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.
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
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
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
By Marlene Dong in partnership with District Local
Anosh Irani’s award-winning play is a sensory experience. There’s the light sandalwood aroma that envelopes you when you enter the theatre. The din of Indian street life assails your ears, punctuated occasionally by a voice that invites you to imagine yourself as a blind person in Bombay. There are black blindfolds draped over each seat to help you journey into the world of Bombay Black.
Set in present-day Bombay, the play is the story of Apsara (Arshdeep Purba) who lives with her mother Padma (Nimet Kanji). They eke out a living through Apsara’s erotic dances for wealthy men. One day, a mysterious blind man named Kamal (Munish Sharma) comes calling, raising the spectre of a past that has great repercussions in the present.
On the surface, Apsara and Kamal seem to be the main focus of the play, but really, it’s the relationship between Apsara and Padma that make up the heart of Bombay Black. Their power dynamics are riveting and horrifying, and as performed with ferocity and cutting humour by Kanji, Padma is a force to be reckoned with.
If the play is unflinching in its portrayal of vengeance and betrayal, the language is by contrast lush and beautiful. Kamal doesn’t have sight, but he woos Apsara with words that sing and dance in their imagery. During the play’s magical realism scenes, the lighting and sound designs add the perfect elements of poetry and mystery.
In this time of #metoo, the trauma that the two women are revealed to have suffered doesn’t come as a surprise. As sad as that reality is, you’ll emerge from this play reminded of the strength and resilience of women.
Written by Anosh Irani
Directed by Rohit Chokhani
Featuring Nimet Kanji, Arshdeep Purba and Munish Sharma
Bombay Black plays at the Firehall Arts Centre December 5-15. For tickets and info, click here.
Please note that this review is the completely subjective opinion of the specific writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of the other members of Assaulted Fish.
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
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.
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
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!
Hooray! The Vancouver Sun likes us too!
“Assaulted Fish: Sacred and Profane
Where: Studio 16
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
For their 10th anniversary, Vancouver sketch comedy group Assaulted Fish has gathered a selection of their best bits. It’s clear that all those years together have paid off with pieces that are literate, provocative, sometimes beautiful and quite often hilarious. Highlights include a little girl’s talk show where she tortures her reticent teddy bear, a complex takedown of Haruki Murakami’s post-modern self-preferentiality and a terrifyingly perfect ode to hand sanitizer. — Erika Thorkelson”
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!