REVIEWS

Get Fringey: 10 of the weirdest, wildest shows at the Winnipeg Fringe

The theme of the 2018 Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival is 'take a chance'. That's why we've rounded up the year's 'fringey-est' shows.

From a wise octopus to dancing vulvas, take a chance on these weird and (sometimes) wonderful shows

Flute Loops is a 'rock opera about quantum physics where anything that can happen does.' (Julie Heather Photography)

The theme of the 31st Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival is "take a chance." 

That's why we've rounded up the year's Fringey-est" shows.

Here's what our reviewers thought of these weird and (sometimes) wonderful shows.

Ashley Whitehead and Natalie Tin Yin Gan, dressed as giant vulvas. (Wendy D. Photography)
 

Lip Service

★★★★★ STARS

Come and get it, Winnipeg! Lip Service is a loud and proud celebration of female sexuality starring two of the most gifted and funny physical performers at the Fringe. Dressed as giant vulvas, Natalie Tin Yin Gan and Ashley Whitehead burst onto the stage to the sounds of Eye of the Tiger and, for 45 minutes, charm the pants off their audience with non-stop energy and laughs.

Lip Service features sketch comedy that the vulva-rific duo freely admits is "runny and punny". They break out the ukulele for a racy rendition of Tom Petty's Free Fallin'... Then they play operators at a women's help line who respond to practically every problem with the same solution: coconut oil. It's exhausting but thrilling to watch — and it's the best party at the festival.

No matter what sex organ you have, or like to have in front of you, Lip Service teaches a bold lesson on honouring what you've got.

— Reviewed by Kaj Hasselriis

Flute Loops

★★★★ STARS

Calling all music/theoretical physics/theatre geeks! I know you're out there! Now is your time, this is your play, I have found your queen.

Devon More is a fresh breath of Fringe weird, making quantum physics not only comprehensible but downright catchy.

Moving from the macro to the micro she wrestles with complex questions about how the universe works on a quantum level, whether the endless pursuit of a seemingly intractable PhD is a life worth living, and if she should stay with her boyfriend. You know, the usual.

Showcasing a polymath's proclivity for playing multiple instruments, More punctuates her one-woman show with songs, accompanying herself on guitar, flute, glockenspiel, and heavy mike breathing. It's lovely — trust me.

An exploration of the fundamental and life-affirming possibilities inherent in accepting the uncertainties of life — set to dope-ass beats.

— Reviewed by Michelle Palansky

Our reviewer calls Fool Muun Komming's Sam Kruger 'a special and weird Fringe jewel.' (Submitted)

Fool Muun Komming!

​★★★★ STARS

Imagine a crystalline David Bowie projecting an animated sequence on to your cheek from a bejewelled codpiece.

Imagine a spaceship that looks like Liza Minnelli, but with more Jello and filled with snakes.

Imagine a space alien lured to Earth by a random text message, "Bae where r u? Come and find me."

Sam Kruger has landed on planet Earth to share his visions with humanity. He creates and recreates worlds on end in order to establish bonds, make connections and find love.

Like a coked-up Robin Williams at his most agile and frenetic, Sam Kruger is a special and weird Fringe jewel. Fool Muun is a fabulous piece of physical theatre, a hallucination, a dialogue between a travelling space man and his ship, Love Rock. Fool Muun is an antidote to the loneliness and alienation of modern times. Kruger may ask you onstage to dance. Take him up on it. Share the love.

— Reviewed by Michelle Palansky

Freestyle Fantastique

​★★★★ STARS

Simon Miron's solo show is an ambitious exploration of the twisted relationship between suffering and art — and how much of the former is, or should be, required to make the latter.

Miron starts with the story of Hector Berlioz — the tormented 18th century composer most famous for his Symphonie Fantastique — and draws connections with his own sometimes dangerously obsessive pursuit of art.

The parallel stories unfold through an inventive mix of video, storytelling, looped singing, movement, dance and even a bit of rap.

Some of this works brilliantly but ultimately, it feels like the disparate elements don't quite tie together as satisfyingly as they should — it feels almost like a series of fine melodies that don't quite come together as a symphony.

It is, however, an intensely, bravely personal piece. Miron's ambition and bold honesty are truly fantastique.

— Reviewed by Joff Schmidt

Jellyfish Are Immortal is a blend of a TED Talk and a self-help seminar — with an octopus costume. (Peachy Keen Productions)

Jellyfish are Immortal

★★★★ STARS

The latest from Fringe star Sydney Hayduk (of Bizarro Obscure fame) is a blend of TED Talk and self-help seminar — with an octopus costume.

There's actually a bit more of the first two and less of the third, which is my major qualm with Jellyfish Are Immortal.

It sometimes leans too heavily on lecture as Hayduk extols the virtues of self-love — a word she admits is "floofy" — as not just a way to feel nice about ourselves, but a way to heal many of the world's ills.

She makes her point with everything from slide projections to tap dance (remarkably good tap dance, in fact) to painfully personal storytelling.

Hayduk carries it all with irrepressible energy and charm and "floofy" or not, she makes a deep point to Jellyfish Are Immortal.

— Reviewed by Joff Schmidt

Jezebel, at the Still Point

★★★★ STARS

Jezebel draws most of the laughs in Ainsley Hillyard's reflective and funny show — even though she doesn't do much except drink water, flop down on the stage and occasionally sniff around.

This, of course, is because Hillyard's co-star is a French bulldog, the trusty canine companion to Hillyard's astronaut, who is searching for the secrets to time travel — and dog immortality.

With a blend of storytelling and movement, Hillyard takes a thoughtful look at our relationship with our best friends — from the history of dogs in space to Barbra Streisand's cloned pooch.

Jezebel, meanwhile, gets laughs by mostly sitting impassively and seeming pretty unperturbed by the whole thing.

Not everything clicks — the movement pieces feel like they don't quite weave in with the rest of the piece. But this show delivers plenty of laughs and has tremendous heart — and an ending that will tug at your heartstrings, whether you're a dog person or not.

— Reviewed by Joff Schmidt

Stephanie Morin-Robert and Alastair Knowles combine forces in Bushel and Peck. (Thaddeus Hink)

Bushel and Peck

★★★ STARS

Half of The Merkin Sisters and Half of James & Jamesy? The combination of Stephanie Morin-Robert and Alastair Knowles sounds promising but doesn't quite deliver.

This is not a show in development, it's been running for some time. There are some beautiful visuals, haunting imagery, and a fantastic floating head-on-shoulders bit. Their physical work is wonderful.

But the lovely bits are too few and far between, and we're left wanting much more. Whenever they speak, either in character voice or as reciting from the "Maker's handbook", the magic falls away.

This show is like an album. It's easier to enjoy if you imagine Knowles and Morin-Robert as veteran musicians who have put together this record with their B-side songs. It does enough to please diehard fans, but is not the best introduction to these two fine artists. Opening night was half an hour shorter than the stated run time.

— Reviewed by Bradley Sawatzky

​Dandymouth: word. play.

​★★★ STARS

Fringe doesn't come a lot more fringey than Dandymouth.

The storyteller from Lisbon (originally London) offers up a perplexing though oddly engaging mix of performance poetry, sound-art, storytelling and comedy (mostly revolving around groan-worthy puns, but delivered with enough affable charm that it kinda works).

It's all about playing with language, really, and Dandymouth's show is nothing if not playful — though often a bit chaotic. He even invites a different local musician onstage with him each night to "jam" — no rehearsal required, or allowed — as he tells some of his oddball "shaggy dog stories."

Into this he mixes various sound elements — including some interjections and very funny English-English to Canadian-English translations from his virtual assistant, Maria.

It's all a bit scattered, and even Dandymouth didn't seem entirely certain during his second performance where he was headed from one moment to the next — but the ride's fun nonetheless.

Dandy indeed.

— Reviewed by Joff Schmidt

​jem rolls: I, IDIOT.

★★★ STARS

Jem rolls promises to "solve the mystery of the big bang," but "not advance belief in evolution," and that he'll reveal "who knows best how many idiots are out there in the world." Big ambitions for a Fringe show, but if anyone can achieve them through only physical comedy and verbal acrobatics, it's jem.

Seeking answers, he charts the history of his own idiocy, waxing on the humiliating moments when his brain would not cooperate with the rest of him. He also treats us to the hilarious horror of a "clownocalypse" and re-brands humankind.

As any idiot knows, a jem rolls show is a force to behold, so why only three stars? For this idiot, this one just felt too long. What started engaging and incisive became lulling and repetitive. My brain wanted to savour every word, but the rest of me — Fringe forgive me — just wanted it to end.

— Reviewed by Kelly Stifora

'The Wild Dog Waits On The Concrete Path' only barks where it should be biting.' (Submitted)

The Wild Dog Waits On The Concrete Path

★★★ STARS

The Wild Dog Waits on the Concrete Path is a fine example of the "One Person Teacher Play" Fringe sub-genre.

Chalkboard-dominated set? Check. Idealistic protagonist with a fresh education degree? Yes. School-where-no-one-wants-to-teach, filled with difficult students that we understand are difficult because the script tells us "they are difficult?" Affirmative. Sardonic sidekick? Quirky student the teacher befriends? Mishaps involving animals?

It's all there. But here's the thing about genres: as soon as one can be defined, it has to start pushing at its boundaries to stay relevant. And The Wild Dog is too busy proving what it is — a funny, cleverly staged teacher play, to recognize what it could be — a play where the characters and the audience learn more than that they need to learn something.

Danielle Roy's performance is a feat. There are some great jokes. Ultimately, however, The Wild Dog only barks where it should be biting.

— Reviewed by Kelly Stifora

With files from Kaj Hasselriis, Michelle Palansky, Bradley Sawatzky, Joff Schmidt and Kelly Stifora