Toronto Fringe Festival 2017 Review Round Up

The annual Toronto Fringe Festival ended yesterday. For those of you who don’t know, Toronto Fringe is Canada’s largest theatre festival. It showcases new artists and new shows as well as shows by professional companies. There’s 160 shows at 35+ venues over 12 days. I saw 9 of these shows in 2 days. I’ve known about Fringe Toronto for a few years but this was the first time I’d actually attended. I attended as a patron and a volunteer.With Fringe having 160 shows, me working full time hours, and me not actually living in Toronto, there were three shows that I wanted to see but didn’t get to (2 of them sold out once word got out that they were really good and one of them wasn’t playing on the days I was volunteering and I couldn’t make the trip back to see it). So I went into Fringe without much of a plan other than 1) see as many shows as possible and 2) only plan around the timing since no latecomers are admitted and the theatres are all over downtown Toronto. I liked it that way though. I got to see some really interesting shows. These are the shows I saw and just some brief thoughts about them.

MEANT (7/10) – This show was a musical about fate and whether you or the universe decide your destiny. In this case, two people get married and have a child but they were never supposed to end up together according to The Fates. I thought this show had a really interesting concept and I liked that fate was characterized as The Three Fates but I thought the writing was a little weak. If it was me, I would take the idea of fate and apply it to a different situation. Overall, I liked the story, though I think the music could have contributed more to advancing the plot, and the entire cast was super talented, especially given the fact that they’re all recent post-secondary grads. Everything also flowed really nicely and coherently.

Life Records 2: Side B (8/10) – This one-woman show was put on by Rhiannon Archer, two time Canadian comedy award nominee. This was about songs that relate to major events in her life. It was funny, it was sweet, and it made you say “aww”. This was less of a theatre show and more of a comedic storytelling event in a smallish theatre but it was fun nonetheless.

Diddlin’ Bibbles (6/10) – This was a musical duo who told the story of a married couple who did performances and how the celebrity status of Toronto Fringe Artist got to their heads a little bit. It was a fun show. I liked that they tailored the show specifically for the Toronto Fringe Fest. However, I wish they would’ve delved a little deeper into the characters and explained why Toronto Fringe was such a big deal.

Rise/Fall (7.5/10) – This was a political drama commentating on Trump’s wall and the problems it can cause. This show was performed outside and the set was a physical wall, which separated two groups of actors. What was interesting about this show was that you sat on one side of the wall. You didn’t know what was going on on the other side. You could hear bits and pieces of dialogue from the other side so you kind of knew what was going on but not a lot. You almost needed to see the show twice – once on each side of the wall – to fully understand the show but it was enjoyable nonetheless. This show was really unique and it was certainly an interesting way to address politics.

White Wedding (8/10) – This show was really well done. It was about what happens at weddings when you’re still in love with your friends even though they’ve moved on to other people and other parts of their life. I found the show really funny because I think it portrayed the reality of weddings. Weddings seem like all fun and happy but no one ever sees what goes on outside of the church and the reception hall unless you are part of it. The entire cast was wonderful and they created really likeable and relatable characters. You could easily pick out who you would be if that was your friends’ wedding. The only thing I didn’t like that is that it was performed in a hallway. I understand why it was, but it made it squishy and a little hard to see. I think it would have been better in an actual theatre.

Moonlight after Midnight (9/10) – This show was incredible. It was a non-linear story about how two people met and got married and sort of their story. It was dark, it was romantic, and it was really good theatre. Normally, I don’t like non-linear stories because I find them hard to follow but this one made sense and was starting to clean things up by about 2/3 of the way through the show. The script was also smart and repetitive, which kept things connected. The acting was amazing, the plot was intriguing, and the actress, who sang a couple songs, has an amazing voice. There are only two performers, a guy and a girl, and they have really great chemistry on stage.

Who, Me (6/10) – This show targeted a very very very niche audience – theatre and drama nerds who are also Doctor Who nerds, there’s not many of them around. But I happen to be one of them. This was a one-man comedy show by Rob Lloyd about putting the show Doctor Who on trial for ruining his life. This show kind of flip-flopped between that story and personal anecdotes about, which I found kind of confusing. I think it would have been better sticking to one or the other. But I did appreciate the Doctor Who jokes and overall nerdiness of the show.

The “F” Word (9.5/10) – Anyone who says that dance can’t tell stories can literally fight me. This was by far my favourite show I saw at Fringe. This show was about feminism. But rather than telling the audience about feminist issues through dialogue, they told the audience about feminist issues through dance. It was kind of like a dance recital, and all the dancers were amazing, but there was some dialogue and explanations thrown in throughout and the music also helped tell the stories. However, even if the speaking parts had not been included, their message would have come across loud and clear.

Kara Sevda (7/10) – I liked this show. The plot was simple and the acting was great. Two strangers sit on the same bench, waiting for a lottery to see if they will be chosen to go on the last train from Paris to Rome. Throughout the show, there were a series of short monologues from each character about how they ended up on that bench. Again, this show had only two characters, one male and one female, so it was a little predictable that they were going to fall in love at the end but this show still made me feel all the feelings.

While I really enjoyed all the shows I saw, the coolest part of Fringe was just the overall environment and atmosphere in downtown Toronto. People of all ages from small children to grandparents talking about theatre. Getting excited about theatre. Even just waiting in line for shows and talking to people about what shows they’ve seen at Fringe, what they liked, and how they got to be involved with theatre and Fringe was pretty interesting. I’m so grateful that theatre has the power to bring people together the way it does.

If there’s one thing I really took away from attending Fringe Toronto, it’s this: Theatre is more than Broadway plays and musicals. 

Theatre is risky.

Theatre is innovative.

Theatre is experimental.

Theatre is music.

Theatre is acting.

Theatre is comedy.

Theatre is dance.

Theatre is storytelling.

Theatre is fun.

Seeing new theatre being created by artists that are so passionate about their craft was so inspiring and really made my heart happy and excited for the future of theatre.

What’s a new show that you’ve seen and enjoyed recently? Let me know in the comments!


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