Friday, June 20, 2003

Fringe Friday: Review Round-up

Here's a quick summary of was said and written about the Fringe in Thursday's weeklies:

The Mirror features 19 Fringe reviews this week: 6 by Amy Barratt and 13 by her privateers Rupert Bottenberg, Lorraine Carpenter, Mark Slutsky, Patrick Lejtenyi, Amy German, Janis Kirshner, and Vincent Tinguely. (Tinguely? What a great name.)

Barratt reviews Tyrannous Rex, Molière Than Thou, One-Man Hamlet, Hamlet, Isla Xooxiimictlan: An Aztec Fantasy, and Job II: The Demon of the Eternal Recurrence, while the rest tackle Gay Samurai Revue, Etch-A-Sketch, Last of the Red-Hot Dadas, The One Man Star Wars Trilogy, Star Wars Survivor, Uncle Jack, Sabotage: In Fine Form, A Canadian Bartender at Butlin’s, Bitty Idiot’s "Discombobulated", In the Mouth of the Juney Bug: A Play by John Cocktoasten, Big Word, All Classical Music Explained, and The Contract.

All in all, a respectable number of shows reviewed. It did, however, seem like the reviewers had their kid-gloves on. Either that or this year’s Fringe is really outstanding -- which may well be the case.

Meanwhile, over at the cash-strapped Hour, poor Jason Whiting had to review 13 shows in the span of 4 days all by himself – and he even found time to squeeze in a wedding. He covers Skinned Teeth, Chicks With Tricks, The One Man Star Wars Trilogy, The Body, Roller Girl, A Canadian Bartender at Butlin's, The Pugilist, The Contract, PRND21, Ninjas Get All the Chicks, Uncle Jack, The Power of Ignorance, and Medea.

Sadly, despite Whiting’s gruelling four-day theatre excursion, his editors only gave him about 675 words to work with, meaning that he has to write the shortest theatre reviews in the history of the world. (For instance, “The one-person show Uncle Jack is well performed by Melissa-Lynn Dozios.”) Compare this to the over 2000 words the Mirror dedicated to 19 shows.

This is all very sad. The Hour used to have awesome theatre coverage and its old reviewer Gaetan Charlesbois even kept an online Fringe diary some years. Ah, the Hour in its glory days of Charlesbois, M.J. Milloy, Lyle Stewart and Joe Fiorito… Miss it.

Whiting, unlike the Mirror reviewers, has no qualms about panning shows he doesn’t like. To wit:

So far, the biggest disappointment of the Fringe has to be Infinitheatre's production of The Contract. If I wanted to see a well-respected director stoop to working with a poorly written and derivative script made in Canada but set in the States, the whole thing emphasising special effects over content, then I'd rent a Hollywood movie. Screw you Guy Sprung.

[UPDATE FROM THE YEAR 2008: Greetings from the future! Poor Lydia Zadel has to to suffer the following bit of completely inaccurate gossip popping up in the Top Ten Google results for her name. I'm reticent to delete anything from my blog without receiving a legal letter or a bottle of Macallan, but I feel comfortable adding a disclaimer - the anonymous email I quote below is obviously untrue. I'm sure I meant to call that to your attention five years ago by noting that it is very odd that a man should audition for a one-woman show, but I thought I would clarify. And since Zadel is such a charming lass, I hereby encourage you to skip over to the Hour site five years and 27 critics later to find a 4/5 star review of Zadel's latest Fringe show, See Bob Run. Writes Brett Hooton: "The Fringe format tends to favour light-hearted fare (just look at the number of '80s cultural references in this year's edition). So when a passionate, well-performed drama pops up, it hits that much harder. Lydia Zadel treats audiences to a work of controlled mayhem in See Bob Run."]

[We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog post.]

Of course, [Whiting's] style of reviewing doesn't sit well with everyone. An anonymous blog correspondent writes:

Apparently Lydia Zadel, the performer in the one-woman rape survival show The Body has been less than pleased about her non-glowing review in today's Hour. She has been explaining reviewer Jason Whiting's comments as based in bitterness. [note: Whiting wrote that the show is "more of a short story than a play and is beyond the abilities of its young performer (Lydia Zadel)"] According to Lydia, Jason auditioned and was rejected, and now harbours some kind of grudge against her play.
Sounds to me like someone needs to learn to deal with negative criticism!

Thanks for the scurrilous gossip, Ms. anonymous emailer. I don't understand how Whiting auditioned for a one-woman show, though...

This week’s Voir sees Catherine Hébert reviewing La Leçon, Comment faire fuir les requins et les kangourous, La Derniere mise, Carmen, No Man’s Land Show, Les parapluies dans le desert, Plutot divertissant, and Une etoile se meurt. Hébert also makes mention of Inconnu à cette adresse, Antiviol, Je suis un pays, Contes de gouttières, Le Chien belge et l'hommo-québécus-érectus, L'ensemble de la morsure comprend 32 trous, Les Circus Cowboys, Richard III ou la chute du corbeau et Drame familial.

Very good coverage, especially considering rival Ici is a big sponsor of the fest. Hébert cleverly avoids naming the Ici Stage by name…

I don’t know anything about Ici’s coverage, because, well, it’s not online, and I'm still stuck here in Toronto until tomorrow.

The Gazette did have an interesting article today about the off-fringe shows the Roy Street Collective's Eliot and the Dark and Donovan King’s Car Stories, as well as Teaching Witchcraft and All Classical Music Explained. (Contrary to what some OTL Kingites have been saying, the article does not "vindicate" King in the 2001 Car Stories debacle at all.)

Two Nits I would like to Pick

1. Being as the Fringe is the Montreal Fringe Festival, can anyone tell me why none of these Montreal-based shows were reviewed in the English weeklies: At Random, Uncalled For, No Cycle, Teaching Witchcraft, The Points to B, They’ll Kill Me, Come Clean, Exploration, “Girl, that’s what I call myself these days”, Her Big Chance, and Mr. Smarty Pants?

As well, neither The Mirror nor the Hour reviewed a single French-language show… (What happened to those new Montreal anglos we always hear about?)

Put these two facts together and it seems as if you are much, much more likely to have your show reviewed if you’re not from Montreal…

Seems a shame to me.

2. Okay, what is up with this Janis Kirshner character writing theatre reviews for the Mirror? Does anyone else get as annoyed as I do at her garbled grammar and extremely awkward sentence structure? To wit, her review of A Canadian Bartender at Butlin’s:

The charming darling of the Fringe circuit, T.J. Dawe, is back with another raconteured tale. This time we find him at a well known, though timeworn, British family resort. Drudgerous time in a teen summer job is speckled with social commentary ("How many mouths has this restaurant fork been in?") and personal stories connected with notions of falling. With musings of Canadians’ views on Brits, this show would be well received in the U.K.

a. Neither raconteured, nor drudgerous are words. (I can understand making up the occasional word, but 2 words out of a 74-word review?)
b. The third sentence sounds like it was written by Yoda.
c. I have no idea what she means by “personal stories connected with notions of falling” or "musings of Canadians' views on Brits".
d. The sentence about how the show would be well-received in the U.K. is a beautiful non-sequitur. How would the show be received in Japan, Janis? What about in Slovakia? Does this mean that the show is not being well-received here?

Argh! It makes one want to tear up the paper. Please keep this woman on stage and away from any writing implements. It was absolutely horrible being subjected to her writing when Barratt was off having her baby...

Grumble, grumble… snarl…

Keep sending your Fringe tidbits, reviews and your own grammatical nitpicking to jkelly@cup.ca

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