Stories from the Fringe: 5 more storytelling shows reviewed
Winnipeg Fringe performers unpack their personal experiences with autism, adoption and assisted dying
Hot Dogs at the Eiffel Tower
I'm grateful to Maggie Gallant for helping me understand the pain of not knowing who you come from. The luxury of knowing who your parents are, and who your grandparents are, is an easy one to take for granted. Gallant's story opened me up to another perspective.
None of which is to say this one-woman show is dour or depressing. It couldn't be more the opposite. As a performer, Gallant sparkles like the Eiffel Tower's light show. She's energy and presence personified; warm and quick-witted and completely present. Love for life—and for Freddie Mercury—radiates off of her.
No, it's an anti-depressant. And what's more, it's a profoundly articulate statement on what it feels like to find out you're adopted and to spend a lifetime searching for your birth parents.
Gallant will hate me for saying it, but Hot Dogs at the Eiffel Tower is "utterly worthwhile."
Dion Arnold: How I Killed My Nan
I'd guess the odds are good you won't find a show about death that's funnier than Dion Arnold's at this year's festival.
You might actually be hard-pressed to find a funnier stand-up act, period.
Which is odd, given Arnold's subject matter — his grandmother's decision at age 96 to seek a medically assisted death.
Yet he spins this into an hour of spot-on standup comedy, painting a lovingly detailed picture of the woman who was feisty, funny and intent on living life — and dying — on her own terms, thank you very much.
Sharp, and often dark, jokes fly fast and furious (some of the best lines come straight from his grandmother) and his timing is great.
The show's biggest problem is that — perhaps almost fittingly for a show about end of life — it screeches to a bit of a sudden halt.
But up until then, it's a great bit of comedy — and a tribute to a good life and what sounds, based on Arnold's account, like a good death.
Aidan Zeglinski tells the "mostly true" story of his coming of age living with Asperger's syndrome in his solo show.
The details aren't always remarkable — there are standard life experiences like run-ins with bullies, a first kiss and favourite teachers.
But all are a bit different for Zeglinski because of his autism — and he explains how in a matter-of-fact and enlightening way.
He has a good sense of humour about the events in his own life, and though the monologue's pace could pick up in spots, he shows off good comic timing. His performance is big — at times perhaps over-animated — but he commits himself to telling his story passionately.
He arrives at a satisfying conclusion about the people who help us in our lives — and who have helped him succeed as a "quirky" individual.
A Global Village Idiot
Ryan Clement's collection of travel stories is a bit like having a really entertaining pal show you photos from their travels — lots of fun for a while, but not necessarily something you want to spend an hour doing.
Clement is well travelled and he's had some pretty nifty (and some very funny) adventures along the way.
He relates those with a slightly too-rushed delivery, but with a flair for deadpan comedy and witty gags. A likable storyteller, he embellishes his tales with PowerPoint projections, also often used to clever comic effect.
For about the first half of his monologue, he keeps those laughs coming quickly — but it doesn't sustain. Before the end of his hour, the show becomes a bit too rambling, with too many tangential details that don't quite amount to amusing anecdotes.
With a bit more focus, Clement would have a really entertaining show here. As it is, it runs out of gas before it gets to where it wants to go.
This show from Sound & Fury's Patrick Hercamp seems to be — well, a bit cursed.
At the start of the show, Hercamp tells the audience — in a taped segment — that for financial, medical and legal reasons, he's found himself unable to attend the Winnipeg Fringe to perform his show.
All of that is incredibly unfortunate for Hercamp, and I genuinely feel for a performer in that spot.
Hercamp's solution was to send a few recorded segments — and have other Fringe performers step in and fill his time slot.
On the night I saw the show, that unenviable duty fell to The 500 List performer and Sound & Fury member Ryan Wells (who has had his own challenges at this year's festival), along with Brad Torres, who performs The King in Yellow.
They delivered some amusing stories and some music — but it was clear this was material cobbled together to fill a show they didn't expect they'd have to perform, but which they did to help out a friend.
This is a lovely thing, and it's the sort of thing that Fringe is built on.
But does it make for a show I can recommend? Based on the performance I saw, no, unfortunately.
You may still want to give it a shot. You'll see different performers than I did (it sounds like they've got some of the fest's biggest talent lined up), and maybe they'll do something that'll knock your socks off.
But I'm reviewing the show that I saw — and it was, alas, no blessing in disguise.
— Reviewed by Joff Schmidt
With files from Kelly Stifora and Joff Schmidt