Manitoba·Reviews

Family fun at the Fringe: 4 family-friendly shows reviewed

If you're looking for something you can take the whole family to at the 2019 Winnipeg Fringe, you've got lots of options — both at the Kids Venue at The Forks and beyond.

Mind-bending card tricks, aerial dance and positive messages are fun for all ages at the 2019 Winnipeg Fringe

Throwback! runs July 17 to 27 at the 2019 Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival. (Jim Mneymneh/Outside In)

If you're looking for something you can take the whole family to at the 2019 Winnipeg Fringe, you've got lots of options — both at the Kids Venue at The Forks and beyond.

Here are CBC Manitoba's reviews of four family-friendly options at this year's festival.

El Diablo of the Cards runs July 17 to 28 at the 2019 Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival. (The Diablo of the Cards/Facebook)

El Diablo of the Cards

★★★★★ STARS

El Diablo of the Cards is a completely entertaining card show that will entrance audience members of all ages.

The card artist, Ewerton Martins, is a rumpled clown from Brazil. His hair is messy, his shirt is too baggy and his tie is askew. He's still learning English. But he's probably the most charismatic performer at the Fringe.

Martins is also a card trick expert who knows how to put an audience in the palm of his hand. One of his tricks is to keep them close. He insists that audience members surround him so that he can interact at arm's length with people throughout the show.

And what a show! One card trick follows another at a pace that barely leaves you time to wonder, "How did he do that?!" El Diablo of the Cards is pure joy, and it even has some life lessons: to take risks and keep from losing the child-like light in your eyes.

The show is also a timely reminder of how easily we can be fooled — and how much we like it.

— Reviewed by Kaj Hasselriis

Throwback! runs July 17 to 27 at the 2019 Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival. (Jim Mneymneh/Outside In)

Throwback!

★★★★ STARS

Have you ever passed by an outdoor acrobat act at the Fringe and thought, "I'd love to stay and watch but I really need a sit-down and a bevy?"

Then I have the show for you, my friends.

Hosted at the Gas Station Arts Centre, Throwback! is a variety show of standup, juggling, acrobatics and aerial work. 

It is pure yummy, delicious eye candy. 

Julie Marshall's aerial silk work can only be described as cool. Acrobatics I've only seen performed as elegant aerial ballet were transformed into something far more modern and aggressive, much more akin to modern dance.

The host, Idris Stanton, energized and entertained the audience, and his egg-balancing act was awesome, but the final piece was anti-climactic. Rolling each eye independently of the other in tempo to the music could not compete with the opener — Daniel Craig propelling himself around the stage in a giant aluminum wheel.

— Reviewed by Michelle Palansky

To Bee or Not To Bee

★★★ STARS

This environmentally-themed kids show doesn't quite buzz with the energy it needs to soar, but it does offer gentle entertainment with a worthy message.

A beekeeper learns the hard way that giving in to big business by planting a cash crop — and to pushy neighbours by spraying pesticides and trimming natural vegetation — has devastating effects on his bees.

The show begins with nice energy, with performers Jonathan Mirin and Laura Josephs getting kids on board by having them make goofy noises and play the role of angry protesters.

That energy doesn't sustain over the show's entire 45 minutes, though, and more opportunities to engage the entire audience would be welcome. 

But Mirin and Josephs are likable performers, and will leave young audiences (this one's best for the under-eight crowd) with some valuable lessons about helping our winged friends — and with some much-needed hope for the bees.

— Reviewed by Joff Schmidt

Anna and the Substitute Teacher

★★ STARS

This family-friendly play from Aimée Beaudoin and Winnipeg's Adam Schwartz (based on his kid's book) has some important and valuable lessons to teach about inclusion — but delivers them in a package that never quite draws the audience in.

Anna lives with Asperger's syndrome. As we learn through somewhat clunky dialogue with her mom, that means she likes routine and is great at math, but is challenged by some social niceties — making eye contact, for example.

That becomes a strength, though, when a new substitute comes to her school — a witch who hypnotizes her classmates by gazing into their eyes.

The messages of acceptance and the strength of diversity here are laudable, but the didactic script drags.

A commendable effort, but unfortunately less than hypnotic theatre.

— Reviewed by Joff Schmidt

With files from Joff Schmidt, Kaj Hasselriis and Michelle Palansky

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