BeatRoute’s guide to the must-see shows of Vancouver Fringe Festival 2016

By Reid Carmichael, Chris Jimenez, Prachi Kamble, Noor Khwaja and Yasmine Shemesh

VANCOUVER — It’s that time again. A time of storytelling. Creativity. Emotional rollercoasters that have you spilling tears of laughter one minute to covering your mouth in surprise the next. Yes, the Vancouver Fringe Festival is back and, running from September 8 to 18, is offering quite the spread with 700 performances from over 90 artists. And since artists are chosen completely at random, that leaves free range for experimentation in a massive variety of topics. “This year there’s a lot of magic shows, puppets, and clowns,” executive director David Jordan says. “But there are also a lot of stories about war, recovering from mental health issues, body image, and politics. The Fringe really does span the theatre gamut.”

The Festival, which returns 100 per cent of its net ticket revenue to all performers, has a few things that make 2016’s affair stand out. One is the anticipated return of the Electric Company Theatre. “Seeing the Electric Company come back to where they started to do a 20th Anniversary show is exceptional — they’re one of Canada’s most celebrated theatre companies so it’s nice for them to come back to where it all started,” Jordan enthuses, noting the company’s 1996 debut. Also, the Big Rock Brewery Fringe Bar, the festival’s nightly presentation of live music, has been given a new home in Granville Island’s Ocean Art Works. “At the Fringe, we watch shows and then we share our experiences,” Jordan continues. “What better way than to do so while seeing a great live band play? Plus there’s a feisty DIY nature of both Fringe theatre and the independent musicians we invite to perform at the Fringe Bar. We hope that these artists feed off of each other and inspire each other to create even more.”

And, first-time Fringers, fear not — we know how intimidating a 700-strong performance lineup sounds, so we asked Jordan to impart some navigational advice. “Bring a friend! You might want to latch onto someone who already knows their way around the festival or you might want to take the leap with a like minded art explorer,” he says. “Either way, it’s important to be social. The shows are short, so you have lots of time in between to have a drink, talk to other Fringers, and rant and rave about the shows you’ve seen!”

Now, Fringe your heart out. And don’t forget your trusty guide from your pals at BeatRoute. (YS)

Fringe’s can’t-misses

Butt Kapinski

Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic

Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic

Join Private Eye Butt Kapinski in solving a murder mystery on the Fringe’s opening night. With the audience as the co-starring partner, Kapiniski taps into a hilariously dirty world of darkness and deceit. Deanna Fleysher wrote and stars in this interactive noir-style comedy. (CJ)

September 6 at Performance Works.

Sea Wall

SeaWallBritish playwright Simon Stephens has crafted this intimate and sensitive portrait of modern fatherhood.  Acclaimed Vancouver actor and writer Brent Hirose, of The Suckerpunch fame, plays Alex whose perfect life is riddled with doubt. Underneath love for his wife and child, there is a deep abyss within his heart. Evan Frayne of The Fighting Season is directing this emotional endeavor. Bring tissues for this one. (PK)

September 8-17 at Havana Theatre.

2 For Tea

2 for TeaThis show honestly sounds too amazing to be real. With more than a handful of “Best of Fest” awards at similar Fringe Festivals and five-star ratings across the board, British duo James & Jamesy’s 2 For Tea is sure to be a must-see show of this Fringe. Allegedly, audience members have peed themselves, so pack an extra pair of pants just to be safe. (RC)

September 8-18 at Firehall Arts Centre.

The Ballad of Frank Allen

The ballad of frank allenIf comedy, music, and little men living in beards is your thing, Australian Shane Adamczak’s The Ballad of Frank Allen promises the three in a happy, heartfelt three-way marriage. After a sci-fi accident shrinks a hapless janitor and tangles him in another man’s beard, the two better themselves with indie rock or some other Australian-bred nonsense. This is another multi-award winner with rave reviews, so try not to miss it. (RC)

September 8-18 at Revue Stage.

Leash Your Potential

leash_your_potentialIn Leash Your Potential, comedian Ryan Gunther walks us through the art of corporate survival. Gunther has performed at the Northwest Comedy Festival and finished second in the Fifth Annual Punchline Comedy Competition. Here, he uses 15 years of his work experience at a Fortune 500 company to guide you through the mystical maze of corporate submission. Expect a good hard examination of bureaucracy. You will enter a world where talent, competence, and hard work are pretty words and nothing more. Gunther will cover sizzling hot topics such as appearing busy, email obfuscation, ass-covering, and avoiding blame. You’ll go home with a Masters in Corporations! (PK)

September 8-18 at Studio 1398.

The Dance Teacher

TheDanceTeacherIn a time of increased social media awareness with cases of sexual assault, Gerald Williams’ The Dance Teacher explores the delicacy of assigning blind judgments. A case is explored through the eyes of Justin, an accused assaulter and a charming protagonist who works to confusingly intertwine guilt and innocence, leaving the audience to make the final verdict. Watch this artful examination of controversy with a performance at half price on opening night. (NK)

September 8-18 at Studio 16.

Great Day For Up

Great Day for Up1996 was a significant year for Jonathon Young. It was the year that, while still a student at Studio 58, he penned and performed his one-act show, Great Day For Up, for the first time. The same year, the theatre collective he co-founded, Electric Company Theatre, made their debut at the Fringe. Two decades (and many awards) later, ECT and Young (currently the company’s artistic director) celebrate this special milestone with a brand new production of Great Day. (YS)

September 9-12 at Waterfront Theatre.

Zeppelin Was A Cover Band

Zeppelin Was a Cover bandMusic history nuts need apply for this one. From playwrights Stéfan Cédilot and Ben Kalman, the show uses a documentary style of storytelling to “recount the story of the blues through the rock band Led Zeppelin.” Cédilot will apparently be pointing out the bands “veritable plundering of blues standards,” to earlier blues tracks. Sounds educational. (RC)

September 9-18 at Studio 1398.

Just Watch Me: A Trudeau Rock Musical

Just Watch MeCanadian playwright Daniel K. McLeod has created this musical feast that premiered at last year’s Fringe. The show was an instant hit with audiences amounting to over 400. Just Watch Me is set in the present day and during the 1970 October Crisis. This is a coming of age satirical tale that will satisfy all you #Cdnpoli geeks. Last year McLeod predicted the 2015 federal election results, so you know you’re in good hands. This year’s piece has been updated and expanded. Lots of live music here too to keep the political talk light, frothy, and always enjoyable. The Pierre and Justin solos are rumoured to rock your socks off. Watch out. (PK)

September 9-18 at Firehall Arts Centre.

Get Lost Jem Rolls

getlostjemrollsJem Rolls humorously takes us through an array of off-beat life travels in his performance Get Lost Jem Rolls. The combination of poetry and story-telling prose creates a high-energy vibe that makes you want to go out and soak up the world. As cue cards depict vivid and exciting scenes from city to city, the show is a refreshing reminder to truly reflect and experience travel. (NK)

September 10-18 at Revue Stage.

Hear the music at Big Rock Brewery Fringe Bar

Wooden Horsemen

Wooden Horsemen is an energized group of talented multi-instrumentalists led by Steven Beddall. With thoughtful songs that get to you from intimate arrangements in one moment to exciting grooves the next, the band plays swampy Americana laced with African and Latin sonic influences. Definitely a group to see to keep the summer vibes flowing. (CJ)

September 9.

Limbs of the Stars

Stephen Lyons, who has contributed to other local experimental outfits like Fond of Tigers and Cloudsplitter, leads this thought-inducing, post-rock project. The band’s sound is both dark and gritty, with spiraling musical progressions that make for a strange yet exciting entity to experience. (CJ)

September 10.

Jody Glenham and the Dreamers

Jaw-droppingly evocative, moody, and mellow, Jody Glenham and the Dreamers might be the perfect band to check out over a drink in the autumn twilight. If that’s not romantic enough, you could pack your favourite Nickolas Sparks novel and a couple of candles, but that seriously might be overkill. (RC)

September 14.

Rossi Gang

The Fringe Bar is where theatre lovers get to mingle in the midst of diverse genres of live music and its new waterfront location, Ocean Art Works, is set to be a picturesque backdrop for Rossi Gang. Hailing from East Vancouver and perfected in New Orleans, Rossi Gang is all about good quality jazz. “Grease jazz folks” is how they want to be known. This evening will be perfect for dancing under the stars so get ready to shake those theatrical wigs off! (PK)

September 16.

Tonye Aganaba

This free, un-ticketed event ends the Fringe Festival on an especially edgy beat. Soul, R&B, hip hop, and funk performer Tonye Aganaba takes the stage, creating the perfect ambience for a night of dancing. Based in Vancouver and spanning across a range of genres, this unique musician is a local favourite. (NK)

September 17.

This year’s Vancouver Fringe Festival happens Sept. 8-18.

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