Edmonton Fringe Festival, The Beer Tent Reviews-Round Up

Well, the final Fringe weekend is here. I’ve had a blast writing for The Beer Tent Reviews and I have to thank Andrew Paul, Trent Wilkie, and all the team for producing such a superb publication. Reviewing is an absolutely essential piece of the theatre puzzle and must be valued and encouraged. I consider myself privileged to share my opinions in a format that encourages and informs audiences, directing them towards shows I think they’ll enjoy and being transparent about shows which might fall short of the quality our community deserves. I also take my role very seriously as an enabler and supporter of theatre companies who rely on reviews and word of mouth to spread the word about their work. I hope audiences and artists alike will always find my reviews to be candid, constructive and accurate representations of the show from an audience perspective. Let’s keep the conversations going!

If you’re struggling to prioritize your final Fringe shows, here’s my top five “don’t you dare miss ’em” list for this year:

FIVE: Gianni Schicchi- I JUST saw this show this afternoon and don’t have time to do a full review, but it was SO much fun! Where else can you hear superb opera with a live mini orchestra in such a stunning venue!? The story is funny, accessible, and impeccably performed; a stupendous first if you’ve never seen an opera.

FOUR: Hack– Part comedy, part drama, part horror, all brilliantly relevant. Superb writing makes this a must-see.

THREE: ThunderCATS, The Musical- If you haven’t seen this orange, furry, musical madness yet, stop reading this article and book your tickets RIGHT MEOW!

TWO: Red– Can’t go wrong with a multiple Tony Award-winning play and an enigmatic leading performance from Michael Peng.

ONE: Queen Lear is Dead– I’ve been waiting all week to see this one again, follow a different Lear sister and get a new side of the story. An experiential masterpiece.

If you can’t get enough Fringe content, listen to the Beer Tent Reviews team discuss our favourite shows from this year, predictions for Sterling Nominees, plus weigh in on recent events on the podcast I Don’t Get It, released tomorrow (Sunday)!

Happy Fringe everyone! Remember, theatre has the power to make us laugh in times of crisis, make us think in times of confusion, challenge us and bring us together. Respect each other, express yourself, love theatre.

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MY PICK of the Edmonton Fringe Festival, The Beer Tent Reviews- Queen Lear is Dead

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Review by Danielle LaRose

Mothers in Shakespeare are rarely mentioned and almost never seen, but Queen Lear is Dead is a brilliant reclamation of one such mother’s legacy of love. As guests at this “celebration of life”, we follow the three Lear sisters and witness a service that threatens to tear the family apart. Jessy Ardern’s exquisitely insightful script sets Shakespeare’s sisters before us in flesh and blood, each of them complex, contemporary, and utterly real. The conspicuous absence of their father and the lingering presence of their mother is heart rending, and especially so for those who know the devastation to come in King Lear. Raw and intimate performances guided by Valerie Planche’s graceful direction make this prequel experience too beautiful for words, and is this reviewer’s Pick of the Fringe.

Queen Lear is Dead plays at Venue 46, Strahtcona Baptist Church. Tickets and info at the box office or online

Read these and other Fringe reviews in The Beer Tent Reviews, printed and distributed on the Fringe grounds and at participating venues. Check out @BeerTentReviews!

Edmonton Fringe Festival, The Beer Tent Reviews- RED

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Review by Danielle LaRose

What does the colour RED mean to you? For artist Mark Rothko it’s not a simple question of pigment. Perhaps the red took root as young Markus Rothkowitz was growing up in the Russian Empire, perhaps it settled in his mind while reading Nietzsche as a young painter of the abstract-impressionist movement. However it entered into his system, red is to Rothko as blood is to life, but the black is looming, ominous, opening up like a gaping mouth before the primal scream. John Logan’s multiple Tony Award-Winning play is a masterpiece that delves into the merciless process of creating art, confronting the hypocrisy of marketable ideology on canvas, ruthlessly scraping back the layers of paint and intellectualism and ego and romanticism, unrelenting in his threat that creative relevance is fleeting. “I am here to stop your heart” bellows the master painter at his intuitive yet green apprentice Ken, played by wide-eyed Braden Butler who is quite rightly dwarfed by Michael Peng’s harsh yet enigmatic Rothko. This production is not only gripping in its performances and philosophical scrutiny, but also in the on-stage spectacle as we see the birth of legendary visual art. Leigh Rivenbark’s powerful direction steers this leviathan through choppy ideological waters and the result is an adroit and exhilarating 90 minutes of theatre.

RED plays at Venue 5, Kick Point King Edward Elementary School. Tickets and info at the box office or online.

Read these and other Fringe reviews in The Beer Tent Reviews, printed and distributed on the Fringe grounds and at participating venues. Check out @BeerTentReviews!

Edmonton Fringe Festival, The Beer Tent Reviews- The Sign of Four

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Review by Danielle LaRose

With nothing but one deer stalker hat, three chairs, and three actors, the Sign of Four adds up to an exhilarating rendition of Conan Doyle’s classic that cuts no corners. The audience are whisked around the world, from treasure plotting in exotic India to clue hunting in great manor houses to one-legged-man chasing down the murky Thames, and miraculously this sixty-minute version doesn’t miss a beat from the original novella. John Huston, Kenneth Brown, and Ellie Heath work together at breakneck speed, taking it in turns to play all characters. The entire production is a feat of agility of voice, body and mind as each character is drawn with clarity using accent and physical traits. We always know who is who and where we  are, though never what will happen next. What could have been a confusing jumble (especially for anyone unfamiliar Sherlock’s famous adventure) is instead a succinct sleuth serial; satisfying for Sherlock fans and thrilling for all.

Sign of Four plays at Venue 35, La Cité Theatre. Tickets and info at the box office or online.

Read these and other Fringe reviews in The Beer Tent Reviews, printed and distributed on the Fringe grounds and at participating venues. Check out @BeerTentReviews!

Edmonton Fringe Festival, The Beer Ten Reviews- Look At The Town

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Review by Danielle LaRose

The creative minds from Poiema Productions are experts in play and master imagineers. Walking into the theatre at La Cité I was immediately jealous- I wanted to be small enough to see the tiniest details of the beautiful hand-made town! I wanted to paint houses with splashes of colour and go skating on the cardboard ice rink and wave to the police parked at the Him Tortons! But I was given my own precious gift from my grown-up vantage point; watching the six young girls sat quietly and utterly rapt on the floor. Their faces filled with light as a cardboard plane flew past, their eyes grew wide with excited fear as old lady Hacka shuffled down the street towards them, the gears in their minds turned in time with precocious protagonist Isabel as she revealed her profound discoveries about the world around her- her Great Thoughts. Just as the magical snow blankets the town come winter, audiences of all ages will fall under the spell of this truly enchanting piece of theatre.

Look At The Town plays at Venue 35, La City Theatre. Tickets and info from the box office or online.

Read these and other Fringe reviews in The Beer Tent Reviews, printed and distributed on the Fringe grounds and at participating venues. Check out @BeerTentReviews!

Edmonton Fringe Festival, The Beer Tent Reviews- TWO

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Review by Danielle LaRose

Life is what happens when you’re down the pub- a slight addendum to the words of John Lennon that perfectly describes Atlas Theatre’s winning production of TWO. Pubs in the North of England are famously cozy places, and in this one, we get to meet the locals. Julian Arnold’s publican is part Scrooge, part bad dad jokes, all still waters run deep with a touch of an alcoholic past put successfully to rest. He plays many carefully drawn characters, but it was Arnold’s older gentleman, a quiet sort who comes in alone for the same tipple every afternoon, who stole my heart away. Ruth Alexander also steps into many pairs of shoes. You’ve never seen a more magnetic or open-hearted performer; we’re always instantly on her side. Alexander’s warm and welcoming landlady wants to know all about your holidays as soon as you walk through the door, and if you’re celebrating she’ll slip you something on the house. Her generosity of spirit betrays a deeper heartache, which she skillfully hides by focussing on others. But it’s not all stag parties and first dates; the unsavoury patrons pay for booze just as the sweet ones do, so they’re here as well.  Although the production balances the dark and the light, the comedy wins out over the drama and it’s the poetic simplicity of life that is the true triumph of this virtuosic performance.

TWO plays at Venue 12, The Varscona Theatre. Tickets and info at the box office or online.

Read these and other Fringe reviews in The Beer Tent Reviews, printed and distributed on the Fringe grounds and at participating venues. Check out @BeerTentReviews!

Edmonton Fringe Festival, The Beer Tent Reviews- Imaginary Friend: A New Musical

Review by Danielle LaRose

This bold new musical pulls no punches in its depiction of the struggles of single-parent family life. Mom, Pam, and her two daughters Lea and Juliette aren’t always the three musketeers. Pam is desperately overworked at a dismal dead-end job with a disgusting dead-beat boss. Leah is a young adult struggling to define her sense of self and stand up for her fervent beliefs. And young Juliet just wants someone to play with. Enter Rocky; imaginary friend slash flesh eating hell-spawn. Music by Daniel Belland is punchy and daring, though some irregularly jumpy intervals cause intermittent pitch issues. However, the sound musical story telling (no pun intended) allows us to connect strongly with each character; their joys, hopes and frustrations. Adult themes abound in this family fable, reminding us that growing up isn’t easy at any age.

Imaginary Friend: A New Musical plays at Venue 35, La Cité Theatre. Tickets and info at the box office or online.

Read these and other Fringe reviews in The Beer Tent Reviews, printed and distributed on the Fringe grounds and at participating venues. Check out @BeerTentReviews!

Edmonton Fringe Festival, The Beer Tent Reviews- The Second City Presents: She The People

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Review by Danielle LaRose

The Future is coming. It’s almost here. Are you ready? From one of North America’s most popular sketch troupes comes a series of side-splitters set in a post-apocalyptic, post-white-male-dominated world. It’s like the women from Second City have taken actual moments from your actual life and thrown them up on stage in comedy sketch form, tackling sexism, racism, and homophobia with hilarity that never backs down from the tough issues.  You don’t want to miss Gay Baby’s crowd surf, an empowering T-Rex costume that’s the new little black dress, Spanx Stripping, Her Lean Cuisine Her Choice, and many more! The Future is here and it’s Rubenesque!

The Second City Presents: She The People plays at Venue 20, The Garneau Theatre. Tickets and info at the box office or online.

Read these and other Fringe reviews in The Beer Tent Reviews, printed and distributed on the Fringe grounds and at participating venues. Check out @BeerTentReviews!