The Top 5 Trends at the HamOnt Fringe
Article contributed by: Stephen Near
Stephen is a writer and performer in Finding Mr. Right, which plays at the festival starting on Friday July 17
The Hamilton Fringe hasn’t started yet but in just over a week we’ll be up and running. The Festival has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years and that means more shows and more artists are flooding the festival schedule with a wide variety of shows. If you’re like me, you want to see as much as you can but are also curious to see what sorts of shows will be onstage for this year’s festival. Are there any particular trends making waves or any particular styles or stories emerging from the pack? Having taken a look through this year’s schedule, here’s my take on the top five trends for #HamFringe
Borrowing a trending hashtag from Toronto’s Fringe, this year’s festival will see a great number of shows written, produced and/or starring women. From one person monologues to full length plays, these shows highlight the talents of just some of the women making waves in Canadian theatre nowadays.
Hamilton Arts Award winner Lisa Pijuan-Nomura premieres She Said Saffron, while Canadian Comedy Award-nominated performer Colette Kendal brings her smash-hit The Cockwhisperer…A Love Story to the Festival. Canadian Comedy Award Nominee Christel Bartelse performs her critically-acclaimed ONEymoon, while Toronto-based improviser Magdalena BB brings Death and Dating to the stage, and emerging Hamilton performer Rose Hopkins performs The Rabbit Done Died. Alyson Parovel premieres her socially-conscious Always Unique, Totally Interesting, Sometimes Mysterious, and watch for Kelly Morden and Emma Letki‘s delightful kids show Thumped! alongside Hamilton’s own Studio Babette Puppet Theatre with Where Are You Cinderella?
2. Flying Solo
A staple of any Fringe Festival is the one person show. Drawing upon a wide variety of disciplines from physical theatre to storytelling to stand-up, one person shows offer audiences an intimate connection to a single performer onstage. Some solo shows are found in other categories so you’ll want to check out some other of this year’s highlights.
Harrison Wheeler’s acclaimed Jesters Incognito makes a return to the Fringe, while magician Chris Bruce tells us Why Card Tricks Are Important. Celebrated British comedian & storyteller Gerard Harris offers A Tension To Detail, and local actor/activist Adam Bryan performs Homeschool Dropout, while Hamilton stage veteran Julian Nicholson tells of Drinking, Fighting, and Fishing, Toronto stage performer Michael Posthumus commands KNEEL! DIAMOND DOGS, while standup comedian and storyteller Zak McDonald recounts The Happiest Story I Know, and Richard Lett brings us Sober But Never Clean.
3. The Big Show
Although this year’s festival has many small shows with one or two performers, there are some that have far more company members sharing the stage. Large ensembles, telling grander tales, seem to be a growing rarity in the Fringe circuit so you’ll want to be sure to get to some of the following shows by some notable Hamilton theatre artists.
The 10/10/10 Project is an ambitious multidisciplinary piece by acclaimed Fringe veteran Aaron Jan, who is also premiering the comedic ensemble Rowing with Chrysalis Workshop. Long time Fringe favourite and award-winning Make Art Theatre brings Shakespeare back with Much Ado About Nothing, while Kintsukuroi Productions and Hammer Entertainment present the interdisciplinary ensemble piece Bloom. Toronto’s Aidan Tozer and Dylan Stavenjord join a large cast onstage with their new drama The Abigail and award-winning playwright Francesca Brugnano directs a cast of rowdy cavemen in Cave 10. You’ll also want to see Radha Menon’s new play Rukmini’s Gold, as produced by Red Betty Theatre, taking the stage in Hamilton after winning the Toronto Fringe’s New Play Award.
4. At Issue
This year’s line-up features a variety of plays tackling current issues or hot topics. Wanting to provoke further discussion after the house lights come up and the audience leave the theatre, these plays will get you thinking and talking.
Acclaimed Canadian playwright Sky Gilbert bring with his play on Hamilton gentrification and community to the Fringe in Commercials for Hamilton, and award-winning playwright Michael Kras confronts issues of consent and teen sexuality in For Kiera. Playwright Bryan Boodhoo tackles police brutality and the scars of PTSD in A Thousand Natural Shocks, and Tasteless by Hamilton’s Unholy Trinity looks at surveillance and scandal in entertainment culture. Critically lauded The Djinns of Eidgah by Abhishek Majumder, produced by Toronto’s InDev Productions, uses Islamic storytelling to recount the human cost of the Kashmir conflict, and my own play, Finding Mr. Right, produced by Same Boat Theatre tackles the Harper government’s Senate scandal alongside issues of loyalty and honor in politics.
5. Out of the Box
Theatre that breaks away from the traditional script and embraces other aspects of theatre like mime, clown, movement and dance are also prominent at this year’s festival. These unorthodox shows often reveal the biggest and brightest gems in any Fringe circuit and run the gamut from 20 minute gallery shows to BYOV.
The contemporary dance piece Sand Body by Moroccan/Canadian dancer and choreographer Meryem Alaoui will premiere alongside Contemporary Dance Theatre’s Form and Fixation featuring contemporary dance coupled with spoken word, video and performance art. Tottering Biped Theatre’s Trevor Copp brings back his touring mime and physical theatre piece Air, and Hamilton Arts Award winner Learie McNicolls brings his hit dance and spoken word show Transformation to the Festival scene. Last year’s site specific company Outrun the Mill returns this year with Paperweight, featuring performance, physical theatre and handcrafted paper stencils, while Spain’s Andres Tuells present the darkly comedic solo bouffon show Guruguru.
This list is by no means complete and half the fun of any Fringe Festival is getting out and seeing something that takes you by surprise. So, maybe, think of this list as a road map to navigating your own unique journey through the Fringe.