Coming to the Winnipeg Fringe

Every year at least one of my friends in Winnipeg asks for recommendations for the upcoming Winnipeg Fringe, based on what I’ve seen at the Ottawa Fringe.  I usually post a note on Facebook. Then I find that at least one of my followers on Twitter wants to know the same thing.

This year, I’m making a pre-emptive strike. I’m writing this early. My list is based on shows I’ve seen at the Ottawa Fringe, the Montreal Fringe, The Canadian War Museum, and the Winnipeg Fringe. I’m posting it on my blog so it’s visible to my Twitter followers as well as my Facebook friends.

There are 163 shows coming to the Winnipeg Fringe this year. I’m going to stick to shows that I’ve seen already; there will be lots of good shows outside this list. More about that later.

So here are shows that I’ve seen, that are coming to the Winnipeg Fringe this year, and that I’m recommending. I’m going to attempt some sort of rough rank order, but, like reviewing, that order is subjective. Your mileage may vary. Some shows are not for everybody, no matter what my recommendation. Read the reviews carefully.

Top of my list is Jake’s Gift. If you missed this at the 2009 Winnipeg Fringe, here’s your chance to see it. I saw Julia Mackey perform this in Ottawa in 2009 at the Canadian War Museum. She made war veterans weep. If you haven’t seen Jake’s Gift, don’t miss it.

Wonderheads are bringing back Grim and Fischer, which was a huge hit at the 2011 Winnipeg Fringe. We saw it twice. Barb cried both times. If you missed it the last time, GO SEE IT EARLY. Wonderheads have a wonderful trailer here.

Dead Wrong won Katherine Glover from Minneapolis a Capital Critics Circle nomination for Best Actress (Professional) of the entire 2011-12 season in Ottawa! Her performance at the 2012 Ottawa Fringe Festival got an unprecedented three glowing reviews from CCC reviewers: Jamie Portman (formerly theatre critic for the Globe & Mail), Dead Wrong – A Winner in Every Way! , Alvina Ruprecht (formerly theatre critic for CBC Ottawa), Dead Wrong: Finely Written and beautifully acted. A Highlight of the Fringe, and Iris Winston (formerly theatre critic for the Ottawa Citizen), Dead Wrong is dead right.

New kid on the Fringe Circuit, Chase Padgett, tied for Outstanding Solo Performance Award at the Ottawa Fringe Festival for his wonderful show, 6 Guitars. We saw the 60 minute version in Ottawa. We’re coming back for the 90 minute version at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival. Here’s Patrick Langston’s (Ottawa Citizen) review: Padgett’s 6 Guitars is note perfect.

If you missed the bouffon show, Red Bastard, at the Winnipeg Fringe benefit performances last November, here’s your chance. Warning: this show isn’t for everybody. We didn’t enjoy the show; it’s not a show to enjoy. Nor did we like it; it’s not a show to like. But we were tremendously impressed and moved by it. We CERTAINLY recommend that you try it out if you’re an adventurous type. It may change your life. For only $10, that’s a bargain. Here’s Patrick Langston’s review from the Ottawa Citizen: Not for the faint-hearted. It also tied for Outstanding Solo Performance award. It sold out at the Ottawa Fringe. Get your tickets early.

Jem Rolls has a new show, jem rolls Attacks the Silence, which Barb and I saw at opening night of his World Premiere at the Montreal Fringe. Here’s our Apartment 613 review. He’s had three very positive reviews at the Toronto Fringe from Now Magazine (4N), Mooney on Theatre. and The Charlebois Post.

Bruce Horak of Monster Theatre, who brought the astounding This is Cancer to last year’s Winnipeg Fringe, has a very different kind of show this year: Assassinating Thomson. Horak won an Outstanding Concept Award at the Ottawa Fringe. Here’s Alvina Ruprecht’s very warm review. “Very special indeed.” Horak also has one of the best posters I’ve seen on the Fringe circuit in years: poster (needs Twitter?). It’s rare that I see a poster that makes me want to see a show. If I hadn’t seen it already, this poster would put Assassinating Thomson on my wanna see list.

Jeff Leard who did Gonads and Gametes on last year’s Fringe circuit won a Capital Critics Circle Honorable Mention at the Ottawa Fringe for his new show The Show Must Go On. Here’s Alvina Ruprecht’s review: “that, I like.” Here’s Now Magazine’s 4N review.

The Frenzy of Queen Maeve has a wonderful script and very good performances, particularly by Jackie Block as the main character Aislin. Alvina Ruprecht would like one of Ottawa’s local theatres to bring it back to Ottawa: review.

Tonya Jone Miller is bringing Threads back to the Winnipeg Fringe after selling out last year and getting two 5 star reviews from the Winnipeg Free Press and CBC Manitoba. CBC Manitoba Scene gave it a tie for Outstanding Performance (Female). If you couldn’t get tickets last year, get them early this year. Miller sold out her first two performances at the Toronto Fringe Festival this year. Line up early for a good seat close to the front. There are some pianissimo passages that you don’t want to miss.

RibbitRePublic is remounting Be a Man this year. We saw the original in 2002 at the Ottawa Fringe Festival. The first performance this year with an all new cast got this highly quotable review from Apartment 613. Then one of the actors, Antony Hall, was hit by a car and the rest of the run in Ottawa was cancelled. We were going to attend the second performance. Instead we attended a benefit performance put on by several Fringe performers. The new cast (with director and original cast member Jon Patterson taking Hall’s place) performed several excerpts. An understudy will take Hall’s place at the Winnipeg Fringe. We’re going to see this remount in Winnipeg.

Sam S. Mullins, who brought Tinfoil Dinosaur to last year’s Winnipeg Fringe has a new show with the worst title of the year: Weaksauce. We saw it at the Montreal Fringe. Here’s my Apartment 613 review. Parents should bring their teenage sons. Young men should bring a date. Young ladies swoon. He’s also had a lovely review from The Charlebois Post.

True confession time: I am not a Peter ‘n Chris fan. (I know. Sue me!) Neither is Barb. BUT! We really like their new show Peter ‘n Chris Explore Their Bodies. So does The Charlebois Post who have published warmly receptive reviews from Montreal here and Toronto here. So does Mooney on Theatre: review.

We were going to give Ask Aggie – The Advice Diva a pass, but then Christine Lesiak gave us her pitch in answer to our question “Why do we want to see your show?” It took some probing, but she definitely convinced us. (“Flyering” works.) Now frankly the best part of the show, IMHO, is the improvised answers that Lesiak’s character gives to audience members’ written questions that they prepare before the show. Therefore, the quality of the show depends on the quality of the questions. So bring GOOD questions. Aggie’s answer to Barb’s question brought explosive laughter from the audience. Here’s The Charlebois Post’s review from a night of good questions.

The best way to sum up Dandyman is: “I’ll bet you didn’t see THAT coming!” Appearances to the contrary, Daniel Oldaker’s show (with some direction from The Birdmann) is unpredictable. We tried this out at the Montreal Fringe because it was coming to Winnipeg and it fit a time slot. We certainly didn’t see the ending coming, or some of the other twists and turns in this physical comedy. Oldaker hasn’t had many reviews, so this one’s a sleeper for now. Here’s a Bloody Underrated review that fits.

Perogies! I predict that the buzz on the street will call Keeper, the perogy show. This quirky little show has lots of audience participation for people who are afraid to go to see Red Bastard. This Apartment 613 review pretty much captures the gentle eccentricity. Gentlemen, sit in the front row and you just might get a …

We saw Dirk Darrow: NCSSI (Not Completely Serious Supernatural Investigator) at last year’s Ottawa Fringe. This is a cotton candy, summer entertainment kind of show, which combines magic tricks, audience participation, dreadful puns and campy film noir. No redeeming social value and a lot of fun. Screw it, you need some fun, don’t you? This Fully Fringed review pretty much captures the essence of the performance.

OK, there are lots of other shows coming to the Winnipeg Fringe that I want to see. BUT I’M NOT GOING TO TELL YOU WHAT THEY ARE! It’s now time to reveal my evil plan behind these recommendations: I’m sending you folks to these shows SO I’LL BE ABLE TO GET INTO SHOWS I HAVEN’T SEEN YET. While you’re standing in long lines trying to get into the above, I’ll quietly slip into shows on my wanna see list. Nyah, ah, ah! I’ll beat the crowds that you’ll create.

Evil, positively evil.


© Brian M. Carroll, 2013


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