Fringe 2018: Last-chance picks

Culture Theatre

Your last chance saloon picks for what to watch this weekend

Ernie and Bethy, written, produced, and performed by a largely UVic-based contingent. Provided photo by Logan Swain

Kitt & Jane: An Interactive Survival Guide to the Near-Post-Apocalyptic Future

Kitt & Jane return to the Victoria Fringe in An Interactive Survival Guide to the Near-Post-Apocalyptic Future, and this time they mean business. Former attendees might remember our two eighth-grade pals, played to absolute perfection by Ingrid Hansen and Rod Peter Jr., who are here to hijack their school assembly to teach us about the pressing end of the world.

Yes, we can all have a little chuckle at the heat death of the universe, but we also should really take their message of climate change and environmental risk seriously. Kitt & Jane is proof that you can be political and active in the world around you while also being extremely entertaining for all ages.

And entertaining it really is, whether it’s the lights, the music, the projections, or the livestream. This show is so technically complex that I spent half the show reeling at the amount of creativity, dedication, and rehearsal time needed to hit those cues not once, but repeatedly over the run. (I’m a sucker for theatrical innovation, and I refuse to apologize for it.)

If you can only make it to a single Fringe show this year, Kitt & Jane should definitely be it.

Kitt & Jane plays at Langham Court Theatre (Fringe Venue 5)
Saturday Sep. 1, 10 p.m. / Sunday Sep. 2, 2:30 p.m.
All seats $11
Fringe pin required


Ernie & Bethy

If you’ve ever wondered what Andy’s toys would do if Pixar made movies for adults, Ernie & Bethy offers a smart and outrageously funny answer about art, identity, and everyone else’s expectations. Oh, and there’s a puppet revolution to overthrow the Human Regime.

Written by Sophie Underwood and directed by Molly McDowell Powlowski, both graduates of the UVic theatre program, the play follows four puppets and two puppeteers who are all at odds with each other. The puppeteers want to put on a show for hospitalized children. The puppets want to quit and smoke cigarettes all day.

Ernie & Bethy is exceptionally delightful and self-aware of the trials of making good art. From start to finish, the music and sound design has the suave coolness of a Steven Soderbergh film, the puppets are expertly used, and the physical comedy is top notch.

This definitely isn’t your usual Muppet television special, but this play is special indeed.

Ernie & Bethy plays at the Downtown Community Centre (Fringe Venue 2)
Saturday Sep. 1, 2:15 p.m. / Sunday Sep. 2, 2:30 p.m.
$11/ $9 student & senior
Fringe pin required

Fool’s Paradise

A photo from “Fool’s Paradise,” one of many UVic-heavy plays at this year’s Fringe Festival. Provided photo by Josiah George

Among this year’s period pieces, Fool’s Paradise is inspired by the life of Julie d’Aubigny, a 17th-century French bisexual opera singer and swordmaster, whose wild antics and extravagant reputation have cemented her in the queer history books. Case in point: she ran away to become a duelist and performer after burning down a nunnery to fake her lover’s death.

D’Aubigny’s life is exceptionally fascinating, which makes it all the more disappointing when the play spends more time with her lover, Mathilde, rather than Julie herself. The story tends to avoid showing us Julie’s antics and lifestyle, and instead explains her desire for fame and wealth through dialogue and half-hearted interpersonal conflict. (The dialogue also has significant swearing, which feels jarringly out of place among the gorgeous costumes and intimate scenes.)

Cussing aside, there are some whip-smart one-liners that will draw laughs out of the most stoic of theatre goers, and the show is at its best when it is active and direct, such as when characters run through the aisles to convey the spread of rumours and gossip.

If you’re interested in romance or period dramas, you’ll have a splendid time — if you’re looking for action and excitement, you might not find it here.

Fool’s Paradise plays at The Roxy Theatre (Fringe Venue 6)
Friday Aug. 31, 7:45 p.m. / Saturday Sep. 1, 2 p.m.
$11/ $9 student & senior
Fringe pin required

She Was a Great Dad

She Was a Great Dad is a solo performance inspired by the life and career of Billy Tipton, an American jazz musician from the 1950s. Billy — renamed Johnny for this fictionalized adaptation — had been born a woman but identified and lived as a man for the entirety of his adult life, unbeknown to his family and friends.

Written and performed by Susan Jeremy, who skilfully plays not only Johnny but also his wife, son, and mother, Dad tackles the difficulties of deception, love, and family when your own identity is at odds with the society around you. It takes a few scenes for the story to find its feet and the performance may rely a little too heavily on the use of props, but once the rhythm is found, Dad is a humorous and poignant story that both entertains and delights.

She Was a Great Dad plays at VCM Wood Hall (Fringe Venue 4)
Friday Aug. 31, 5:15 p.m. / Saturday Sep. 1, 6:45 p.m.
$11/ $9 student & senior
Fringe pin required