2 Fringe Reviews: My Words, Not Theirs (Loon & Little Lady)
Calgary Fringe Festival Shows Reviewed Here: Loon and Little Lady (see previous posts for other reviews).
It was a hot and relatively quiet afternoon on the Fringe grounds today. Kudos to the clever cast of Breathe Normally who thought to attach their promo postcard to a large stick so people could use it to fan themselves. (Psst … I learned today that Festival Hall is air-conditioned, one advantage it has over the other venues on days like this). It appears I have another unintentional theme day here. Today it’s wordless solo (non-musical theatre) performances by female artists at the Lantern Church, both of which I chose because I’d heard good things about them. The fact that they were back-to-back in the same building was an added bonus.
Loon (Lantern Church Sanctuary)
Portland Oregon’s Wonderheads (Kate Braidwood and Andrew Phoenix) have followed up last year’s 4-time Best of Fest performance with another masked creation called Loon. This time, Francis, a socially awkward middle-aged mama’s boy, is so lonely after her death that he tries his hand at speed-dating, only to be stood up by the only person who agrees to meet him. He then rekindles his childhood love with the moon, and brings it back to earth to be his mate. Of course, the relationship is doomed, and he eventually has to sadly return it to its rightful place in the sky outside his window.
Wearing a giant, fabulously expressive mask of her own creation, Kate Braidwood does a brilliant solo performance as Francis. It’s amazing how much she can say without words. The soulful mask and hunchback costume do a good part of the job of course, along with Gideon Freudmann’s lovely music performed by the Portland Cello Project. At times funny, at times melancholy, this show is unusual and simple, and one of the few shows at the Fringe that’s suitable for all ages. It’s a popular show and although the Lantern Church Sanctuary is big, get there early even if you have a ticket, and run, don’t walk, to grab a seat at the front, especially if you have children in tow. The stage isn’t very high, so it’s easy to miss the action near the floor if you’re very far back, or have the misfortune to sit behind someone tall, as I did. I went to this show even though I thought it would be a little weird for me, on the advice of Applause Meter’s Jessica Goldman, who said every theatre junkie should see these folks in action, even though she preferred last year’s show. I’m glad I did.
Little Lady (Lantern Church Gym)
If I actually were in the market for a play that was too weird for me, then I chose well with Las Vegas’ Sandrine Lafond’s Little Lady, one of the many physical theatre performances at this year’s Fringe. According to the programme, Little Lady is a “dark, comic and grotesque fable” of Sandrine’s “transformation from Cirque du Soleil and Celine Dion dancer to performer generated theatre artist”. The handout provided at the show says something completely different - something about a lab test on a million-year-old creature that’s half human and half cockroach. If I was confused after reading the printed material, that was only the beginning.
While I quite enjoyed Paolo Santo’s short opening video of Sandrine outdoors, she lost me completely once on-stage. Much of the show involved Sandrine running around on tip-toes while making funny noises and expressions, and doing things like knitting in front of the television, pulling yards of yarn out of her belly and squirming around with a fake breast-and-ass suit filled with big rubber balls. I kind of got that there was a maturating process of sorts going on – and OK, I’ll give her points for the flashy eyelashes and glasses – but most of the time, I found her antics and the musical score annoying. The only funny moment for me was when she stuck her long tongue out in a playful/seductive (?) manner at a lone and unamused man on one side of the audience and then pretended to throw up. I wondered, “Does she know that’s Calgary Herald theatre critic Stephen Hunt? And if so, what the hell is she thinking?” (She waved to him at the end of the show, so I’m guessing she did know). On the other hand, I’ll bet many Calgary playwrights, actors, directors and producers are wishing they had Sandrine’s balls :).
I considered heading back to the Fringe to take in either another solo female performer or wordless show to round out my set, but once I got home, I discovered that my dog, Duffy had trashed the house because he didn’t appreciate being left alone for the afternoon. After cleaning up, I opened up a 500ml bottle of London Porter I picked up on my way home yesterday (very nice), started to draft this article and had a light dinner. I came to a point where I had to decide whether to finish my beer or head back to Inglewood… Maybe I’m not that much of a theatre junkie after all ;).
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.