2017 Vancouver International Fringe Festival
Reviewer John Jane

Lovely Lady Lump

Performance Dates September 7,9,13,14,15,17, 2017 at Studio 1398, Granville Island

Performer Lana Schwarcz

The ‘lovely lady’ is Australian comedian/puppeteer Lana Schwarcz, the ‘Lump’ is what is causing a problem in Ms. Schwarcz’ left boob. Schwarcz is a cancer survivor who is now fit and well three years after being diagnosed with breast cancer. She offers a humourous account of her personal experience with the diagnosis and eventual recovery. Her “journey” (a word she hates, but frequently uses) takes her in front of GPs, oncologists, ultrasonographers, radiographers and a quirky message therapist. Much of Schwarcz’ show is performed topless. She freely admits that after having to bare her breasts to so many healthcare professionals she is very comfortable showing off her boobs to total strangers. The show is very well produced requiring precise use of a video projector and despite some maudlin segments (after all, it’s a show about cancer), the comedy, though broad, is affecting. Schwarcz bravely allows herself to be vulnerable. I’m sure some audience members found it carthadic, even educational – I found it “revealing.”

Fifty Shades of Dave

Performance Dates Sept. 7,9,10,12,16,17, 2017 at Studio 1398, Granville Island

Performer Nico Dicecco

Nico Dicecco promptly declares at the top of the show “this isn’t The Vinyl Café and I’m not Stuart McLean.” What Fifty Shades of Dave is though is part sincere tribute and part erotic parody. Dicecco may not physically resemble the late Stuart McLean, but he manages to pull off his folksy story-telling style to a tee and even gets his mellow drawl spot on. Those who have listened regularly to McLean’s radio show will already be familiar with the misadventures of Dave and Morley, but would never have heard the Canadian raconteur divulge the fictitious couple’s fantasies – actually, only Morley’s fantasies, Dave is still pretty clueless when it comes to his wife’s needs. Dicecco brillantly presents three stories: Dave and Morley entertaining friends Kelly and Tony for the evening - and the entire night, after their visitors leave the couple embark on carnal adventures of their own, finally their recorded risqué role-playing is inadvertently exposed at a new year’s eve party.

Distractingly Sexy

Performance Dates September 8,10,11,14,15,16, 2017 at Studio 16

Performer Mily Mumford

The only thing sexy about this show is the second word in the title. To be fair though, creator and performer Mily Mumford’s choice of title derives less from the show’s premise than the controversial comments by British biochemist Sir Tim Hunt about female scientists: "Three things happen when they are in the lab, you fall in love with them, or they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry." Women employed in scientific and engineering fields were outraged enough to push back by sharing photos on Twitter, using the hashtag #DistractinglySexy.

The generous (compared with many Fringe venues) stage resembled something like a crystal meth lab (my perception from watching Breaking Bad). Ms.Mumford comes to the stage wearing a hazmat suit and an Einstein wig, which is soon abandoned in favour of a lab coat over black underwear, following a session of “Strip Dodge-ball. (The Einstein wig was intended to mimic Tim Hunt, but it didn’t quite work).
Aside for being a writer and performer Mily Mumford does actually hold down a day job with Apple as a technical specialist. She has a hurried, conversational style of delivery that gives the impression that the show is unscripted. Not so, as the performer demonstrated by dropping her lines midway through the show. Mumford showed that she is ‘quick on her feet’ – recovering, then turning the incident into an improv gag.

Her Name Was Mary

Performance Dates September 8,9,11,12,15,17, 2017 at Studio 16

Performers Bonnie Duff, Sachi Nisbet, Taylor Scott and Emily Doreen Wilson

Her Name Was Mary (the verb past tense is deliberate) is apparently inspired by true events. Essentially, it’s a drama that chronicles a collection of critical moments shared between two schoolgirls arriving at puberty together. One is anorexic, the other is considering going in the same direction. With elements of surrealism and realism juxtaposed, and with imaginary figures omnipresent on stage, yet only involved peripherally, the narrative seemed far too complex for a sixty-minute Fringe show that lacks cogent dramaturgy, staging and efficient movement from the actors. That’s not to say that the four people on stage didn’t work hard to make this play a success. The subject is far too weighty and the writing too uneven for emerging talent to be able to handle. In some scenes, the two protagonists, Mary and Amy are talking directly to each other, then, suddenly they each walk across to opposite sides of the stage to continue the dialogue on telephones that end just as abruptly. Her Name Was Mary is obviously intended as a cautionary tale. It does show what can happen when there is a family disconnect and young women rely too heavily on ‘fairy godmothers’ who are perceived as protective big sisters.

7 Ways to Die, a Love Story

Performance Dates September 7,9,10,12,16,17, 2017 at Studio 16

Performers Joylyn Secunda and Alex Forsyth

This oddly titled, two-handed, full-mask mime show might be more aptly titled “Seven Ways to Attempt Suicide and Fail.” Simultaneously ludicrous and macabre, the 45-minute show (not 60 minutes as advertised in the program guide) follows two neighbours, Rachel and Irving (Joylyn Secunda and Alex Forsyth) who are, to all intents, strangers. They are isolated from the world at large and even from each other. Irving is consumed with his paintings, Rachel is absorbed with ending it all. Fortunately, she really sucks at suicide. She doesn’t lack imagination, as she conjures up a miscellany of methods: electrocution, drowning, suffocation, incineration and jumping onto train tracks. It’s in the execution that proves to be her shortcoming.

There is no dialogue. Forsyth and Secunda communicate their emotions to themselves and the audience through exaggerated movement and a range of recorded music that includes classical, hip-hop and anything in between. Despite what seems like a morbid premise, the two performers exude a certain charm and a real penchant for physical comedy.

Gigantic Lying Mouth

Performance Dates September 7,9,10,14,16,17, 2017 at Revue Stage

Performer Kevin P. Gilday

The show isn’t as silly as its title might suggest – not quite. Creator and solo performer Kevin P. Gilday steps onto a dark stage in casual clothes that don’t quite seem to fit. In a noticeable Glaswegian accent, he immediately talks about his recent demise from a mysterious yoga accident, simultaneously going through a stretching routine. He continues in conversation with an unseen cynical female voice who promises to guide him through the process of entering the Afterlife. He tries to convince this guardian angel to give a bit of leeway and allow him to finish his performance. The Afterlife has been outsourced to a private corporation, so this angel is hardly sympathetic. Gilday’s show comprises of multiple elements: multimedia, monologues, imagined conversation and slam poetry which runs the gamut between ‘Modern Love’ and pornography. His writing is pretty slick, but his delivery could stand improvement.

© 2017 John Jane