Thursday, July 10, 2008

pooping bird of good omen (2008 fringe festival)

7:45 p.m. last night: the lineup at the Glen Morris Studio was about to be let into the theatre to check out Totem Figures, Fringe veteran T.J. Dawe's latest monologue. I stood there lost in my thoughts, processing the $500 I had just poured into my car and the thali I had quickly downed in Little India. A cool breeze made it a comfortable wait, combined with the knowledge that an air conditioner would operate during the performance in a venue infamous for its kiln-like qualities.

Suddenly I felt something cool fall on my left hand. The mound resembled a dab of a melted soft-serve twist cone, only the chocolate was thicker and sludgier. The middle-aged women around me noticed and quickly offered to clean up my hand and back. Everyone insisted that a streak of good luck lay ahead.


If this is true, then the bird officially blessed what has been a good Fringe experience this year. I'm working my way through a five-performance pass and pouring over the online reviews to dodge the turkeys (though one friend admits they love going to 30-ton bombs to see how go horribly wrong).

Shows are listed in order of viewing.

So far I've seen one-person performances, with the exception of Wake. The winner of the 2008 Fringe New Play contest, Wake weaves past and present to show the evolution of divisions between three brothers reunited for their father's funeral. Though you could see where the plot was headed, strong performances and a tight production (the time shifts were not distracting) kept this piece engaging.

Rum and Vodka was a one-hander where a man relates the events of the past three booze-fueled days. Funny with an underlying sense of melancholy, the hour flew by. The character's actions weren't admirable but Matthew Gorman projected a likeability that sold his story. Lesson learned: don't admit you aren't getting paid that week to your wife while shopping in a discount department store.

Storytelling ability was also key to A Brief History of Petty Crimes, an energetic one-man performance centred around a life-flashing-before-your-eyes moment that breaks into tangents about a misspent youth. The main problem was the sightlines, due to a flat floor - the venue was still under construction, so perhaps this will be ironed out or the mainspace will prove better for performances.

Totem Figures interwines personal mythologies, inspirational figures (including Jesus, Luke Skywalker, George Carlin and John Fahey) and tales of growing up with a principal for a father (which I could relate to in terms of Dad as a teacher). The audience appeared glued to Dawe for his 90-minute monologue and, judging by reactions around me, a few might have taken him up on his offer of spilling out his life over an entire week. Afterwards, I thought about who would play similar roles in the development of my life...hello potential blog post!

Four down, one to go before the festival ends on Sunday. Perhaps another bird could splat a suggestion on me.

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