Entertainment Local

Vancouver Fringe Festival turns 30

By Laura Murray

High Tea with Jamesy and Jamesy. (SUBMITTED)

High Tea with Jamesy and Jamesy. (SUBMITTED)

September ushers in the start of a new season and beckons one of the highlights of the city’s cultural calendar — the annual celebration of “every kind of theatre imaginable” — the unparalleled Vancouver Fringe Festival.


Now in its landmark 30th season, the Fringe is bursting at the seams with more than 700 performances by 89 artists from Sept. 4-14 at various venues throughout the city.

I reach Fringe executive director David Jordan by phone on a beautiful, sun-drenched morning – he’s just returned from the Edmonton Fringe, where he had a chance to devour some of the wildly eclectic programming. We chat about the festival’s irresistible draw, superb versatility, and raw, uncensored fare.

“Just be open and willing to have a surprise of sorts — that’s what comes with the Fringe Festival,” Jordan explained, en route to his office on Granville Island. “I just saw shows in Edmonton that I was totally surprised by. I thought I knew these artists, I thought I knew what type of work to expect. Every year is completely fresh – it completely reinvents itself.”

With no shortage of choices, it may seem an overwhelming task to navigate the vast assortment of theatre on offer. If you’re having trouble charting your course, Jordan provides some personal insight, sharing his “must-see performances” and “most promising artist” picks. Whether you’re new to the festival or a Fringe fanatic – rest assured the 30th anniversary lineup delivers on its promise of “theatre for everyone.”

“Jem Rolls is a must-see,” said Jordan, his voice boyish and playful. “He is so fantastic with words – a wonderful performance poet who really exemplifies the Fringe spirit.”

Jem Rolls: Attacks the Silence will mark the UK actor’s participation in 100 Fringe Festival’s to date. An audience favourite, the high-octane performer is renowned for his inimitable brand of poetic wizardry.

Also on Jordan’s “must-see” list: the award-winning comedy troupe Peter n’ Chris and the Kinda OK Corral; Monster Theatre’s hilarious work — back-by-popular demand — No Tweed Too Tight: Grant Canyon Mystery; Mind of a Snail’s new large-scale shadow theatre production Caws & Effect; and the Vancouver premiere of TJ Dawe’s hotly anticipated show Marathon — part of the festival’s opening night birthday bash.

Jordan recommends, with equal enthusiasm, James & Jamesy in High Tea.

“They bring the whole audience in and redefine the notion of audience participation,” he said. “There is also a really fun show called Best Picture [by Ribbitrepublic] – they perform little bits of all the best picture Oscar winners in history. It’s just a romp. I’ve been thinking about the ongoing teachers’ strike – what is out there for students who might be looking for things to do – this piece is the type of thing teenagers would love.”

Further standouts include the “really intense, psychological thriller” Moonlight After Midnight, written by and starring Martin Dockery, coupled with the “beautiful storytelling piece,” The Untitled Sam Mullins Project.

Our conversation leads naturally to “most promising artists.” Without hesitation, Jordan mentions Toronto playwright Hannah Moscovitch and the brilliant cast of actors, Marisa Smith and Daniel Arnold, in Little One for Alley Theatre, as well as the veritable solo performer Jayson McDonald and his new show Magic Unicorn Island.

Complete programming and tickets at vancouverfringe.com.

Laura Murray trained in classical ballet for more than 18 years and is the principal of Laura Murray PR, an arts and culture marketing agency in Vancouver.


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