What To Expect at the 2017 Vancouver Fringe Festival

Vancouver Fringe Festival is back and we've got your sneak peek right here.    

September 8, 2017

By Stephanie Mitchell

Starting this week, when walking around Vancouver, you could see someone carrying around a head, someone else wearing enormous wings, a duo dressed as beavers, and everyone else wearing self promoting t-shirts and handing out flyers at any given time. Yep, it must be Vancouver Fringe Festival time again.

Now in its 33rd year, the festival continues to host a diverse range of acts, from dancing to sales pitches, monologues and musicals. There are a number of shows this year tackling serious issues, such as eating disorders and sexual abuse on transit, using their Fringe platform to bring awareness. No Big Deal, written and directed by Gerald Williams (The Dance Teacher), shows the different narratives that go on after a sexual assault incident. We see the perspective of the woman, the perpetrator, and the boyfriend. Williams says the show came from a friend of his having this happen to her and constantly being told it was, “no big deal”.

But for the most part, the Fringe celebrates comedy, often experimenting outside of the one-two punch formula of stand-up. Shawn O’Hara’s Field Zoology 101 with Brad Gooseberry is one of these. This show, which has previously won Favourite Comedy at 2016 Victoria Fringe Festival, is a hilarious, must-see character piece, nodding to O’Hara’s love of TV animal experts like Jack Hanna and Steve Irwin, mixed with the comedic over-confidence of old school, inexperienced lecturers. It’s “on the job experience from an insane person,” explains O’Hara.

Field Zoology 101 with Brad Gooseberry

Another show pushing boundaries this year is Bombay Black written by Anosh Irani and produced by Rohit Chokhani (Mrs. Singh & Me, which won the 2015 Pick of the Fringe Award). Anosh Irani is a well-known Indian novelist whose work has been produced for the Fringe before, but not like this. Bombay Black is the love story of a blind man and an exotic dancer, playing on the objectification of women but takes away the male gaze as well as the audiences: each audience member will be blindfolded and taken on a journey from the perspective of the blind man. Chokhani says it was a complicated process putting the show together, but he is excited to have it showing at Vancouver Fringe Festival.

2017 marks executive director David Jordan’s 12th and final year with the festival. When pushed to choose his favourite show from the 100 shows on offer this year, Jordan speaks highly of Bushel and Peck. “It’s unlike anything I’ve seen before,” he explains. Bushel and Peck comprises of Stephanie Morin-Robert and Alastair Knowles, both well-versed performers individually, who have now teamed up to create this show together about their lives, together. Morin-Roberts says the initial idea for the show came from wanting to create something in order to work through issues in their relationship. A personal topic to address, Stephanie and Alastair do so with a certain purity as they play on stage like toddlers discovering the world for the first time.

Bushel and Peck

Other notable mentions go to Liz McMullen’s Stupid Cupid and Neil McArthur’s Let Me Freeze Your Head. Stupid Cupid follows a cupid-in-training just trying her best to get her cupid wings, and this heart-felt, high-energy comedy comes at a time when, McMullen says, “the world is in a dire state and the answer is love.” Let Me Freeze Your Head is Neil McArthur’s best sales pitch to get your head frozen—Silicon Valley billionaires and major baseball stars are doing it, should you?—and a clever take on the state of the world and eternal life.

Stupid Cupid
Let Me Freeze Your Head

When asked what was special about Vancouver Fringe Festival, all performers were quick to say the sense of community. Which is something David Jordan hopes the next executive director will continue to build upon. Jordan’s advice to make the most of the festival is “you have to come in person and talk to people; it is old-fashioned and very sociable.” Performers are out on Vancouver streets self-promoting hard as they received 100% of regular ticket prices, so hit the pavement and connect with some of Canada’s finest artists to see what you might find.

Vancouver Fringe Festival Details

When: September 7 – 17, 2017

Where: Various venues across Vancouver

Tickets: All show tickets available here

Shows mentioned

No Big Deal at Havana Theatre

Field Zoology 101 with Brad Gooseberry at False Creek Gym

Bombay Black at Vanity Culture Lab

Stupid Cupid at Performance Works

Let Me Freeze Your Head at Waterfront Theatre

Bushel and Peck at Waterfront Theatre

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