Fringe 2009: Bert and Eye
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Fringe 2009: Bert and Eye

Photo courtesy of John E. Nelles.

Due to the climate-controlled museum that shares a wall with St. Vladimir’s Theatre, the event space was as chilly as sea air or the review Bert and I received from Eye Weekly on Friday. This must account for the low attendance on Saturday night because the performance surely does not. John E. Nelles, accomplished performer and Hollywood drama coach to the stars (Sam Neill, William Hurt, Jude Law, etc.), can act circles around anyone at Fringe, and he poured his heart and soul into the script, which he adapted from 50s-era humouristic stories centred around the Maine lobster fishery.
In the style of Rod Beattie’s Wingfield series, Nelles inhabits several characters (can’t quite figure out how many) and fulfills all foley requirements (cars, boats, crashing surf, moose calls). Without even so much as a lighting or music cue to help him, he commands the stage alone, accompanied by only a collection of hats representing each character and an astonishingly life-like lacquered lobster. Granted, it’s understandable how these tales may not land with every Fringe-goer, but if you grew up anywhere in our Atlantic provinces, you’ll swear you’ve met him before. He lives down the shore. And even though he’s retired, he still sets a few lobster traps and patrols the road every few hours to make sure everything’s right. Nelles’ accents are pitch-perfect (Dame Judi Dench could take a lesson or two), and the knee-slapping, groan-worthy jokes that Eye Weekly didn’t appreciate are as East coast as Solomon Gundy.
The next performance is Wednesday, July 8 at 6:15 p.m. at St. Vladimir’s Theatre.
The Fringe runs until July 12 at various locations around the city. Check back for Torontoist’s daily Fringe coverage throughout the festival.