3 stars /5
Inspired by the experimental theatre group, The New York Neo-Futurists, Big Sip is 22 short skits referred to as, well, ‘big sips.’ A list of the sips is posted and the audience decides the order in which they are performed by shouting out the name of the skit they want at key moments. The four players launch into the sip, exploring comedy, movement, deep thoughts and more in an anthology of goof-offery.
Big Sip is freewheeling and frenetic; the quartet gives it their all with no fear. The show utilizes improv and audience participation to keep the momentum going. Sometimes the concepts of the sips are better than the writing itself, but a few of the more scripted bits were clever and amusing. They had props as well as lighting and music cues in play, but they could have used these elements to bigger effect (like the Neo-Futurists do). Even though the point of this kind of theatre is to live on the edge, a bit of polish wouldn’t hurt. However, you could tell they were having a blast and they kept the mood and energy high for over an hour. Big Sip was creative, with a lot of heart.
— Craig Silliphant
Things We (Never) Learned in Sex Ed
3 stars / 5
Sexual education has been woefully abysmal in the history of North American schools. And that was prior to the cultural, sexual, and gender revolution that’s happening at the moment, which must leave educators playing catch up and the more conservative among us clutching their pearls. This leaves a gaping hole between what we’re taught in school and our own personal sexual experiences. Enter Things We (Never) Learned in Sex Ed, a show from Portland performers, Portal Theatre.
The show uses skits, monologues, frank talk, songs, props (including anatomically correct body part puppetry) and bits from their own lives and encounters to look at sexual education. It’s funny, as a play about sex should be, but it also focuses on some weightier topics like #MeToo and sexual assault, with the performers opening themselves up in powerful ways. Those topics aside, it feels a bit like they’re on a soapbox sometimes, but it’s also not wrong to have some deep feelings about such an important topic. Society has a pretty negative attitude towards healthy sexual activity, and Things We (Never) Learned in Sex Ed argues that we need to turn that around and do better for the young people who are coming up behind us.
— Craig Silliphant
My Dad’s Deaths (A Comedy)
4 stars / 5
Few of us can imagine a career like Jon Bennett’s in which we’re best known for posing around the world with objects intended to mimic male genitalia.
But it’s easy for anyone to imagine that might create awkwardness between yourself and your parents.
That helps define the relationship between the Australian Fringe performer and his father, which inspires this play.
What’s more, Bennett’s father does not even appreciate humour in general.
That alone seems like comedic territory as expansive as the Australian Outback and Bennett takes full advantage with his rapid-fire delivery.
Clad entirely in black with a tie and flip flops — and later donning a pink child’s bunny costume — Bennett tells yarns that helped lead to a somewhat strained father-son relationship.
The Broadway Theatre can feel too large for one-person shows, but Bennett’s energy aptly fills the Fringe’s largest venue.
The hour-long show flies by with only a few props and slides and videos on the screen behind him to help Bennett spin his tale.
Bennett takes us from his birth through growing up on a farm in south Australia that produced “rocks, sadness and pigs” to an embarrassing grade school talent show, for which he enlists audience members.
Bennett’s show is funny, poignant and truly thoughtful and offers up hilarious twists right to the end.
Prior to the show, he playfully described Saskatoon audiences as “weirdos” and correctly predicted the reaction to his most off-colour line. (He might say that in every city, though.)
— Phil Tank
Franz Ferdinand Must Die
3 stars / 5
Adam Bailey makes one of the most pivotal incidents of the 20th century come to life in this look at the assassination that led to the First World War.
The Toronto performer starts with the June 28, 1914 murder of archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo and expands from there to examine the drama of the incident from various perspectives.
The principles include the driver of Ferdinand’s car, the police chief tasked with interrogating the assassin and the assassin himself, Gavrilo Princip.
Dressed in a blue shirt, striped tie and sneakers, Bailey effectively draws together the various points of view to explain what transpired that fateful day.
Sometimes narrating and sometimes assuming the role of a historical character, Bailey relies on minimal props, effective lighting and creeping music to recount the world-changing event.
The Refinery serves as an ideal venue.
Princip, who was only 19 at the time, was among a half dozen Serb nationalists whose plan to kill Ferdinand was intended to end Austro-Hungarian rule in the region.
The other would-be assassins failed despite bombs and grenades, leaving it to Princip armed with only a pistol and fate.
At times, Bailey is a historical tour de force in recounting how “a weak boy” changed European history. Occasionally, though, he seems a little overwrought.
Regardless, you cannot question his enthusiasm or his ingenuity in making history seem fresh.
But the brief use of the Cantina Band theme from Star Wars is both bizarre and distracting.
— Phil Tank
4 stars / 5
You will be hard-pressed to find another show this irreverent — or this freaking funny.
The Watch follows a couple who can’t stop comparing themselves to their picture-perfect neighbours, which only gets exacerbated when they each get a fitness-tracking smartwatch that starts to dominated their lives and puts them in direct competition with those neighbours.
The script, written by Jenna Berenbaum, is ridiculous, wacky, witty, hilarious, and even a little bit touching. Every time you think the two-person team of Connor Brousseau and Ciara Richardson have slowed down from the onslaught of fantastically fast-paced humour, they throw another fastball at you. Whether it be one of the plethora of fitness jokes, or how the pair also plays their neighbour of the opposite gender, or when theft gets involved, it seemed like there’s never a moment when someone in the audience isn’t laughing.
And wrapped up in all of that absurdity (Brousseau’s quick turn as a “modern” mother and housewife and Richardson’s rant about adoption being trendy are very hard to forget) there are actually some good messages in here: be happy with who you are, take care of yourself, and don’t feel like you have to prove your worth to anyone.
Sex, silliness, and a very tall lady named Sharon wrapped up in one fun package — this is a Fringe festival must-see.
— Matt Olson
For more Fringe reviews, go to www.thestarphoenix.com
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