New and returning local playwrights are staging productions as part of this year’s Nanaimo Fringe Festival.
The 2021 Nanaimo Fringe Festival is taking place at multiple venues from Aug. 12 to 22. Among the local productions are River: A Metaphor, by first-time playwright Joy Dubé, and Confessions of A Spooky Mind, the fourth Fringe play by William Anderson.
Anderson is also directing and acting in his play, which sees a detective and a killer go face to face in the confines of an interrogation chamber. He describes it as a “psychological cat and mouse game.”
“It is basically just two characters who are trying to one-up each other,” he said. “It’s kind of a give-and-take between the two of them.”
The play will be staged at the OV Arts Centre, formerly the Harbour City Theatre. Anderson has presented all his Fringe plays at that venue, but while it’s a comfortable place for him, he’ll be transforming it into an uncomfortable place for his characters.
“It’s an interrogation room so it’s going to be stark and it’s only going to consist of a table and two chairs and two people,” Anderson said. “I want to give this idea of it’s not meant to be comfortable. It’s not meant to be something where people are all laid back.”
Confessions of a Spooky Mind was written specifically for Nanaimo Fringe, with Anderson getting four months from the time his name was drawn in April to showtime to finish it. He said the time limit wasn’t a hindrance, but a motivator. Now that it’s ready, Anderson said it’s meaningful to get to debut Confessions of a Spooky Mind before a hometown crowd. He’s also looking forward to being a part of Fringe again.
“My experiences with my other plays have been great and they’ve been well received and I really enjoy the whole Fringe setup,” he said. “It’s a great way to get a play like mine, that wouldn’t get produced by any major group, to an audience.”
Dubé’s play is about truth, how it changes, how it can be subverted and how truths don’t always mesh together. It has its origins in a poem Dubé wrote and she said turning it into a play seemed like “a natural way to carry on this conversation.”
River: A Metaphor is one of the festival’s outdoor productions, and will be staged at Gallery Row in the Old City Quarter. It may not be a traditional setting, but Dubé said it’s not a traditional play.
“There’s a chorus, there’s miming, there’s freeze action and there isn’t a big emphasis on dialogue between actors,” she said. “There is a denouement, it does follow a kind of a plot but there’s more uncovering and discovery and opening up a dialogue and conversation.”
Director Tom Rokeby said the play addresses many issues relevant to Nanaimo residents, including homelessness, deforestation, development and women’s roles, all wrapped up in a “beautiful eco-poem package.”
“Because it’s poetry, because it’s been so carefully crafted, it just leaves so many opportunities for us to play with it, make it visual, make it dramatic, make it interesting…” he said. “I don’t care if the play happens, it’s already been fun.”
Dubé said she hopes viewers will leave the show thinking about how they live their lives and how things that are true one day may be false the next.
“We need to be very sure of how we approach nature, how we prescribe roles to people in society and try to make it more of a dialogue than as things that are fixed in stone,” she said. “It’s shifting sands and there is ambiguity and when you just have one particular way of looking at things it tends to go wrong very quickly.”
WHAT’S ON … The Nanaimo Fringe Festival takes place in multiple venues from Aug. 12 to 22. Tickets available here.