Three Fringe reviews from guest critic Deneh’Cho Thompson

For the first time, I have a guest critic on my blog. Welcome, Deneh’Cho Thompson!

Here’s how Deneh describes himself: “Deneh’Cho Thompson (Dene) is a mixed-race First Nations writer, director, actor, and arts administrator based in Vancouver. Through work with various local organizations—including The Talking Stick Festival, The Vancouver Fringe, and the Greater Vancouver Professional Theatre Alliance—Deneh works to elevate the voices of under-represented artists on our stages.”

Here are Deneh’s first three reviews—and he’s got another six coming!

Swordplay: A Play of Swords is at the Vancouver Fringe Festival.

Seann Murray will steal your heart in Swordplay: A Play of Swords

SWORDPLAY: A PLAY OF SWORDS

Swordplay: A Play of Swords is an ode to my childhood.

This joyous, swashbuckling, nostalgia-filled romp from Toronto’s Sex T-Rex should be on everyone’s shortlist. I sat on the edge of my seat, bounced up and down, giggled, and howled with laughter.

The frame of the show is 80s and 90s video-game culture. This might seem a bit niche, but I saw audience members of all ages enjoying themselves. Unfortunately, staying true to the video-game framework led to my only complaint: a million false endings. Regardless, the show follows through well.

Two things make this show for me. The pop-culture references are innumerable: Dumas, Tolkien, Chrono Trigger, 80s pop, current politics…the list goes on. This makes it easy for everyone to find something to latch onto, something to make them smile and remember happier days. The second winning factor is the skill of the performers. Strong improv skills from the entire team make the show present, alive, and enthusiastic.

This is a show for everyone. Expect it to sell out.

Remaining Shows: False Creek Gym on September 9 (8:20 p.m.), 13 (5:15 p.m.), 14 (10:05 p.m.), 15 (6:45 p.m.), 17 (1 p.m.)

 

Anosh Irani's Bombay Black is at the Vancouver Fringe Festival.

Agam Darshi and Nimet Kanji are the lovingly violent daughter and mother in Bombay Black.

BOMBAY BLACK BY ANOSH IRANI

This SCRIPT!

I applaud Rohit Chokhani for choosing Bombay Black to present at the Fringe. There is a reason that this script won multiple Dora Awards. It is challenging, tender, lyrical, funny, and tragic: it is beautiful. The roles are complex, the language is poetic, and the story is unpredictable and compelling. This is the type of script every actor should want to work on.

The characters of this play require a depth and nuance that is difficult to achieve, even for the best actors. This production did not quite meet that goal, but not for lack of trying. The actors certainly have the skills required, but it feels like they did not have the time to fully embody the complex realities of these characters’ lives. The performances certainly are sincere and endearing (especially that of Agam Darshi), and it is my hope that during the run of Bombay Black the emotional topography gets stretched out and the performers become more familiar with it.

While the staging is a bit awkward, and the content is ambitious, Bombay Black is definitely worth a trip to the Cultch.

Remaining Shows: Culture Lab on September 9 (8:50 p.m.), 11 (9:25 p.m.), 13 (7 p.m.), 16 (9:430 p.m.), 17 (3:45 p.m.)

 

The Canete Chronicles is playing at the Vancouver Fringe.

Andy Cañete in his previous Fringe show,  Porn & Pinochet.

THE CANETE CHRONICLES

Sooo…this is a one-man stand-up show, which is fine…

Andy Cañete’s autobiographical stand-up comedy/storytelling show, The Cañete Chroñicles, covers a range of stories beginning when he moved back to Vancouver, from Chile, in his early twenties. The show picks up where his pervious show, Porn & Pinochet, left off only in that the chronology of events immediately follows that of the earlier show.

Cañete, the only constant in both shows, tells stories ranging from women taking selfies while posing with his butt to a fictitious reality where he gets shot to death while gambling with Chinese gangsters. I had a couple of chuckles and laughed aloud once, but, for the most part, found the jokes alienating—verging on offensive at times.

While much of the performance continually struggled to get the audience onside, Cañete’s reflections on race and wealth ring true. Within one particular joke, he comments deftly and humorously on poverty tourism while pointing out the absurdity of class assumptions based on racial markers.

Without his audience onside, Cañete struggles to maintain the momentum needed for this show. If you do check it out, bring 20 friends, and swing by the Fringe bar first.

Remaining Shows: Studio 16 on September 10 (6:30 p.m.), 11 (5 p.m.), 13 (7:45 p.m.), 16 (10 p.m.), 17 (5:30 p.m.)

About Colin Thomas

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.

Comments

  1. Thanks, Deneh’Cho, you are a man of many talents and skills, and thank you, Colin, for recruiting him.

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