Five Fantastic Picks at Fringe Festival

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Five Fantastic Picks at Fringe Festival

The festival is in full swing with 160 shows in more than 30 venues around Toronto, on until July 16.

Janelle Hanna as Bad Baby in Bad Baby Presents: Rules Control the Fun, one of Torontoist's Fringe festival picks.

Janelle Hanna as Bad Baby in Bad Baby Presents: Rules Control the Fun, one of Torontoist’s Fringe festival picks.

The Toronto Fringe Festival has marked its relocation from Mirvish Village with a 160-show offering, its largest ever. And while a vast display of indie theatre’s best might feel a bit daunting, Torontoist has still managed to pick out some favourites.

Lysistrata

how.dare.collective.
VENUE: The Painted Lady (218 Ossington Avenue)

The women of Lysistrata. (left to right: Amanda Mattar, Brittany Cope, St. Stella, Jenna Foster-Catlack) Image courtesy of Toronto Fringe.

The women of Lysistrata (left to right: Amanda Mattar, Brittany Cope, St. Stella, Jenna Foster-Catlack). Photo by David Kingsmill.

Comedy is hard, begins many an aphorism. From cultural shifts alone, 2,000-plus-year-old comedy should be impossible. By that standard, how.dare.collective’s Lysistrata verges on the outright miraculous. The choice to stage Aristophanes’ comedy through the medium of burlesque is an inspired one, and really not that far off from the playwright’s own bawdy sensibilities. While any number of performances either inspired by or outright restaging the Lysistrata over the years focused on themes of female empowerment or a critique of war, the humour that should be the vehicle for those messages is often left by the wayside. How.dare.collective. remember to make their performance as much hilarious as titillating and topical, and the audience is better off for it.


Multiple Organism

Mind of a Snail Puppet Co.
VENUE: Factory Theatre Mainspace (125 Bathurst Street)

Jessica Gabriel of Mind of a Snail. Photo by Chloe Ziner.

Jessica Gabriel of Mind of a Snail. Photo by Chloe Ziner.

Mind of a Snail go risqué this year with their newest show, and as a reviewer I am personally grateful. They are a must-see festival highlight every year the Fringe features them, and every year I have to find some new way to try and convey the sheer sense of wonder their performance imparts to an audience. The shadow puppeteering duo take the use of their own bodies to the furthest extent, with bare skin as both canvas and projection screen. The techniques at play are clever and vibrantly surreal, the humour ranges from quirky to sexy to scatological. And somehow I found myself emotionally moved by the sad, sordid tale of a tragic love affair between sentient toothbrushes. The chance to type a sentence like that and actually mean it is just part of the fantastic scope of Multiple Organism.


Lipstique

Mix Mix Dance Collective
VENUE: Randolph Theatre (736 Bathurst Street)

The dancers of the Mix Mix Collective. Photo by Francesca Chudnoff.

The dancers of the Mix Mix Dance Collective. Photo by Francesca Chudnoff.

The audience itself offers the best possible review of Mix Mix Dance Collective’s performance event. Seated as they were, the gathered crowd couldn’t help but bop along to the rhythms all the same, cheering the dancers on as they grooved. Lipstique is an exploration of feminine identity through street dance styles, bursting with the kind of power that fires up an energized audience. Inclusive in race, gender, and orientation, Lipstique’s broad spectrum of the feminine is both the medium and message for an extremely talented troupe of dancers, backed by irresistible beats that marry perfectly to outstanding choreography. Sadly the most crowd pleasing sequence had a bit too much profanity to be repeated here (suffice to say, Mix Mix Dance Collective is not a fan of the current U.S. administration).


A Peter N’ Chris-tmas Carol

Peter N’ Chris
VENUE: Tarragon Theatre Mainspace (30 Bridgman Avenue)

Peter Carlone and Chris Wilson. Photo by Shimon Karmel.

Peter Carlone and Chris Wilson. Photo by Shimon Karmel.

Comedy duo Peter and Chris return to the Fringe with Dickens’ holiday standard as their framework. Saying something pithy about how every form of media and its mother has done a Christmas Carol riff wouldn’t quite take here, if only for that The Simpsons already made that joke. Fortunately, Peter and Chris mark themselves out by acknowledging the aforementioned fact and outright doubling down in a mix of enthusiastic glee and spite, rampaging across holiday entertainment standards from Frosty the Snowman to Die Hard. While a few of the references fell flat here and there, on the whole the pair successfully mingle spontaneity and absurdity to tell a tale about the meaning of Christmas, or maybe the meaning of Christmas movies. Or maybe their lack of meaning. Still, it’s hard to think of a better way to spend Christmas in July than laughing through it.


Bad Baby Presents: Rules Control the Fun

Flat Earth Global
VENUE: Annex Theatre (736 Bathurst Street)

Janelle Hanna as Bad Baby. Photo by Scott Murdoch.

Janelle Hanna as Bad Baby. Photo by Scott Murdoch.

It’s difficult to review Bad Baby without ruining just why exactly the show hits with the impact that it does. The surprise that the performance offers is not quite the one its solo performer promises at the outset, and that’s as much as can be said without robbing something from what is otherwise a unique Fringe experience this year. What can otherwise be said is that Bad Baby singlehandedly rescues the concept of meta-narrative at the Fringe. Going meta is something Torontoist has previously observed that the festival can indulge in maybe a bit too much at times. There is a real insight in this show into the nature of what we expect from and how we consume live performance. A genuinely winning, sometimes outright hilarious and awkwardly painful sense of humour to the proceedings helps land its underlying message. Other than praising the emotional commitment and charm that Janelle Hanna carries the show with, all that can otherwise be said is that if you’re looking to come away from the Fringe with some kind of understanding of the community that creates this festival, nothing compares to Bad Baby.


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