Worth taking a chance on: 12 shows to see at the 2018 Winnipeg Fringe Festival

The Winnipeg Fringe Festival is, of course, all about risk — both for artists and audiences. There’s no such thing as a "sure bet" at the Fringe, but based on past performance, here are a dozen shows to watch for this year.

31st edition of annual theatre festival offers up 179 shows

Ingrid Hansen stars in SNAFU's Interstellar Elder: Badass Grandma in Space, which follows a geriatric astronaut aboard a ship of cryogenically frozen humans. (Laura Dittmann)

"Take a chance" is the theme of this year's Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival — the second-largest fest of its kind in North America, offering up 179 shows at 29 different venues from July 18-29.

The Fringe is, of course, all about risk — both for artists and audiences. There's no such thing as a "sure bet" at the Fringe, but based on past performance, here are a dozen shows to watch for this year.

An All New God Is a Scottish Drag Queen: This one's a no-brainer, but if you want tickets, get 'em now. Mike Delamont's past instalments in the God Is a Scottish Drag Queen series (see our reviews here, here, here and here) have been massive hits, and for good reason — Delamont consistently delivers laughs. He's also something of an industry unto himself at the Fringe this year — he stars (along with former Dead Troll in a Baggie Wes Borg) in The War of 1812, and with his wife (and Drag Queen co-creator) Chantelle in the comedy Maybe Baby. He's also the producer of Field Zoology 101.

Mike Delmont returns with a new instalment in his hugely popular God Is a Scottish Drag Queen series. (Mike Delamont)

Cranbourne: Montreal's Jon Lachlan Stewart made a splash back at the 2011 Fringe with his remarkable Big Shot (which makes a welcome return this year) and with last year's dark and wildly funny Macbeth Muet. This year, he brings a rare chance to see an English performance of a play by Governor General's Award-winning Quebec playwright Fabien Cloutier.

Game On: Has it really been four years since we last saw Jolene Bailie's dance company Gearshifting at the Winnipeg Fringe? High time for a return, then. Local fans know Gearshifting has a reputation for offering up some of the best dance in the city.

Carol-Ann Bohrn in Game On, which sees Jolene Bailie's acclaimed dance company, Gearshifting Performance Works, return to the Winnipeg Fringe this year. (Leif Norman)

Hamlet (the rest is silence): Hamlet is hot this year. The always-reliable Knavish Hedgehogs are offering up their own take on Shakespeare's best-known play (with rising star Miranda Baran in the lead), and there's the crowd-pleasing comedy Hamlet Chapter Two: Back In Black. Meanwhile, local stage vet Kevin Klassen offers up Hamlet (the rest is silence), a solo show in the intimate confines of Dalnavert Museum's dining room that picks up where Shakespeare leaves off — with the death of the Danish prince.

Kevin Klassen performs Hamlet (the rest is silence) at Dalnavert Museum. (Echo Theatre)

How My Light Is Spent: This dark comedy by Welsh playwright Alan Harris comes recommended for the serious professional talent behind it. Local stage vets Tom Keenan and Andrea del Campo star, with Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre artistic director Steven Schipper helming the production.

Interstellar Elder: Badass Grandma In Space: Victoria's SNAFU has brought us past hits like Snack Music and Kitt and Jane. This odd tale, written and performed by Ingrid Hansen (who you can also see in the returning — and very "fringe" — hit The Merkin Sisters) follows a geriatric astronaut aboard a ship of cryogenically frozen humans.

Jellyfish Are Immortal: Sydney Hayduk has a talent for offering up shows that are simultaneously sweet, weird and thoughtful, like past hits Bizarro Obscure and Village Ax. Here, a squid-costumed Hayduk promises "a collision between the self-help aisle and the marine life section of the bookstore."

A squid-costumed Sydney Hayduk presents Jellyfish Are Immortal at the 2018 Winnipeg Fringe. (Andrea Boychuck)

Pixels: The bad news for improv fans: there's no Crumbs show at the Fringe this year. But you can see Stephen Sim, half of Crumbs, and Caity Curtis in this technologically inventive show, in which an improvised story is made into animation in real time via virtual reality. (You can also see the duo take on more traditional comedy in Burns & Allan: A Loving Tribute.)

The Placeholder Show: Acerbically funny, J.D. Renaud is not just one of the city's best stand-up comics, he's also a remarkable storyteller. His latest solo shows promises more laughs with a bit of bite.

The Pretend Men: Police Cops has earned rave reviews at other fringe festivals. This is the first time the comedy team from the U.K. has been to this festival. (The Pretend Men)

The Pretend Men: Police Cops: The U.K. comedy team Pretend Men are making their first trip to the Winnipeg Fringe, but they've earned rave reviews elsewhere — including at the world's biggest fringe fest in Edinburgh — for this goofy parody of cop movies.

Red Bastard: Lie With Me: Eric Davis's giant-bottomed, red-clad clown made a splash back at the 2013 Winnipeg Fringe with what our reviewer called "one of the those shows the Fringe was made to showcase." For those who like it fringey, Davis's latest promises more delightfully fun clown anarchy, with a "tilt-a-whirl of love, lust and freedom."

Red Bastard (Erik Davis) brings more anarchic clowning to the 2018 Winnipeg Fringe with Red Bastard: Lie With Me. (Jeffrey Bernhaut)

VarieTease: Room 100 at the Chelsea Hotel: Tymisha Harris had the big break-out hit of last year's festival with her solo show Josephine — no surprise, it's back this year. But she'll also perform with Orlando dance-theatre company VarieTease in this show — a blend of dance, theatre and live music that tells the story of the last night of Sex Pistol Sid Vicious and his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen.

About the Author

Joff Schmidt

CBC theatre reviewer

Joff Schmidt is a copy editor for CBC Manitoba. Since 2005, he's also been CBC Manitoba's theatre critic on radio and online. He majored in theatre at the U of M, and performed in many university and Fringe festival productions along the way (ranging from terrible to pretty good, according to the reviews). Find him on Twitter @JoffSchmidt.