Calgary Fringe Festival Shows Reviewed Here:
She Has Name and Late Night With the Improv Guild (see previous post for reviews of The Ballad of Herbie Cox, The Bro Sho and 2 to Django)
My choices for the opening day of the Fringe Festival were everything you could want for the Theatre Smorgasbord that is the annual Calgary Fringe Festival. They were all really different from each other and I liked them all. The Fringe is perfect for Geminis like me who like lots of variety and tend to have short attention span.
Here are reviews for the last two shows I saw to cap Friday night’s Fringe blitz, a couple of mostly non-musical entries:
She Has a Name (Lantern Church Sanctuary)
She Has a Name is the heart-wrenching story of a 15-year-old girl, known only as #18 (Evelyn Chew), who is taken from her family in Cambodia after her father dies, to work in one of the many brothels in Bangkok. It’s told from the vantage-point of the neophyte lawyer-social worker Jason (Carl Kennedy) who tries to get her to testify against the sex-trafficking pimp (cleverly doubled by Kennedy with the aid of sunglasses and a dramatic change of body language) who brought her there. This is an extraordinarily powerful and equally hard show to watch – not your typical Fringe fare. Both Chew and Kennedy are riveting performers and draw you into their struggles from the moment you meet them till the gruesome end (not much of spoiler alert here – you know from the get-go that this story can’t end well – kind of like a darker version of Miss Saigon). They are backed up by a “Greek chorus” of voices/phantoms composed of Jason’s wife (Alysa van Haastert), Jason’s boss (Glenda Warkentin) and the pimp’s second-in-command (Sienna Howell-Holden) and occasionally #18 herself. If I hadn’t been there with friends or gone to the late-night improv show afterwards, I probably would have cried all the way home. I still have shivers just thinking about it. She Has a Name is a partnership between Alberta’s Burnt Thicket Theatre and raisetheirvoice,a group that uses the arts and “practical acts of mercy” to address the plight of exploited people around the world, and money made will be used to support their endeavours. Although the Lantern Church is big, go early if you want to get a good seat. If you go to today’s 3PM performance, they will be following the show with a panel discussion with director Stephen Waldschmidt, Playwright Andrew Kooman and others about the show and the world-wide sex trade.
And now for something completely different…
Late Night With the Improv Guild (Lantern Church Basement)
Late Night With the Improv Guild plays at 11 PM every night, and is where the Fringe artists, volunteers and staff kick back at the end of the day in a casual environment for an hour of light entertainment, $3 beer and mingling (and presumably more $3 beer) until the wee hours or until they kick them out. This is the only free show at the Fringe and is a good chance to get a little sample of some of the shows playing this week. Fun improv bits get the audience involved (many of whom are performers and thus get a chance to promote their shows as well) and are interspersed with pre-arranged short segments from different Fringe shows every night. Last night included bits of Polar Shift, The Good The Bad and the Stupid and the Last Man on Earth. The Improv Guild also has a show up (Naked Improv), so this gives you a peek at what they’re about if you are considering taking that in. The show changes nightly, so it’s something you can take in over and over. I had a good time and just might go again if I happen to be kicking around the grounds at that hour, and don’t have to go to work the next day.
Now off to work the Lunchbox Theatre booth at Inglewood’s Sunfest and more shows tonight. Check back for more reviews tomorrow.
The Calgary Fringe Festival runs from August 3 to August 11. Tickets are $10-$15 per show plus your $5 Fringe button and most shows are about an hour long. For schedules and online tickets (well worth it for popular shows), go to Calgary Fringe Festival. If you want to see what I’m going to or find people to go with, check out the Calgary Musicals+ Meetup Group.