If laughs are what you are looking for this year at the Fringe, you in some incredibly hilarious hands. Comedy is alive and kicking at our favourite theatre festival. Read on for our speedy reviews of sketch and stand up comedy shows that won us over!
Swordplay: A Play of Swords
If you can recreate dragons on stage with a large red curtain and a whole lotta musclepower, you win the Fringe. Simple as that. And if, when you first laid hands on your Fringe program, you frantically flipped through the pages to find out when the funniest show on earth, Peter n Chris was playing, and cried a river on not finding anything, well then you’ll like Swordplay even moreliest.
Peter from Peter n Chris is part of this Toronto-based Sex T-Rex production. Peter brings his unique mix of physical comedy, extreme puns, accents, and improv skills to the show which we are now familiar with, having seen him for years and years at the Fringe.
The show follows a young video gamer who gets introduced to an old cartridge-console based game that is part Zelda part Super Mario part Princess Bride and part Game of Thrones. Can’t be done you say? Oh but yes it can. We have two well-meaning, everyday men, setting out to save a princess in a castle only to discover that what they were looking for was right under their very noses.
This adventurous romance matches Peter step by step and outshines him in numerous moments. As the woman of the troupe, Kaitlin Morrow is anything but token. She drives the story and surprises the audience when she sheds her sweet, clueless disguise. The three musketeers slash knights slash bffs have electric chemistry which makes immediately believe their fantastical and OTT tales. What we loved about this show is that even though it is set in ancient times, the writers bring it back with present-day commentary, so it never becomes a “period piece”. The physical comedy is hilariously choreographed and the props are detailed and the punchline of many jokes.
This show is a must-see!
Improv and live sketch comedy fans will get their heart’s desires met with Tom and Devin’s latest offering. This year we felt the show is definitely funnier. The skits are connected by a strong narrative. Which in this case is based on a small Canadian town approaching some major-ass elections that ultimately lead to the apocalypse and impending doom! Sound familiar and straight out of life much? We thought so too.
The guys do a great job of not building recognisable characters. Their characters possess familiar qualities like those of Justin Trudeau, Donald Trump, and reality TV stars etc. The result is a show that is original and inventive. Our favourites were the alpha male ER doctors (possibly on E!). And we also liked the cow, the cat, the last day on earth, and the mayor who was picked straight out of the audience and played a very crucial role in the story.
The guys are talented actors and they have become 10 times stronger over last year. They are extremely confident and can get laughs out of the slightest jokes, solely through the strength of their personalities.
Hip Bang! is a winner. This is a-laugh-a-minute kind of show with lots of visual and narrative variation so you never get the chance to be bored. You’ll be entertained to the hilt for this one hour!
Good Game in “Gung Ho”!
To add more merriment to the comedy party come Toronto’s live sketch trio Good Game. These guys are quirky. Is there a word for an intense level of quirky? Because that would be more accurate. They open the show with an innocent song about hanging out with their friends and then quickly subvert its sweetness within minutes.
The skits are weirdly wonderful. The guys possess some serious left of the centre imaginations. Think SNL but less lowest common denominator. All three artists have distinct personalities and feed off of each other’s energies like well-timed chemical reactions. There is a variation in the formats, lengths, and subjects of the skits so you never know what’s coming. We loved the V-neck song, the breakfast car, the exotic vegetable and the neighbrohood snake pit. We’ll let you steep in intrigue over those and urge you to go check out this East Coast laugh riot.
Cat Kidd is a spoken word genius. We didn’t know how the full hour went by. She stitches together lush vignettes of animals in the wilds of South Africa and finds human equivalents in her own East Vancouver neighbourhoods. There is thought behind every sentence, every line is measured and rhymed, and every factoid and sentiment has a poetic reflection. Hyena Subpoena is exotic and fantastical. The show mirrors our struggle, as 21st century people, to make a meaningful connection with the Earth and strain to hear what she has to say. Kidd goes back to nature to make sense of her life experiences.
Kidd has a projector that launches wildlife images on her camping tent and on the back wall. She oscillates between giving a science lesson to sharing gossip to storytelling. Her poetry is extremely rich but because she breaks it up, refreshes the subject and characters, every so often, she makes the stories absorbable. This would be our literary recommendation!
The joys of being a writer are few and far between. They are, more often than not, coupled with large periods of frustration and downright pain. Drea Lusion and Eric Parthum take on a unique approach to illustrate this love-hate relationship between squire and her quill.
Drea writes a novel on her big orange armchair with a sinewy long peacock feather of a quill. She creates a character, played by Eric, who turns out to be identical to her, whom she wrestles with, and who causes her a lot of annoyance. Her armchair also makes it literally impossible for her to sit down and write, as it throws her off and tricks her endlessly like a wild horse.
The duo literally translate the elements of the writing process and breathe life into them with circus tricks, acrobatics, slapstick and audience participation. Our audience was mostly children, which is why all naughty bits were omitted. The children in the audience lapped up every second of the theatrics. They laughed from their bellies at the juggling, the paper bag trick, and the armchair’s antics. When Drea disappeared at the end of a scene, a little girl enquired loudly “where’s the lady?!”, to whom Drea came back on stage and duly acknowledged. Drea & Eric have created a quirky and thoughtful exploration of the writing process, and accurately translated every aspect into emotion. They also did a great job adapting the show for children on the fly.
This show is cute and introspective!
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