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Winnipeg Fringe Festival- Part 1

Dave and I have always been Winnipeg Fringe Festival aficionados but this is the first year in a long time we are in Canada for the entire Fringe Festival and…… we’re now living in a condo right downtown just behind the main festival box office. All 30 venues are within walking distance of our home. 

Dave decided to really get in the spirit of things this year by becoming a Fringe Festival volunteer. He will work four shifts selling tickets and ushering. So far we have seen three plays but have already bought tickets to many more. 

Our first play Body Language  was at the Gas Station Theatre.  The performers are Hot Thespian Action, a comedy sketch team from Winnipeg. They have quite the reputation! We were at their first show of the Fringe Festival and it appeared to be SOLD OUT!  It was easy to see why. Their performance consists of a series of vignettes that either make you chuckle because they hit so close to home, make you think, because they deal with relevant topics, or make you admire the versatility and flexibility of the performers. Especially enjoyable was a musical number called Boomerang about young adult children who move back in with their parents because they lose their job, end a relationship, or decide to go back to school. I must admit not all the Hot Thespian Action troupe have strong singing voices but the material engaged the audience despite this. I was throughly entertained by sketches about new mothers having a shouting match over whose life is more difficult, a scene in a computer warranty office and friends trying to figure out the deeper meaning behind the words ‘Wanna have lunch?’ in a text message. A game show sketch called ‘IS HE GAY?’ was staged in such a clever way that rather than be offensive, it actually poked fun at people who like to stereotype others. I learned something new at this show. One vignette was called ‘Ghosting’ and it took place at a party where a guy was creeping up close to women. I had never heard of ghosting before and looked it up on the internet when I got home. I found out ghosting is also known as personal space invasion. Someone who ‘ghosts’ tries to invade another individual’s personal space for the longest period of time without that person noticing. Body Language was thought-provoking and funny. I would definitely recommend it and give it 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Our second play was The Greatest Guitarist in the World. It wasn’t really a play though. It was a concert. The premise was interesting. Colin Godbout had chosen six famous guitarists and played their music in three ‘matches’ or ’bouts’ pairing off one guitarist against another. Gypsy musician Django Reinhardt against country western’s Chet Atkins; rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix versus Canadian jazz legend Lenny Breau and finally two British rock musicians Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton. Godbout is a great guitarist and its worth going to the show just to hear him play while enjoying a drink at the tables in the dimly lit basement of the Johnny G’s restaurant. However his attempt to add a little theatre to the show by donning different hats and providing philosophical patter between numbers seemed contrived and was frankly hard to follow. I give this show a 3 out of 5. Go for the music. 

Last night we saw Antigone. I was especially interested in this show because I taught the Greek tragedy by Sophocles in my sophomore English classes for years and know the story well. I have seen several excellent film versions of the play and have written an e-zine article called Antigone An Inspiration . Although it was clear the theatre students performing the drama at the Rudolf Rocker Cultural Centre on Albert Street loved the play, the modern garden party setting where they chose to place the drama seemed incongruous with its serious themes, hardly the place for dealing with an act of anarchy. Since they changed the setting to the present day, perhaps they needed to change the language as well to something more colloquial. I liked the way the part of the chorus shifted between different people and especially enjoyed the performances of the messenger and Antigone. Creon seemed too suave and debonair for his stately role, more a playboy than a leader. The audience nearly filled the venue and was enthusiastic. The young performers had lots of friends and family there in support which was great to see. I’d give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Our Exchange District location definitely makes fringing easier. We feel like we are at the heart of the theatre action.  What next? Well we have tickets to Medicine, The Holy Land, The Tempest, Choose Your Own Adventure and Guernica. I’ll post some more reviews soon.

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