2016 Vancouver Fringe Festival Reviews

Reviewed by 
Meghan Bell & Nav Nagra

Welcome to Room magazine's coverage of the 2016 Vancouver Fringe Festival! We will be posting reviews of shows all week, so check back regularly. The Fringe runs until September 18, 2016, and we encourage you to go check out a play (or maybe twenty).

NeOn

A multimedia show at its finest, NeOn explores the depths and diversity of relationships and what ultimately drives us – love. Written by the talented Mayumi Yoshida, NeOn fantastically and rhythmically moves the audience through the dimensions of old, young, here and there. While doing so brings into question how we relate and why. I love plays that toy with emotion and what we consider the norm and NeOn beautifully did just that. A diverse cast molding the complexities of love and relationships out for the audience is breathtaking and a must-see!—Nav Nagra

Ze: Queer as Fuck

Full disclosure: I tend to expect more from one-person shows then I think is fair. That being said, Ze: Queer as Fuck did not in the least disappoint. Performed by Michelle/Ryan Lunicke, Ze: Queer as Fuck starts off with a wink, an array of queer anthems and what seems to be the intro of a run-of-the-mill silly show. Thankfully, to my surprise, a silly show this was not. Michelle/Ryan attempts to bring the audience into the show through musical instruments strewn about on the tables and by feeding a few audience members some lines to throw back, however, where this does fall flat, the rest of the show soars. An empowering look at Michelle/Ryan’s journey through sexuality and identity, Ze: Queer as Fuck reminds us that not all is 1s and 0s and no one, absolutely no one, falls into a neat little box and it’s best to remember this because once you do, man, is it liberating.—Nav Nagra

The Secret

A show with a secret, The Secret weaves together psychology and life lessons to present the reasons why we share secrets and why we keep them. At times, this show felt like it was two separate stories and I feel that that was entirely writer Chelsey Stuyt’s intention. We learn of Chelsey’s relationship with her mother through the secrets she tells her and the secret she doesn’t. Chelsey is sweet and charming and so is the show up until the end when Chelsey asks the audience whether or not she should share the secret that she has been keeping for a decade (even from her mother) and it is here, that you learn under that sweet, charming exterior lies a secret that darkens her narrative just enough to entirely change the show.—Nav Nagra

Berlin Waltz

A one woman show jam packed with multimedia and politics. Artist Devon More explores the East German history, specifically the effects and outcomes of the Berlin Wall through music, character vignettes and audience participation. More challenges the audience to draw from their own experiences while moving through the Berlin Waltz. At times a bit muddled, More still manages to bring about the questions of politics and propaganda and what it does to a society. She alludes to what is happening in the world now and juxtaposes it to what was happening in Berlin at the time. Entertaining and thought-provoking, Berlin Waltz takes a big bite out of history and moulds it in a way that the audience can all of a sudden see the present.—Nav Nagra

The Antagonist

The word for this show is quirky but quirky in a delightful way. The Antagonist leads the audience through the day-in-the-life of Super Villain Eugenius (or he would have you think he’s a Super Villain). Throughout his day, we see Eugenius get frustrated by things any one of us would be frustrated by (like an awesome customer in the line in front of us) or by an inconvenient errand our parents simply need us to do. This hilarious show weaves everyday life into the lives of Super Villains and Heroes alike and lets us know: hey, we’re actually not all that different from each other.—Nav Nagra

Nerdfucker 
Through a provactive and intimate monologue, playwright and performer Cameryn Moore explores the kinky side of geek culture—and the sexism and misogyny that can come with it. Moore is a dynamic performer (her Fringe hit Phone Whore is a must-see for theatre fans), and channels an anxious energy that makes her intensely relatable, even as she rapid-fires video game references so quickly some audience members might struggle to keep up. Like Phone WhoreNerdfucker is a smart, complex, sex-positive one-woman show, with a sadness that is buoyed by Moore's darkly brilliant humour and ability to see the humanity in everyone. I strongly recommend this show. —Meghan Bell

Not Enough
Okay, full disclosure—I probably relate way too much to this show to review it fairly (playwright and performer Megan Phillips even shares my first name! If you see this show, you'll understand why that was somewhat jarring). I went into this show with few expectations—as Phillips points out in one of the many self-aware, more meta moments of her monologue, there's something cliche-sounding about writing a one-woman show about a ten-day meditation retreat. However, what Phillips delivers instead is a high-nervous-energy, hilarious monologue about mental health, anxiety, self-destruction, and, ultimately, self-improvement and well-being. My only gripes with this show are with the venue itself—Arts Umbrella has maybe two dozen seats in its black-box theatre, so get your tickets now—and with the press photo, which doesn't do the play justice. If you or someone in your life struggles with anxiety (which, I'm sure, is about 100% of the people reading this), go see Not Enough. As a deliberately-vague note to be spoiler-free, the use of sound recording in this show is excellent. Also, bring cash, Phillips has some pretty sweet mental-health-related merchandise available, including cards from With Love Compassion, and buttons that say "I'm Enough." —Meghan Bell

Grounded
Grounded (by George Brant) is an acclaimed script, and for a good reason. A fighter pilot returns to work after giving birth to her daughter, only to find that her job in the air force has changed to one in the "chair" force—instead of going abroad to the war, she's putting in twelve-hour shifts on a base in Las Vegas, piloting drones on the other side of the world, then returning home each night to her husband and daughter. When the drone she pilots begins to follow the alleged "Number Two", the pilot begins to struggle with her nightly transitions to civilian life. This is not an easy play, the sort that is likely to prompt conversation as you leave the theatre (the ethics behind drone warfare, in particular, are protrayed as incredibly complicated). Joanna Gaskell (not-so) delicately balances toughness and aggression with an intense vulnerability—I look forward to seeing her in more shows around Vancouver. Kudos also to Danielle Lavallée's direction: lighting, sound design, and performance came together skillfully. —Meghan Bell

Marrow 
This was extremely well-done. Two sisters reunite, triggering memories of their conflicted past. Veronique West's script is intelligent and complex: Marrow explores eating disorders with honesty and nuance. There are no easy answers here, no easy definitions of feminism, and no easy ideas as to what it means to be a victim, what it means to be a survivor. I loved how the script incorporated the history of witch hunts—one of the protagonists is a witchcraft historian working on a masters thesis—and how this ties into Marrow's complicated discussion about victimhood and mental illness. —Meghan Bell

My Ocean
Twelve-year-old Lenny's (Nadeem Phillip, excellent in this role) passionate and delightfully earnest speech about the ocean and sea turtles for Speaker's League is derailed when details about his family life bubble to the surface. Playwright Sasha Singer-Wilson's script includes plenty of humour (love the jellyfish dance!) and science to buoy some of the darker subject matter, however, the mid-point reveal (which felt like a climax, but was too early to really be one) felt unbelievable for Lenny's character—a certain amount of pre-meditation would be required that doesn't quite resonate. Furthermore, the script could have hit all the same emotional notes without the fire. That being said, I was entertained for the entire play, and this is a new script by an emerging playwright who has more than enough talent to tackle and tweak some of the issues in the script. My Ocean is remounted, I'd encourage people to go check it out, especially if they love the ocean. —Meghan 

Meghan Bell is Room's publisher and graphic designer. She draws a comic strip at bellcurved.com. Learn more about her at meghanbell.com or on Twitter @meghanlbell.

Nav Nagra is a writer, reader, knitter, and a member of Room's editorial board. You can follow her @stelladalle and penpencilpoison.weebly.com.

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