David C Jones charts what he likes at this year’s fringe fest

David C. Jones is an arts lover and a critical thinker. He makes films, directs plays, teaches, is a professional emcee and writes for the OUTtv website.  He also loves the creativity and innovation he uncovers each year at the Vancouver Fringe Festival.  Here are David’s take on the many shows he saw at this year’s Festival.  Top of the list are his most loved.


This is CancerWhat an emotional roller coaster!

There is weird phenomenon – many artists after suffering a great trauma – decide to create a piece about it. Often the work lacks objectivity so it can make it more suitable for a therapist rather than an audience. But cancer survivor Bruce Horack has found a hilarious and chilling angle. He is Cancer and Cancer wants to do a show for his fans, complete with band. He must have fans, he reasons, because there are marches and everyone talks about him. It’s surreal, irreverent and upsetting. You laugh as he playfully dances around the stage cheering himself up chasing bubbles. Feel sorry for him when he realizes everyone wants to beat him. Admire the simple vulnerability as Bruce recounts losing his eye but from Cancer’s ‘loving’ perspective.

I found the whole experience so bracing and shocking that much of it still resonates in me. It was a powerful and rewarding experience. Everyone should catch this Cancer.

Visit http://www.vancouverfringe.com for showtimes and tickets.

Big Shot

Jon Lachlan Stewart is a masterful story teller, delicious actor and with his director Georgina Beatty he has come up with a stunning stage presentation. A shooting on a Skytrain is seen from six different perspectives. A recovering addict, a movie producer, a bored kid, a Japanese store owner, a cop and a depressed mother. Ingenious lighting, evocative sound scape and a black jacket are all the actor has to tell a tale that snuck up on me. I did not know how pulled in I was when suddenly I clasped my hands over my mouth in shock. Stylish and … well, shocking.

Visit http://www.vancouverfringe.com for showtimes and tickets.

Giant Invisible Robot

Giant Invisible RobotThere are ton of one-person shows every year at the Fringe – they are easy to tour and can often really pack a wallop if the storyteller is any good. Jayson McDonald is sexy, self-effacing and compelling. His detailed and nuanced character work is hilarious and the writing is gorgeous and surprising. He plays an abused kid who adopts a Giant Invisible Robot who likes to destroy cars and buildings and whole cities. You laugh (a lot) and then wham – he hits you right in the solar plexus and your heart falls out. Stunning.

Visit http://www.vancouverfringe.com for showtimes and tickets.

Little Orange Man

Wow – this was my first show and I went based on a review – it was delightfully inventive and extremely funny and by the end many people including me were sobbing. Using lunch ingredients to make puppets, a little girl tries to connect her dreams to ours as she attempts to find her dead Grandpa. Ingrid Hansen is fantastic and the use of toys and shadows were very very clever. Even the cliche coat on a coat rack coming to life was heart-wrenching under Kathleen Greenfield direction.

Visit http://www.vancouverfringe.com for showtimes and tickets.

Peter n’ Chris: The Mystery of the Hungry Heart Motel

These guys are amazing! Freakin’ funny and so damn odd and uber talented. Playing about six characters each with nuanced hilarity, they act out a mystery where whodunit is revealed right at the beginning. They dance, do Scooby Doo chases, crash through car windows and in a wild tale that’s main goal is to make you laugh. Since you never know what to expect you do – over and over again. I heart Chris Wilson and Peter Carlone.

Visit http://www.vancouverfringe.com for showtimes and tickets.

Houdini’s Last Escape

Seeing a show late at light can temper and cloud one’s opinion. I started out LOVING this and then fatigue hit and by the end I only admired it. But this is a pretty amazing show and Tara Travis is so very very funny. It was nice to see a show with production values and the magic is fun and engaging

Visit http://www.vancouverfringe.com for showtimes and tickets.

Like Father, Like Son? Sorry.

Like Father, Like Son? SorryI have mostly seen one man shows this year (so far), some have been theatrical in their staging and vivid in the storytelling. Chris Gibbs is a very very funny British fella who performs a sort of rambling monologue about his anxiety about being a new dad. His observations and asides are snort inducing – indeed one of my companions completely lost it at one point rolling about in his seat in convulsions. It was sincerely hysterical.

Visit http://www.vancouverfringe.com for showtimes and tickets.

Grim and Fischer

I saw five minutes of this mask show at the Fringe gala and loved it. The mime and music story of a feisty old woman who does not want to go with the grim reaper looked hilarious and inventive. However the hour long show felt thin. Often you can see ‘punch lines’ to bits coming from a mile away and you also can kind of guess how it is going to end. It felt a little precious. The mask work was great but I wanted to the journey to be more involving.

Visit http://www.vancouverfringe.com for showtimes and tickets.

Arnie the Carnie

Brian Anderson is one of the smartest and most charming performers I have ever seen. In this show he says he will reveal and lie about carny secrets. He and his pianist Matt Grinke show off a series of cool tricks and memory skills they have do some wicked stunts with a bed of nails. The show is fun but rather arbitrary but man you would want either or both of them at a party you were throwing.

Visit http://www.vancouverfringe.com for showtimes and tickets.

Lost in Place

I so did not want to see this show. The pictures of the wacky outfits made be think “oh no this is an indulgent and silly time waster”. But I had time to kill so I thought I would check it out based on a recommendation. It was so fun and original and darn it if I didn’t also like the message. The actors were quirky and original and made me beam.

Visit http://www.vancouverfringe.com for showtimes and tickets.

Dianne & Me

Elena Juatco is an award winning and dynamic actress and it was fun to see her playing a range of characters. In this piece who plays a young lady (Emma) who has a nice mother (Dianne). As she sexually explores with a young man she suffers the usual consequences of a girls first time in a drama, (go on – guess). That causes the girl some worry and the mom becomes concerned and understanding. Everything is this script just goes A B C, this happened and then this happened, no big twists or high drama.

Visit http://www.vancouverfringe.com for showtimes and tickets.

Fortunate Son

It is rare to see an actual play at the Fringe. One with set and actors and wardrobe and such. This play written by Peter Boychuk is about Justin Trudeau in the hours right after PET’s funeral. The actors are wonderful and the I was moved by the performances but the main conceit of the piece is – will Justin decide to run for office or not? We know the answers is yes so the play lacks tension.

Visit http://www.vancouverfringe.com for showtimes and tickets.

You Are Not Dead

You Are Not DeadWe are lead in a conference room in the Granville Island Hotel and two high energy people guide us through a self help seminar on how to be banal. The graphics are fun and the talking computer is very silly and the experience is excellently produced right down to the merchandise for sale. The actors were dynamic but more truth in their performances might have made the show more wicked.

Visit http://www.vancouverfringe.com for showtimes and tickets.

Stay Away From My Boat @$$hole

Vancouver loves site specific theatre and Vancouver artists like finding new places to stage plays. This show is viewed from a bridge and it takes place at the beginning of the end of the world. A tuxedo-ed man has got a lunch box and is hanging out in a rubber dingy. But soon another man comes and he too wants to saved from the rising flood waters. I deeply admire It’s A Zoo Productions but I found this story was not emotionally engaging.

Visit http://www.vancouverfringe.com for showtimes and tickets.

Mr. Boat-head’s Electrical Dream Ship

This is an odd experience. Only 8 people can attend – we sit in chairs an are offered tea or cocoa. That is after we sign a release for the stores we are going to tell. Then each of the 8 gets 2 minutes to tell any story. And then we are told to check out a web-site. Um. It was a nice community experience. But I thought there would be a point, or a conclusion, or an explanation.

Visit http://www.vancouverfringe.com for showtimes and tickets.

archy and mehitabel

Based on a shorty story written in 1916 by Don Marguis – the story as enacted by Jeff Culbert, is about an unlikely friendship of a cat and cockroach. If you like CBC stories, and throwbacks to an older time – Jeff’s story will speak to you. I wish he had pulled me in rather than spoke at me.

Visit http://www.vancouverfringe.com for showtimes and tickets.

jem rolls IS PISSED OFF

Art is subjective and opinions more so. I am not a big fan of performance poetry and although jem rolls is heralded as one of the greatest – I have avoided his shows in the past because of my aversion of the art form. But this time I went. I found his delivery loud and his poems mostly dealt with how he didn’t know everything and that made him stressed. Even with all his loudness I nodded off twice.

Visit http://www.vancouverfringe.com for showtimes and tickets.

Vancouver International Fringe Festival
September 8 – 11, 2011

Visit http://www.vancouverfringe.com for more information on the Festival.  Visit http://davidcjones.ca for more information on David C Jones.

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