Hooray, the Fringe is here! That’s what I think every year as the Calgary Fringe descends upon the city for nine days of theatre gorging insanity. I also think how exhausted I’m going to be running to several shows a day, writing daily online critiques, giving multiple on-air reviews and generally not eating or sleeping properly for the duration. All in the name of art, I tell myself! And even if I see a few stinkers along the way, well that’s just part of the Fringe experience that makes the festival such an exciting gamble.
But as I poured through the lineup of 32 shows this year, an interesting pattern emerged. All but a handful of shows chosen by lottery for this year’s Fringe Festival are performances that not only have played at other festivals on the circuit, but have received good to rave reviews by those with the power to bestow such public accolades. My first reaction was – Great….looks like there are really fabulous shows at this year’s festival! Not that I always agree with what other critic’s think. In fact, a few of the most praised shows at last year’s Fringe landed on my meh to most-disliked list. But at least this year we’re getting to see many of the hits from other festivals so that we can make up our own minds about them and then either agree or internally argue with the aforementioned critics. All good and carry on.
My second reaction was not quite as positive. Part of what I love about the Fringe is the unknown and the excitement/risk that comes with seeing a show you can know nothing about. That anticipation and discovery is somewhat quashed this year as only handful of shows (about ¼) are either premiering or come without any reviews whatsoever. Such is the luck or the downside of a lottery process, I suppose.
Perhaps somewhat hypocritically, the majority of the shows whose themes, performers or methods intrigue me this year fall into the ‘already come with good reviews’ category. I can assure you that while I can’t help but notice the reviews, they were not what pushed me into slotting these shows into my schedule. Remember…I often disagree vehemently with what others before me have opined. They were chosen purely out of interest. As were the few shows that I plan on seeing that have had nothing previously said or written about them.
So – after this long ramble – here’s what I’m planning on seeing/reviewing at the 2013 Calgary Fringe:
A Day in the Life of Miss Hiccup
Beethoven Rolls Over
Fat Sex! – Steve Larkin’s body… of poems and songs!
FRUITCAKE – Ten Commandments from the Psych Ward
Ludwig & Lohengrin
Serving Bait to Rich People
The Show Must Go On
They Call Me Mister Fry
Til Death: The Six Wives of Henry VIII
As always, this lineup can/will change due to various factors like word of mouth that sends me to a show I’ve not included, accidentally arriving late to a performance and not being allowed in (Doh!) or being so wowed by a show that I need some time to think about it uninterrupted by another following performance. Hey, stuff happens. But barring all these situations, this is the schedule I’m aiming for with some wiggle room to add on extras.
This is where you come in. See a show that wowed you? Let me know. Sell me on it hard enough and I just might squeak it in. See something you hated, yes, I want to hear about that too. And as always, comments on my reviews always welcome and encouraged.
So happy Fringing everyone – I’ll see you out there!
Psst!! if you want to hear about some of my Fringe picks this year and my tips of how best to navigate your experience – listen to my Fringe Preview on CBC’s Calgary Eyeopener at http://www.cbc.ca/eyeopener/columnists/theatre/2013/07/31/jessica-goldman-fringe-preview/