Actors with The Failed Magician's League perform Placid Ends at Mothballed Beginnings. The show is part of Nanaimo's Fringetastic theatre festival.

Actors with The Failed Magician's League perform Placid Ends at Mothballed Beginnings. The show is part of Nanaimo's Fringetastic theatre festival.

Review: Risks pay off for fringe artists

Nanaimo's annual fringe theatre festival continues Thursday to Sunday (Aug. 23-26).

The Fringetastic Theatre Festival opened last weekend in downtown Nanaimo.

Fear Factor: Canine Edition

John Grady

John Grady has great energy.

Not the kind of energy that jumps around on stage, but rather the kind that draws attention and elicits empathy for his story.

That story is Fear Factor: Canine Edition, a beautiful monologue about the unconditional love he felt for his dog – and the love and loyalty he received in return.

Grady recounts their adventures in dog yoga and rehabilitation of sick and injured hospital patients and contrasts that with his human interaction and relationships.

Although Grady held nothing in his hands and his only costume was his impeccably tailored suit, his description through intonation and movement brought Abby to life.

You could see the soft black fur and her inquisitive eyes. You could feel her happiness and her pain.

Grady tells a lovely story that anyone with a heart will relate to.

– Melissa Fryer

A Wooden Shoe in Canada

Nick the Entertainer

Think Las Vegas lounge act.

At least, that’s what I was thinking when Nick the Entertainer fired up his electric piano and sang songs about his Dutch heritage and his new home in Canada.

Less a theatre show than a stand-up comedy and variety show, Nick’s interest led to satirical songs and poems on pop culture, including hockey and Viagra.

Nick’s show was an eclectic mix of jokes, songs and stories.

– Melissa Fryer

The Cult of Brother XII

Child of a Hoodlum Productions

Based on Nanaimo’s favourite cult legend, the musical recounts the last days of Brother XII’s reign, using a fictional trio of reporters to help uncover the truth by going undercover.

The Brother XII legend is nothing short of a storyteller’s dream, complete with religious fanaticism, fraud, infidelity and a mysterious woman with a whip.

The original songs and dances were ably performed by the cast of local actors, who took their legendary characters over the top to make a memorable show.

Major highlight: Bill Miner as Brother XII’s psychiatrist. It’s slightly gratuitous but most definitely hilarious.

– Melissa Fryer

Placid Ends at Mothballed Beginnings

The Failed Magician’s League

Of the three plays I saw on the opening night of Fringetastic, it was Placid Ends at Mothballed Beginnings that I was still thinking about the next day.

The play is a post-apocalyptic-type tale with three couples under the watchful, vengeful and unpredictable eye of a demi-god.

It’s not spelled out exactly why these couples are here, and I’m still processing what the overriding message is – so many aspects of god, religion, arrogance and despair are introduced which could suffice as any number of dominant themes.

Despite this, the characters are all compelling, interesting and extremely well acted by the seven players involved. The heartbreaking pleadings of the mother who lost her child linger long after the house lights come up.

– Melissa Fryer

Man Catches Fish

Across the Pond

The first show at a fringe festival is always a tough time slot. The audience is small and the actors take a few scenes to get completely warmed up. Such was the case for Man Catches Fish.

The overall concept was innovative – sharing the challenges of a modern-day fisherman from not only his point of view but also that of his wife, the bait and the fish.

Think of it as if the kids from Monty Python wrote Hemmingway’s Old Man and the Sea.

But like a lot of Python sketches, there’s a little too much flipping between theatre devices and art forms to create a cohesive play.

That’s not to say there aren’t cute or poignant moments – Flloyd Kennedy plays a delightfully naive fish who gets face-to-face with the fisherman, telling her story through song and dance.

– Melissa Fryer

Rel8shun

Hope Management

Single. Married. It’s complicated.

Facebook really could just go with one relationship status and the dynamics between the characters in Rel8shun show exactly why.

Tyson, a gay man disowned by his parents, accepts his new roommate Jeff, who’s just been kicked out by his wife. As they get to know each other’s living habits – the play’s inspired by The Odd Couple, so that’s an indication – they try to help each other navigate their relationships with others.

Jeff meets a new girl, which complicates things with his ex-wife. Tyson continually explains to his little sister that his lifestyle isn’t a choice, despite her protestations to simply pray his gayness away.

Great chemistry between the cast, acerbic wit with spontaneous delivery from Tanner d’Esterre (Tyson) add humour and hope to the story.

– Melissa Fryer

The festival continues Thursday to Sunday (Aug. 23-26). Please visit www.fringetastic.com.

What do you think? Add your reviews in our comments section.

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