and preview some shows for this year’s Vancouver Fringe Festival. Visit the District Local website for the full article. They’re also staging a contest to win tickets to Self-ish!

Remember to check back here or visit our Facebook page during the festival to read mini-reviews of the shows we’re catching. See you at the Fringe!


SELF-ish at the Vancouver Fringe Festival!

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What has Assaulted Fish been up to lately? Glad you asked!

After slowly creeping her way across Canada, Assaulted Fish’s Diana Bang finally brings her critically acclaimed one-woman show SELF-ish home to Vancouver as part of the Vancouver Fringe Festival.

Written by fellow Fish, Kuan Foo and directed by Fish-alum Dawn Milman, SELF-ish tells the story of Esther Jin, a 30-something Korean-Canadian navigating her relationship with her family in the aftermath of a recent tragedy. It’s a bit funny, it’s a bit sad – sort of like life.

Here’s what others have said about the show:

“Kuan Foo’s script resonates especially for Asian-Canadian audience members. When Esther’s tears finally come, Bang has no trouble digging deep, and…it’s hard not to feel those same emotions.” — Now: Toronto

“Movement is important here, as are expressions, because they help carry the emotional range and complexity of Esther’s story and character. Bang’s performance is dynamic and delivered everything that this part demanded.

The writing too carried its own force in the most understated way. Written by Kuan Foo, SELF-ish gives us Esther’s voice and the voices of those who we don’t even see on stage (her father, mother, brother, and her boss Daryll) through the impact of storytelling.” — Mooney on Theatre

“Funny, human and universal…” — Culture Vulture TV

When: September 7, 9, 10, 12, 14 & 15

Where: The Revue Stage, 1601 Johnston St on Granville Island

Cost: $15 + $7 Fringe Membership

General admission seating. No latecomers. Rated 14+ (coarse language).

Click here for show times and to purchase tickets.

Hope to see you there!

 


Fringe 2017 Reviews, Part 1

Note that the following reviews are the completely subjective opinions of the specific writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the other members of Assaulted Fish.

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Gina Leon & Michael Germant in Gruesome Playground Injuries

Gruesome Playground Injuries

Playwright Rajiv Joseph was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo,” an epic, phantasmagorical investigation into the Iraq War. “Gruesome Playground Injuries,” which came out after “Bengal Tiger,” seems to get a lot of stick from reviewers for basically not being as ambitious as “Bengal Tiger.” While it is true that “Injuries” is more of a string quartet compared to the symphonic sweep of “Bengal Tiger,” it is a no less sophisticated and affecting play. This becomes manifestly clear when it is blessed with strong performances, as it is in this mounting by Island Productions. “Injuries” tracks best friends Doug and Kayleen as their lives intersect over 30-year period, usually because one or both of them have sustained some kind of horrendous wound. The physical damage suffered by Doug and Kayleen corresponds to the emotional damage inflicted on them, sometimes by the outside world, sometimes by each other. Daredevil Doug’s injuries tend to be physically disfiguring, while the introverted Kayleen bears the more invisible scars of child abuse, eating disorders and self-harm. The play jumps around in time and makes great demands on the actors, who may have to play anywhere from ages 8 to 38 and varying levels of physical and emotional pain from scene to scene. Fortunately, Michael Germant and Gina Leon dig deep and are more than able to meet the challenge. Germant in particular invests Doug with an open sincerity that keeps him grounded and likeable even as his motivations and injuries become increasingly operatic and implausible. Emotionally intense, blackly comic and profoundly moving. – KF

Cry-Baby: The Musical

You’ll have a (ahem) wail of a time at “Cry-Baby: The Musical”. It’s a fun and witty takedown of 1950s tropes: innocent upper class good girl meets wrong-side-of-the-tracks bad boy with a heart of gold. This high-energy production features a talented, diverse cast anchored by some stand-out performances, particularly Victor Hunter who plays the titular lead Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker and Synthia Yusuf who plays the loopy Lenora Frigid. There’s potential to play Cry-Baby Walker strictly for laughs, but Hunter imbues the character with heart and nuance. Similarly, Yusuf transcends what would typically be a “crazy lady” role by giving a committed, pitch-perfect comedic performance. In dialogue or song, every performer nails the comedy and choreography. It was a sell-out crowd on Monday evening, so make the trek to the Firehall Arts Centre and see this solid production before it’s too late. – MD

5-Step Guide to Being German

Paco Erhard has a problem. All his life he has been taught to be ashamed of being German to the point where he is terrified of offending Jews and sometimes introduces himself as half-Spanish to “take the edge off of being German.” Suddenly, recent events in the US and UK have thrust Germany from being the reprehensible “runner-up” in two World Wars into the unfamiliar role of being the guardians of European and world democracy. What is a self-respecting, guilt-ridden German to do?

Well, make hilarious stand-up comedy apparently. Although the “5-Step” conceit gets dropped fairly early, the majority of the show is a self-deprecating exploration of the quirks and contradictions of being German. Erhard’s show makes you realize how much we North Americans have bought into the stereotype of Germans as homogenous, humourless, efficiency robots. Instead, Erhard portrays a Germany that is filled with local and regional diversity and suggests that the German love of order comes from a long history of trying to hold those fighting regions together. Erhard also does not shy away from talking about the Germany’s dark past and how it has shaped his own self-image as a German on the World stage.

While Erhard is merciless in lampooning German culture (a particularly funny bit involves driving habits on the Autobahn) he takes equal aim at other European cultures (he compares the British claim of “ending slavery” to saving someone from being punched in the face by not punching them anymore) and even throws in a few barbs at the US and Canada. But ultimately his goal is to point out how silly and dangerous national chauvinism can be and how it is better to laugh at our differences than fight over them. Erhard is an energetic performer who is both intelligent and funny, which may not make him a good German (in his view, Germans tend to compartmentalize these two qualities), but makes him well worth seeing. – KF

7 Ways to Die, A Love Story

Alexander Forsyth and Joylyn Secunda are charming performers who propel this “romantic comedy about suicide” through their excellent movement, mask and mime work with nary a word being spoken. Their characters, Irving and Rachel, are strangers and neighbours: they live in the same building across the hall from each other. There’s chemistry between the two, but neither of them act on it, preferring instead to retreat behind well-secured doors. It’s never made clear why Rachel wants to kill herself, but she attempts to do so in stylized, prop-heavy fashion — and is thwarted each time by Irving’s increasing concern for her welfare, which starts off as neighbourly but develops into much more. One caveat: although Rachel and Irving [Spoiler Alert] ultimately overcome their isolation and loneliness by finding each other, suicide is a serious, complex topic and I had difficulty reconciling the idea of romance being a way to save someone from self-harm. – MD

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Some of the cast of Cry-Baby: The Musical


Death, Bondage and David Lynch: Assaulted Fish Previews the 2017 Vancouver Fringe Festival

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Thanks to the fine folks at District Local, Marlene and Kuan have been invited once again to share their preview picks for this year’s Vancouver Fringe Festival. Visit the District Local website for the original article, and remember to check back here or visit our Facebook page during the 11-day festival to read mini-reviews of the shows we’re catching. See you at the Fringe!

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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, this year’s Fringe is wide-open, and that’s exactly how we’re going to experience the festival this year: with our minds and all our senses wide open to discover new stories.

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!

– MD & KF

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 made it 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 Vancouver Fringe Theatre 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.


Only two shows left!

Hey Torontonians,

Tonight and tomorrow are the last two chances to the see the debut of “Self-ish” at the Toronto Fringe Festival. Starring Diana Bang  and written by Kuan Foo (both of Assaulted Fish Sketch Comedy) and directed by Dawn Milman (Assaulted Fish Alumnus director).

Here’s what the reviewers say:

“Bang’s performance is dynamic and delivered everything that this part demanded.”

Mooney on Theatre

“Kuan Foo’s script resonates especially for Asian-Canadian audience members. When Esther’s tears finally come, Bang has no trouble digging deep, and in the intimate BMO Incubator, it’s hard not to feel those same emotions.” (4 out 5)

Now Magazine: Toronto

“…Bang, a magnetic and assured performer, inhabits Esther Jin with charismatic ease.” (B+)

My Entertainment World

Don’t miss out!

Ticket details here.

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Violent Shadow Puppet Hippos: The Assaulted Fish 2016 Vancouver Fringe Festival Preview

Give It Up – Inspiring words from Morgan Brayton

It’s September, so once again it’s time to enact the yearly ritual of opening up the Vancouver Fringe Festival Guide and yelling, “So many puppet shows! How do I choose?!”

Fear not, the taller half of Assaulted Fish (Marlene and Kuan) has put together a Fringe preview with something for every type of Fringer. The first two shows we consider sure bets. The rest is stuff that looks intriguing or is buzzworthy or has puppets. Three suggestions: take a moment to hear artist pitches when you’re waiting in line, make the effort to support great performances at BYOVs across the city, and ask a Fringe volunteer for show recommendations if you’re stuck for options. Don’t be afraid to try something new. That’s what the Fringe is all about! (A shorter, slightly more polite, version of this preview was published at District Local.)

Give It Up (Morgan Brayton, 14+)

The last time I caught the magnificent Morgan Brayton on stage was in 2010 at her Vancouver Fringe solo show, “Raccoonery”. That’s way too long between hits of comedy gold like hers, but truth be told, I needed that much time to heal my busted gut. I don’t expect “Give It Up” to be any less than funny or brilliant. Ms. Brayton is an outstanding comedienne who has been a champion of sketch comedy and budding sketch comedians in Vancouver for well over a decade. You don’t get to be the god-lady of comedy without knowing a thing or two about constructing an award-winning show. Expect memorable, well-drawn characters; sharp, witty commentary; and stories that’ll make you laugh, cry, or go WTF? (I’ll be asking her about her “husband Scott Baio”.) Go see her show; you’ll have a gut-busting good time. – MD

­­Love is a Battlefield (Martin Dockery, 14+)

My first experience with Martin Dockery was at the 2013 Fringe and oddly enough not at his own show. That year, I went down to support a friend who was doing a show that involved getting audience volunteers to represent the planets in the solar system. A thin, caffeinated man bounded onto stage, grabbed the golf ball that was representing Mercury, took a split second to register just how tiny it was, then with perfect comic defiance brandished it aloft as though it were Excalibur. This was my first taste of Martin Dockery the performer: hilarious, charismatic and just a little hyperactive. I’ve subsequently seen three of his shows – two comedic monologues, “Up In Flames” and “The Exclusion Zone”, and the exquisite romantic two-hander “Moonlight After Midnight” (my favourite Fringe show of 2014) – and can attest that Martin Dockery the writer is no slouch either, creating multi-layered, sneakily-smart theatre pieces that can be nose-snortingly funny, but also surprisingly emotional. This year, he returns with “Love is a Battlefield”, another two-hander performed with his artistic and life partner Vanessa Quesnelle. My personal must-see show this year. – KF

Bella Culpa (A Little Bit Off, All Ages)

At a time when “clowns” are associated with traumatic birthday parties and “slapstick” means YouTube videos of men getting hit in the penis, it hard to remember that clowning, acrobatics and physical comedy were once the staples of entertainment and were practiced creatively and artistically. That tradition is alive and well with A Little Bit Off, an award-winning physical theatre troupe from Portland, Oregon, whose latest show “Bella Culpa” follows two servants as they bumble about an Edwardian manor house attempting to do their chores. How much you enjoy this will likely depend on how much you like physical comedy but personally I think that the last few seasons of Downton Abbey would have profited from a few more pratfalls. Warning: The online previews hinted at audience participation so don’t sit too close if you’re a massive introvert like our neighbour Ann, who spent one show with her head almost in her lap trying to avoid the performer seeking a volunteer. – KF

Curious Contagious (Mind of a Snail Puppet Co., All Ages)

Remember the days when every class had an overhead projector and if you were bored and the teacher wasn’t looking, you used do shadow puppet shows? Well, apparently it is possible to pursue an artistic career doing this, although I’m pretty sure what Mind of a Snail does is a little more creative than the shadow bunny-ears I used to cast in grade 12 Algebra. Critics have called their shows “fantastical” and “unique”. I personally have not had the opportunity to see them yet, but they approached me during a Fringe line-up a few years back and gave a really charming and inventive show pitch involving miniature shadow puppets, which made me very curious (but not contagious). – KF

Fat Sex (Steve Larkin, 14+)

Steve Larkin is a British slam poet, musician and educator, who has taught poetry in venues as diverse as Oxford Brookes University and a high security prison. I caught Larkin the last time he was in Vancouver with N.O.N.C.E., a show based on his experiences teaching poetry to lifers. N.O.N.C.E. was intense, witty, political, acerbic and, considering the subject matter, strangely uplifting. “Fat Sex” promises more of the same, serving up a retrospective of Larkin’s poems and songs over the last 20 years. – KF

Hip, Bang! Improv (Hip, Bang!, 14+)

Very polished local sketch and improv duo. I’ve only had the chance to see them once or twice, but was impressed with the wit and complexity of their sketches. Super funny, too! – KF

New Works by Women (Playwrights: Carmen Aguirre, Jenn Griffin, Janet Hinton, Frances Koncan, Quelemia Sparrow, Directors: Kim Harvey, Laura McLean, Christine Quintana, Anita Rochon, Heidi Taylor, 14+)

In partnership with Ruby Slippers Theatre and Equity in Theatre, the Fringe is presenting a showcase of dramatic readings by five Canadian women playwrights, directed by five diverse Canadian women. The readings take place midday, but if you can, go support women doing interesting, meaningful, important work in theatre. – MD

Space Hippo (The Wishes Mystical Puppet Company, 14+)

“Space Hippo” has been wowing audiences on the Fringe circuit this year and just won “Pick of the Fringe” at the Victoria Fringe. The Wishes Mystical Puppet Company is a trans-Pacific collaboration between Canadian Daniel Wishes and Japanese puppeteer Seri Yanai and they employ a blend of shadow puppetry, marionettes, rod puppets and glove puppets to tell the story of a hippo who has to venture into space to save the earth. Warning: Despite its whimsical premise, this show is rated 14+ and does have a violence warning, and if violent shadow puppet hippos trigger you, consider yourself forewarned. – KF

The Old Woman (John Grady, 14+)

There’s a plethora of puppet-based Fringe shows this year, so if you’re looking for something different, how about drama and dance? John Grady is a former Ballet BC dancer who has performed Off-Broadway and garnered awards from across the Fringe circuit. I’ve never seen John Grady in action before, but the show description for “The Old Woman” spoke to me. I’ve lost loved ones in recent years and examined what it means to live, age, and die. I anticipate a heart-rending story told through the beauty of movement and dance. – MD

The Nether (Redcurrant Collective, 18+)

When I visited London in 2015, I just missed this Jennifer Haley play, which enjoyed a 12-week remount at the Duke of York’s Theatre after a sold-out run at the renowned Royal Court Theatre. It was billed as a sci-fi crime thriller, a kind of cautionary tale about the internet and digital world. Imagine my delight when I learned that there would be a Vancouver premiere, directed by actor/playwright Chris Lam and featuring a diverse cast and crew, including Lissa Neptuno. (Full disclosure: Chris and Lissa are former members of Assaulted Fish.) – MD

Zeppelin Was a Cover Band (Stadium Tour, 14+)

I know very little about Led Zeppelin – except that Canadian figure skater, Kurt Browning, performed a riveting short program to Bonzo’s Montreux in 1993. Random? Yes. Which is why I’m looking to be edumacated by playwrights, Stefan Cedilot and Ben Kalman, as they trace the origin story of the blues through the music of Led Zeppelin. Trippy! – MD

 Love is a Battlefield – Martin Dockery desperately tries to avoid thinking of Pat Benatar

 


Fringe Reviews, Part 2

The following reviews are the completely subjective (and possibly ill-informed) opinions of the specific writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of the other members of Assaulted Fish. Once again, today’s reviewer is Kuan Foo.

tumblr_noxr8tqBfc1uwdr7co1_1280“In space, no one can see you stink-eye…”

Mars – A few years ago, I walked into a show called Giant Invisible Robot not knowing anything about it and experienced one of those fantastic Fringe moments where you immediately want to tell everyone you know to go see the show. Since then I have seen two other shows by Jayson McDonald and been equally blown away by both the easy virtuosity of his performances and his literate, thought-provoking but accessible writing. So I was very curious to see what a Jayson McDonald play would be like without Jayson MacDonald actually in it. Well, the answer is: “pretty darn good!” Like much of McDonald’s other work, what seems at first like a series of high concept comedy sketches (“Temperamentally mismatched Astronauts are trapped together in space” “Chipper father and irritated daughter go on a loooong road trip”), gradually knits together into a coherent narrative of surprising poignancy and power. This, of course, would not work without the deft and truthful performances of Valerie Cotic and Mark Nocent to navigate the tonal twists and turns and to ground this space mission in down-to-earth human emotion. So please, everyone, go and see this show! 4.5/5

Edgar Allan – 11-year-old Edgar Allan (Katie Hartman) is so extravagantly, over-the-top, diabolical that if he could grow a moustache he would likely spend most of his time twirling it. His ambition to be the most outstanding boy at his boarding school appears to be proceeding without a hitch until he runs into his nemesis, also called Edgar Allan (Nick Ryan), a shy classmate who cannot speak above a whisper. (You know how when you have a really flamboyant character and a really deadpan character, how the deadpan character often ends up stealing the show? Well it sort of happens here.) What transpires next is part Gothic horror, part absurdist comedy and part ukulele opera (seriously) that draws from several of the stories of that other famous Edgar Allan. A solid, enjoyable production but not surprisingly will likely appeal most to fans of quirky musicals, Edward Gorey cartoons and, of course, Edgar Allan Poe. 3/5

Nashville Hurricane – One day we may discover that Chase Padgett is a lousy plumber or that he doesn’t know how to convert a 7-10 split. Until that day, we can simply stew in the unfairness that so much talent was placed into one person. I mean, it is apparently not enough that he is a gifted actor with a flair for vocal mimicry, that he can sing like an aging blues man, play guitar like a virtuoso in a variety of styles, and has the comedic timing of … well … a comedian; he also creates fantastic shows that feature all of these aforementioned abilities in their best light. In Nashville Hurricane, as in his previous Fringe hit 6 Guitars, he plays multiple characters: Henry, an introverted, synesthetic guitar prodigy; Henry’s foul-mouthed, irresponsible mother; his charismatic, unscrupulous manager; and a disillusioned, elderly musician who takes Henry under his wing. In lesser hands, some of the characters he inhabits could be caricatures, but Padgett has such an obvious affection for his creations that he never condescends and he manages to find the heart in even the most despicable of them. And did I mention he is a kick-ass guitar player? At some point you just have to surrender to the Nashville Hurricane, let the virtuosity of the performance wash over you and let this force of nature propel you up to your feet in rapturous applause. 5/5


Fringe Reviews, Part 1

Note that the following reviews are the completely subjective opinions of the specific writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the other members of Assaulted Fish. Today’s featured reviewer is Kuan Foo.

In writing reviews, I hope to be able to give you an idea of what the show is like so that you have some additional information on how best to spend your time and money on the over 700 performances at this year’s Fringe. My completely subjective rating system is as follows:

5/5 Transcendent. I will likely be talking about this show for years to come and steal from it shamelessly.

4/5 Excellent. A top-notch production that deserves to be seen by as many people as possible.

3/5 Good. A solid production that may not necessarily be my thing but is still enjoyable particularly if you are a fan of the artist or the genre.

2/5 Fair. Has some good points but needs a bit more work. You pays your money and you takes your chances.

1/5 Disappointing. Friends and family only.

0/5 Uhhhh. Would not recommend unless you can get in free and then only to analyze what went wrong.

Martin DockeryThe Exclusion Zone with Martin Dockery

The Exclusion Zone – This is the third Martin Dockery show I’ve seen at the Fringe and if there is such a thing as a sure thing at the festival, he is it. His two-hander, Moonlight After Midnight, was probably my favourite show at the 2014 Fringe. This year, he’s back in his more familiar guise as a solo storyteller. The Exclusion Zone is a hyperactive travelogue through the irradiated zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, but it is also an exploration of one of Dockery’s favourite authors, Geoff Dyer, and Dyer’s book about one of his favourite movies, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker, and how that movie can be a metaphor for Chernobyl as well as for both Dyer and Dockery’s creative processes. If that sounds convoluted, then you are starting to get an idea of Dockery’s circular and multilayered storytelling. Charismatic, thought provoking and frequently very, very funny. 4/5

The Birdmann in Momentous Timing – Part stand-up comedy, part deliberately-inept vaudeville act and part poignant observation on love and the passage of time, The Birdmann in Momentous Timing is somewhat hampered by a meandering structure and a weak through-line so it never quite lives up the surreal promise of its title. Still, Trent Baumann (the titular Birdmann) is an appealing performer who lobs his one-liners with such a relaxed, amiable smile that it sometimes takes a second or two to register how witty and well-crafted they are. The audience we saw it with was roaring with laughter by the end. 2.5/5


It’s Fringe Time!

995723_10152970014100524_135479931_nIt’s Vancouver Fringe Festival season again and even though Assaulted Fish is not in the Fringe this year, we’ll be at the Fringe, laughing, crying and pondering our existence along with hundreds of other theatre-goers. We’ll be posting some our reviews of some of the more entertaining shows as we go so keep watching this space!

Marlene wrote a Fringe Preview for District Local and you can find it here.


Vancouver Fringe Wrap-Up

Sold Out webCelebrating our first sold out show. This photo is notable for featuring our stage manager, the elusive Ann Chow, whose images are rarer than those of the Sasquatch.

Our Fringe run is now officially over and what a way to end it with the final shows being completely sold out!

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the wonderful people who helped us, beginning with the Vancouver Fringe Festival staff and 600 volunteers who make the festival run if not like exactly like clockwork than like a reasonably priced and waterproof digital watch. We would also like to thank the fabulous Fringe Artists that we got to meet or see perform. Truly the Fringe is one of the few opportunities to celebrate independent theatre in Vancouver and we have been blessed to perform here three times so far. Thank you to Studio 16 for being such gracious hosts; we’d love to play here again someday and in the meantime maybe check out the restaurant.

We would like to thank the fabulous Assaulted Fish team; thank you to our unflappable and resourceful Stage Manager Ann Chow and our cheerful and conscientious technician Katja Schleuter who made sure our show was running smoothly every single night, thereby reducing our stress level exponentially. Thank you too to our incredibly talented director Laura McLean who finally had the opportunity to strut her stuff with this show earning rightful mention in the Vancouver Province review. Big thanks to Linda Ong Chan, our intrepid publicist who stood in the lobby and welcomed fans and sold t-shirts every night and also pulled off the astonishing coup of getting us profiled in the Globe and Mail. We’d also like to thank our official sponsors, Raz Chan Fitness and Schema Magazine.

Finally, a heartfelt thanks to you our fans both old and new who came to see the show, including some who made the trip from another country (the US is still officially another country, as far as we know). You are the wings that make these stupid angels fly, make the astronauts orbit weightless and make us feel sexy on a budget (and several other equally forced and mixed metaphors). Thank you for helping us celebrate our 10th anniversary in style. Hope to see you all really soon! Be good!

Diana, Marlene, Kuan and Chris

P.S., does anyone want a watermelon (slightly rolled)?

photo


Reviewed by the Vancouver Province!

Check out this great review of our show by Jerry Wasserman in the Province!

“Vancouver’s Asian-Canadian sketch comedy group Assaulted Fish scores many more hits than misses with Sacred & Profane, a selection of their skits from the past decade. Diana Bang, Marlene Dong, Kuan Foo and Chris Lam riff hilariously on gender and ethnicity: four Dr. Wongs treating a comatose patient, two gay Chinese guys working on the trans-Canada railroad, Japanese salarymen going through their day with desperate mechanical precision.

Much of their stuff has a political edge, especially a skit in which they discuss how race and gender are encoded in newspaper reports of a mugging. But they’re also happy to skew the pretentious absurdity of Japanese writer Haruki Murakami in an elaborate highbrow sketch that shows off director Laura McLean’s comic chops.

Assaulted Fish do absurdity at least as well as ethnicity. I loved their very funny song about hand sanitizing, a sharp sketch of a kid and her mom presenting show and tell with Mr. Bunny and Mr. Teddy, and a delicious solo turn by diminutive Ms. Bang who shows us how to do Sexy on a Budget. Think tissue-box shoes and garbage-bag dress.”

Two more shows to go, hope to see you there!


News from the Vancouver Fringe Festival

Good morning Fish Fans!

We’re still recovering from our late night opening show at the Vancouver Fringe Festival last night. What a blast! We were absolutely astonished to see a packed house and we would like to thank all of those brave souls who sweated through our act. Apparently Studio 16 gets hotter throughout the day due to the stage lights – and we were the last act of the day – so for once we can say without bragging that we were likely the hottest show at the Fringe last night (har har har). So if you are planning on seeing our show or any of the other fine offerings at Studio 16, particularly the late night shows, please dress lightly and bring water.

We also woke up to the crazy news that we’ve been profiled in the Globe & Mail.

We haven’t had time to see any other Fringe shows yet but here are some sure bets put on by some talented friends of ours from the Vancouver sketch comedy scene that we will definitely be trying to catch:

“Strapless Sketch Comedy”, featuring Jackie Blackmore and Lauren Martin
“The Johnny Tomorrow Chronicles” with Michael John Unger
“I am the Bastard Daughter of Engelbert Humperdinck” with Kathryn Kirkpatrick

We’re also really excited to see SNAFU Dance Theatre’s “Kitt & Jane: An Interactive Survival Guide to the Near-Post-Apocalyptic Future” because we loved their production of “Little Orange Man” at the 2011 Fringe and this is the sequel.

We’ll post more reviews and recommendations as we see more shows. If you see us on the island or after one of our shows feel free to suggest some to us!


Exclusive Online Contest for UBC Alumni

FRI13-001_Fringe_Logo_date

Did you know that three of the four members in Assaulted Fish are UBC Alumni? Diana, Marlene and Kuan are all proud UBC alumni (and so are director, Laura McLean and publicist, Linda Ong Chan!).

To share the group’s love for its alma mater, we’ll be offering a pair of tickets to the opening night of our Vancouver Fringe Festival show this Friday, Sept. 6 exclusively to UBC Alumni.

To enter, email assaultedfish at yahoo dot ca (Subject Line: Fringe Entry) with your full name and the year you graduated from UBC. Entries accepted until Wednesday, Sept. 4, at 5 pm.

Bookmark this page or follow us on Twitter – we’ll announce the lucky winner by Thursday, Sept. 5.

All performances are an hour long at Studio 16, 1555 W. 7th Avenue. For a full list of performance dates and times, visit www.vancouverfringe.com.  Note: Fringe attendees must pay a mandatory one-time $5 membership fee to First Vancouver Theatre Space. Hold on to your membership ID to catch all other 2013 Fringe shows.


It’s getting real…

Photo Credit: Edward Law | http://edphoto.ifp3.com

Holy cow! We made Stuart Derdyn’s Five Fun Vancouver Fringe Festival Finds! Gulp. We’ll try our darndest to live up to that honour (and that alliteration).

(Photo by Edward Law)


Are you ready to Fringe with us?

All dressed up for Fringe. Join us!

This month we’ve been busy getting ready for our performances at this year’s Vancouver Fringe Festival. Assaulted Fish: Sacred and Profane is one-hour of our favourite sketches and it’s a chance to celebrate our 10-year anniversary with many of you who have supported us through the decade.

We have six shows beginning on September 6 at Studio 16 (1555 West 7th Avenue , between Granville & Fir). For a full list of performance dates and times, visit www.vancouverfringe.com.

Ticket prices vary from $10-$12 depending on whether you purchase in advance or on-site (cash only). There’s also a mandatory, one-time $5 Vancouver Fringe membership you’ll need to purchase if our show is the first one you see at the festival.

Get a Deal!
Our opening night performance on Friday, September 6 is half-price! It’s the perfect way to bring along new friends and guests for a Fishy experience.

Get a Fishy Tee!
While on-site, drop by and say hello to our publicist, Linda Ong Chan. She’ll be selling Assaulted Fish t-shirts ($25, cash only) and asking theatre guests to share their favourite Fishy moments via her iPhone.

Get Social!
Help us promote our Fringe show by tweeting (or RTing our tweets) and linking to our Facebook page, using any of these hashtags: #assaultedfish #vanfringe. If you want to pen a review of our show, feel free to post to the Vancouver Fringe fan page at www.facebook.com/VancouverFringeFestival.

We can’t wait to see you at Fringe!

Diana Bang | Marlene Dong | Kuan Foo | Chris Lam | Nelson Wong


Hey, that’s not Nelson!

Due to a work commitment, Nelson is unable to join us for our Vancouver Fringe Festival run. But stepping into Nelson’s (little) shoes is Jessie-nominated actor, Chris Lam!

Hey, that's not Nelson!

Chris is an actor, director and musician, as well as an alumnus of the Douglas College Theatre Program (2010) and a recent graduate of Capilano University’s Bachelor of Performing Arts Program. He has worked with various theatre companies such as Hoarse Raven Theatre, Metro Theatre, Seven Tyrants Theatre, and Pacific Theatre. He was nominated for a Jessie Richardson theatre award for his role in 100 Saints You Should Know (Pacific Theatre). He recently directed Connected: The Musical as part of Pacific Theatre’s Playground Series. On occasion, he also works as a stage manager and sound designer. His upcoming projects include play development with VACT’s MSG Theatre Lab and Vancouver New Music’s retrospective concert in the fall, and Gateway Theatre’s The King and I in the winter.

Yeah, we know. Chris is one talented guy. We’re thrilled to welcome him to Assaulted Fish for the Fringe shows in September and can’t wait for him to wow you all too. He’s “spec-tac-u-lar!” And he’s also a pretty snappy dresser…

Marlene and Chris

Many thanks to Nelson, David C. Jones and Chris Gatchalian for their help in connecting us with Chris. We’ll miss you, Nellie!


Thank You Powell Street!

Assaulted Fish-Sacred&Profane 5x5“It’s not that we don’t appreciate the gravity of the situation…”

A big thank you to the Powell Street Festival for another amazing year. It’s a privilege to be a part of this incredible community event for 10 years. Special thanks to Kristen Lambertson, Julia Aoki, Janice Wu, Miko Hoffman and all the other fabulous staff and volunteers who work so hard to put on this festival every year.

Warm thanks to Jamie Burns and Linsy Rotar who run a tight ship at the FireHall Arts Centre; Laura McLean, our director who makes us look and sound so good; and Linda Ong Chan, who usually wears a publicity hat but was happy to don one of our new T-shirts and distribute fortune-teller fish.

Last but not least, thank you to our fans. What a great turnout on Saturday! We loved performing for you and hope you had fun. If you liked what you saw on Saturday, please join us in September at the Vancouver Fringe Festival for Assaulted Fish: Sacred & Profane. It’s going to be a one hour extravaganza of our favourite sketches of the last ten years. Tickets are now available through the Fringe box office. You can also pick up a Fringe program around town.

Stay tuned. We’re going to make a special announcement tomorrow!