Manitoba·REVIEWS

Kidding around at the Winnipeg Fringe: Reviews of 10 family-friendly shows

Since the Fringe is unjuried and uncensored, a lot of what you'll see can be edgy and provocative. But there are also lots of shows you can take the whole family to. Here's our look at some of this year's family-friendly shows.

A look at some of the shows at the 2018 Winnipeg Fringe Festival you can take the whole family to

The Fourth Wall delights in breaking the rules of classical music in their marvellously playful show Fallen From the Toy Box. (Andy Blatt)

As usual, the 2018 edition of the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival offers a little something for everyone.

Since the Fringe is unjuried and uncensored, a lot of what you'll see can be edgy and provocative.

But there are also lots of shows you can take the whole family to — both in the Kids Venue at Manitoba Theatre for Young People and in other venues at the Fringe.

Here's our look at some of this year's family-friendly shows.

Chris Funk Live

★★★★ STARS

Magician Chris Funk, who became famous on America's Got Talent, brings a bit of Hollywood to the Fringe with his extravagant, crowd-pleasing show.

Funk puts a modern spin on familiar tricks. He starts the show by tossing Frisbees into the audience, then asks the people who catch them to say their favourite numbers. Pay close attention because the "wonder," as Funk calls it, builds from there. He also mixes old-school tricks with new technology. When he does card games, his assistant shoots video of the trick and projects it on a big screen behind him.

Is it necessary? Not really. In fact, I found it a bit distracting. But it's fun to see Funk cater to his young, sold-out audience, and make magic fresh for the selfie generation.

— Reviewed by Kaj Hasselriis

Fallen from the Toy Box

★★★★★ STARS

If you're a classically trained musician, there are certain rules you're expected to follow — like "don't ride around the stage on the vibraphone."

These are the kind of rules The Fourth Wall delights in breaking in this marvellously playful show.

The trio of superbly talented musicians show off their chops in a series of classical and jazz compositions, but give each a twist — playing hacky sack with balloons, for example, or incorporating graceful and cheeky dance into their take on otherwise serious compositions.

If you've seen their past shows, some of it will be familiar — like their vibraphone-riding rendition of Vince Guaraldi's Skating.

But there are surprises here too — like a tender performance of Debussy's Clair de Lune that may well leave a lump in your throat.

A treat for older and younger Fringers alike, it's easy to fall for.

— Reviewed by Joff Schmidt

'If you're looking for simple, gentle laughs for little Fringers, putting Ideas Bobert! on your list would be a pretty good idea.' (Candy Bones Theatre)

Ideas Bobert!

★★★★ STARS

Poor Bobert is full of ideas — for everything from how he can drink his morning coffee without using his hands (or leaving his chair) to his plans for a romantic date with his sweetheart. Alas, none of Bobert's ideas quite seem to work according to plan.

That's the premise for this charming and skilfully performed 45-minute bit of wordless clowning from Candice Roberts. With the help of an array of clever props and a couple of slightly surreal, but delightful, stop-motion video segments, she brings Bobert to vivid life as he bumbles his way through his day.

Roberts is an an expressive clown, drawing both laughs and sympathy for the hapless Bobert — and she impresses with some fine tap dancing, too.

If you're looking for simple, gentle laughs for little Fringers, putting this one on your list would be a pretty good idea.

— Reviewed by Joff Schmidt

Maple & Sticky's Amazing Olympic Race

★★ STARS

Local clowns Maple (Alissa Watson) and Sticky (Spenser Payne) return to the Fringe with a kid- and Canadian-friendly show that sees them preparing to compete in the Olympics as synchronized swimmers, but more of the bits sink than swim.

This isn't a performance issue. Watson and Payne work well together and I know from previous shows that both are talented actors and capable of being very funny. As Maple and Sticky they quickly establish the dynamic between their characters and for 45 minutes their enthusiasm and energy doesn't wane. The set and props are also well realized.

But I didn't laugh, and, more significantly for a kids' show, neither did my five-year-old daughter. She spent the second half of the show watching the other kids in the audience instead of Maple and Sticky.

Maybe the jokes and sketches, like Maple and Sticky's swimming routine, just need a little more practice.

— Reviewed by Kelly Stifora

MIND MAGIC

★★★ STARS

MIND MAGIC is an old-school magic show for all ages starring a likable, middle-aged magician named Louis Pezzani. The long-time mentalist delights in guessing what's on the minds of his audience members, from numbers on a dice to their childhood happy places.

There's never much doubt as to whether Pezzani will guess right, so the show lacks suspense. And though he asks people in the crowd to help him with almost all his tricks, they only get to be props rather than unpredictable participants.

MIND MAGIC is an enjoyable hour (15 minutes under the advertised running time), but it might not blow your mind.

— Reviewed by Kaj Hasselriis

Please Be Seated

★★★ STARS

"Art is for looking at, not for touching," a friendly but firm voice says over a loudspeaker at the start of Morgan Nadeau's solo show.

But when Pikils the Clown visits an art gallery, a sculpture made from chairs proves too great a temptation — and clown hijinks involving the quickly disassembled sculpture ensue.

It all gets off to a slow start, though. The schtick of finding silly uses for the chairs produces some delightfully funny moments, but starts to run a bit thin at points.

Things become a lot more fun, though, as Nadeau begins to interact more with the audience. Pikils is at her best, it seems, when she has someone to play with and she wins the crowd over by the show's end.

It's a entertaining and kid-friendly 35 minutes that establishes that art can indeed be fun — and touched.

— Reviewed by Joff Schmidt

Bossy Flyer presents Terms & Conditions at the 2018 Winnipeg Fringe Festival. (Bossy Flyer)

Terms & Conditions

★★★★ STARS

A familiar odd-couple story plays out in an appealing blend of physical comedy and acrobatics in the latest show from Bossy Flyer (the company behind the hit Flight).

When two women are mistakenly stuck together in the same apartment, battles escalate in this mostly wordless comedy, suitable for Fringers of all ages.

Performers Cynthia Price and Taylor Casas accomplish the impressive feat of making their acrobatics look effortless, when they're clearly anything but. They balance on each other and lift one another with grace and to great comic effect.

The squabbling between the two roomies grows repetitive after a while, though, and a mid-show dance break is initially a great comic bit, but it runs far too long.

But Price and Casas are energetic enough performers to make for a fun romp through the world of trying to get along.

— Reviewed by Joff Schmidt

Rob Malo presented TiBert Is Back! at the 2018 Winnipeg Fringe Festival. (tibertlevoyageur.com)

TiBert is Back!

★★★★★ STARS

In place of reviewing TiBert le Voyageur's show, I have elected to create a song.

I have no musical training. There is not a tune to sing this to. I don't speak French. But it's what my daughter would do. So here, now, is my Chant for TiBert:

He's great with kids and juggling, too!

TiBert! TiBert!

He'll teach you how to drive a canoe!

TiBert! TiBert!

We'll play the spoons and dance a jig!

TiBert! TiBert!

With TiBert our fun will always be big! (I'm going to work on this line some more)

It's TiBert Le Voyageur!

Who wants to be in a York boat race?

TiBert! TiBert!

Or play the harp inside your face?

TiBert! TiBert!

He makes every kid a part of the show!

TiBert! TiBert!

When it's all over you won't want to go!

It's TiBert Le Voyageur!

It's TiBert Le Voyageur!

C'EST TIBERT LE VOYAGEUR!

— Reviewed by Kelly Stifora

Vikings and Romans: The Untold Stories

★★ STARS

You'll find this re-titled show listed in your program as Horrible Histories: Vicious Vikings and Rotten Romans — though your best bet is just not to find it at all.

Taking material from the popular and long-running British Horrible Histories series, this is intended to be a cheeky look at some of the gorier and more unseemly aspects of Viking and Roman history.

But it becomes a demonstration of how poor execution can kill a good joke. With some wooden performances and excruciatingly long blackouts between the many, many scenes, the show never develops the rhythm and pace essential for comedy.

It's an awkward and amateurish take on history that's better left forgotten.

— Reviewed by Joff Schmidt

Wonderheads present The Wilds at the 2018 Winnipeg Fringe Festival. Left to right: Emily Windler, Kate Braidwood and Andrew Phoenix. (DesignEgg)

The Wilds

★★★★★ STARS

The Wonderheads return with their signature full-head masks — and a tale that's darker than their previous shows, but no less captivating or magical.

It follows an elderly man who must enter a fearsome forest after his wife — and their favourite tree — vanish from their backyard.

What unfolds as he encounters a cast of curious creatures is a profoundly moving story of love, loss and hope.

As always, much of the magic here is in how expressive the Wonderheads' masks are — performers Andrew Phoenix and Kate Braidwood convey emotion so beautifully, you forget the expressions on the masks aren't, in fact, changing.

They also incorporate wonderful puppet work — everything from simple stick puppets to full-body puppetry.

A stunning soundtrack from California duo The Singer and the Songwriter gives even more emotional heft to the otherwise silent show.

The material is darker than normal for the Wonderheads, and the show has some intense moments — it's probably not suitable for the youngest Fringers. But older kids, and any adult who has a trace of their inner child left, will delight in The Wilds.

— Reviewed by Joff Schmidt

And for even more family-friendly picks, see our reviews of:

With files from Joff Schmidt, Kelly Stifora and Kaj Hasselriis

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