September 14 Fringe reviews from Colin: Executing Justice, and Let Me Freeze Your Head

Here you go: my final reviews, Executing Justice and Let Me Freeze Your Head—critiques 28 and 29—from this year’s Vancouver Fringe.

Neither review is enthusiastic, but…there are a lot of excellent shows at the festival.

Go see Paul Strickland's Ain't True and Uncle False at the Vancouver Fringe Festival.

Solo performer Paul Strickland (Ain’t True and Uncle False) is loving Vancouver audiences. It’s mutual.

Of the performances I’ve been to, the three must-sees are: Multiple Organism, Ain’t True and Uncle False, and Six Fine Lines. (The hyperlinks I’ve just created will lead you to those reviews. Sometimes, you’ll have to hit the “Read more” button.)

I also strongly support Brain Machine (established talent Andrew Bailey) and A Night at the Rose Coloured Discotheque (fresh talent Arggy Jenati and Dylan Archambault). I had a great time giving myself over to androgynous spoken-word artist Cat Kidd at Hyena Subpoena. And especially if you have child companions, Beaver Dreams, and The Birdmann and Egg: Birdhouse are both a blast.

One more weekend! Get out there! [Read more…]

September 11 Fringe reviews from Colin: Ain’t True and Uncle False, A Night at the Rose Coloured Discotheque, and The Messenger

Paul Strickland's Ain't True and Uncle False is playing at the Vancouver Fringe Festival.

Kentucky storyteller Paul Strickland will charm your socks off—and open your heart.


God, we’re fragile. God, we’re beautiful.

In Ain’t True and Uncle False—which is, I guarantee, one of the finest and most original shows you’ll ever see—solo artist Paul Strickland introduces us to his friends and relatives from the Big Fib Trailer Park. The main employer in Big Fib is the pea-punching plant, where locals make regular peas black-eyed.

The homespun inventiveness just keeps coming. In stories that are announced as if they are revelations from the Almighty, we hear about Will, the boy who lost his hand—simply misplaced it—when he was 7, and the conjoined twins who were born a year apart. Underlying all of this, there’s a touching meditation on temporality and decay, on dementia and death. In celebrating the trailer park, Strickland is also trying to preserve it.

“When the peculiar becomes familiar and safe, that’s when you know love”, Strickland says at one point. Just before hearing that line, I had written in my notebook, “I feel safe.”

Remaining performances at Performance Works on September 11 (6:50 p.m.), 14 (5 p.m.), and 16 (4:35 p.m.) [Read more…]

Deneh’Cho Thompson reviews Distractingly Sexy at the Vancouver Fringe

Despite the byline above, this review is by Deneh’Cho Thompson.


Mily Mumford is performing Distractingly Sexy at the Vancouver Fringe Festival.

“I think of myself as pretty sexy. I am a scientist.” Mily Mumford in Distractingly Sexy


Distractingly Sexy teaches, tickles and tempts—oh, and overtly challenges the patriarchy.

Once again, Mily Mumford, artistic director of Nebula Company Theatre, brings us a quirky and comedic show but, this time, instead of science fiction, Mumford is bringing science non-fiction. The show is one part The History of Women in Science, and How They Got Fucked Over and one part Mumford’s own experience of applying to be an astronaut. (Yes, a real-life astronaut; we have those in Canada.)

Right out of the gate Mumford is on the attack! She enters as scientist Tim Hunt, whose sexist comments spawned #distractinglysexy, and ultimately saw him dismissed from the University College of London. After a striptease, in which she peels Tim Hunt off and discards his presence, the audience is asked to, all at once, shout out names of famous female scientists. Only one trick: you can’t use Marie Curie.

Distractingly Sexy does a great job of pointing out the shortcomings our society still has in relationship to women, but is fun and humorous the whole way through.

Required reading for anyone who is not a woman scientist.

Remaining Shows: Studio 16 on September 10 (8:15 p.m.), 11 (10:15 p.m.), 14 (6:45 p.m.), 15 (8:35 p.m.), and 16 (2:45 p.m.)

Georgia Straight Critics’ Choice Award: Vancouver Fringe (2016)

We did it. Last night, Kathleen Oliver and I gave out the Georgia Straight Critics’ Choice Award at the wrap-up celebration of the Vancouver Fringe Festival.

We had a great list of nominees: The After After Party, The Ballad of Frank Allen, Charlatan!, Falling Awake, and The Orbweaver.

Because it’s our award and we can do whatever we want with it—which is liberating, believe me—we awarded two productions, The After After Party and The Orbweaver. These shows knocked us out in very different ways: the sustained lunacy of The After After Party, and the deep magic of The Orbweaver.

Big congratulations—and thanks—to all of the nominees.

And, great news! You can catch two of our nominated shows, Charlatan! and The After After Party at the Public Market Pick of the Fringe, which runs September 21 to 25 at Performance Works:

The Orbweaver casts its spell at the Vancouver Fringe (2016)

The Orbweaver is so good that having seen it makes me feel better about being alive. Seriously. It’s fantastic.

Written and directed by Paula Zelaya Cervantes, The Orbweaver tells the magical realist story of Elena and Quiron, starting when they’re kids. Quiron has the unfortunate job of being Death’s chauffeur. He meets Elena when Death comes for her father. Although their relationship is understandably bumpy at first, they fall in love—but soon realize that they can only see one another when somebody dies. So they start murdering people in the village.

All of this is told with enormous humour and poetry. Much of the humour arises from juxtaposition—including bumping fairytale realities up against modern sensibilities. When Quiron finds Elena locked in a freezing cellar by her cruel stepmother, he asks, in modern phrasing—and with modern discomfort—”Were you, like, crying?”

The staging, which includes shadow puppetry, feels like folk art. The main characters’ pauper costumes are gorgeously detailed. Playing Elena and Quiron, Ana González Bello and Evan Regueira, win laughs with their subtlety—and they are, not incidentally, gorgeous. As Death, Marcos Radish remains hooded, but he moves like a dancer and he finds his own humour.

Near the end of the play, there is a a little hymn to theatre that made me weep.

The Orbweaver is one of the very, very best at this year’s Fringe.

There’s one more performance this Sunday at 7:00.

One more chance to go to the underworld: The Nether (Vancouver Fringe 2016)

The Nether at the Vancouver Fringe is darkly intriguing and absolutely worth seeing.
There’s one performance left: Saturday, September 17, at 6:00 at the Firehall. Make it a sell-out, Vancouver.

In Jennifer Haley’s complex script, which is set in the near future, a pedophile who calls himself Papa has created The Hideaway, a virtual reality realm in which he and others can indulge their predilections without causing harm. But a vigilante “cop” who feels the online reality is too compelling—and too porous—is intent on shutting him down.

David Bloom as Papa and Lissa Neptuno as the cop lead a consistently strong cast. Chris Lam, who is emerging as a very interesting artist, directs.

My Fringe faves are currently: The After After Party, The Ballad of Frank Allen, Charlatan!, Falling Awake, and The Nether.

I will also be seeing I Forgot to Fly Today, The Orbweaver, Space Hippo, and Burn Job because I hear they’re all really good.

Happy final Fringe weekend, everybody!

Vancouver Fringe picks going into the first weekend (2016)

The leader of the pack is The Ballad of Frank Allen, a hilarious buddy comedy about a guy who is accidentally miniaturized and takes up residence in another man’s beard. This show’s take on masculine intimacy is so original and audacious that I laughed like a 14-year-old.

I also recommend magician Travis Bernhardt’s Charlatan! Year to year, Bernhardt always changes up his act. This time out, he is reading minds—very impressively. It’s interesting: he essentially says, “This is a fake door”, and we walk right through it. See the show and you’ll see what I mean.

My pal Kathleen Oliver, who also reviews for the Straight, just read me her review of TJ Dawe’s Burn Job. Based on KO’s enthusiastic report, I’ll definitely be seeing Burn Job. Dawe is a master storyteller. In this one, he talks about growing up.

Check out our full reviews at

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