Top 5 #HamFringe Trends
Written By: Stephen Near
Here we are for another Fringe Festival in Hamilton, and the roster of shows just seems to be getting better and better with each passing year. For the first time since 2012, however, this will be a Festival where I will not be featured as a playwright or performer. Now, you might think this has caused me a bit of ‘buyer’s remorse’. A nagging feeling, if you will, that I should have taken my chances and entered the lottery. But honestly, I’m looking forward to getting out to the Festival simply as an audience member to see what’s in store. But like any audience member, the wide variety of shows presents me with the age old question: what should I see? Last year, I wrote a blog entry on the Top 5 Trends of the Hamilton Fringe which really informed my choices on what to see over the eleven days of the festival. So, why not do it a second time? Here’s my take on the top five trends for #HamFringe
Once again, this year sees many provocative stories written, produced and/or starring women. Ranging from one-person monologues to gallery shows to full length plays, these works shine a spotlight on just a handful of women making their mark in Canadian theatre.
Award-winning Hamiltonian Colette Kendall brings Tippi Seagram’s Happy Hour to her home at the Staircase along with Canadian theatre legend Nonnie Griffin in Sister Annunciata’s Secret. Christel Bartelse also returns to Hamilton with the comedy All KIDding Aside, while Fringe alum Rose Hopkins brings her short play What Happens in the Backroom to the Gallery Series along with the drama Rosemary by Erin Burley and the satire Ashes to Ashes by Rye & Ginger Productions. Toronto’s Rosemary Doyle is back with August Strindberg’s The Stronger featuring Tracey Rankin and Julia Sgarlata, while writer/director Olivia Fasullo navigates the circles of Hell in Devil in the Details, and Pardon My French by Iris Gardet-Hadengue and Anne Marie Scheffler tells the Tales of a Parisian Mom in Canada.
- Going Solo
A staple of every Fringe, one-person shows are an opportunity to witness a raw theatre performance in action. Whether they’re dramatic monologues, comedic romps bordering on stand-up, or incorporating aspects of physical theatre or storytelling, solo shows are often unfiltered and a chance to be part of a powerful voice onstage. Some solo shows are found in other categories, so check out some other of this year’s highlights:
Brazil’s Ewerton Martins mashes card tricks and clowning in El Diablo of the Cards, while Irredeemable sees Fringe veteran Michael Nabert promise tales of climate apocalypse, and Erik Helle explores the stark contrast between shadow and light in Chiaroscuro. At Mills Hardware, Carlyn Rhamey takes audiences on a personal journey through Ireland and Scotland in Saor (Free), while Ottawa-born multi-disciplinary artist Nicholas Dave Amott tells the haunting take of Awoken, and Phil Rickaby of Keystone Theatre fame returns to Hamilton to tell us about the pitfalls of taking a crap beside the Almighty in The Commandment.
- Off the Wall
Fringe shows break all sorts of boundaries especially when they move away from the script and embrace other aspects of theatre like clown, movement and dance to give audiences an altogether different experience. Often the hidden gems in the Fringe circuit, these shows are never what you expect, and offer a taste of something new.
Inspired by a true crime story, The Bathtub Girls combines music and physical theatre by performers Natalia Bushnik and Robin Luckwaldt Ross, while Hamilton Arts Award-winner Learie Mc Nicolls with Angela Del Franco, Sharon Harvey, Tanis Macarthur, and Jamila Bello presents the tour-de-force dance show Once I Lived in the Box. Local dance and movement choreographer Megan English performs with Dale Morningstar in Send Music, while Form Contemporary Dance Theatre gives audiences the (Parentheses) duet. Montreal’s Kathleen Aubert brings us the tale of boKa the clown, while Toronto’s Break a Leg Productions offers slapstick onstage with On a Limb and Prayer, and Michael Kras gives us a Twitter-fueled horror show with the multimedia drama #dirtygirl.
- Return Engagement
Fringe isn’t just a place to see new work. Sometimes the best shows are those we’ve seen before either remounted by the same team with refinements or redefined by a whole new creative cast. This year’s Fringe gives us just such a sample of shows that you might’ve seen here in Hamilton or elsewhere.
Sondra Learn’s short play Sunshine Steps was first seen at this year’s HamilTEN Festival, while John Bandler’s psychological drama Christmas Eve at the Julibee Motel returns to Fringe after premiering in 2010. After winning last year’s Best of the BYOV’s, Colette Kendal give audiences another chance to hear The Cockwhisper, while Esther Huh and Jennifer Walton bring back the hit pairing of Shakespeare with Mean Girls in The Tragedy of Othella Moore, and 4.48 Psychosis by late playwright Sarah Kane returns to the Fringe after last being seen in 2011 – this time produced by Skipping Stones Theatre. And if you missed Sky Gilbert’s critically acclaimed play Toller or Drawing Board Production’s (in)Decision at this year’s Toronto Fringe, then you’ve got another chance to see them here in Hamilton.
- Music & Lyrics
The popularity of musical theatre on the Fringe circuit is nothing new, yet I always find it surprising how many there seem to be at any given festival. I shouldn’t be. Fringe musicals are more likely to break the mold not only to give audiences a taste of something different but also to experiment with the boundaries of the form itself.
Toronto’s Ananta brings the artist’s unique brand of music and performance to the Festival, while singer-songwriter Jean Caffeine gives audience a taste of growing up punk rock with Sadie Saturday Nite. Vancouver’s Lucky Fish Productions will premiere the new musical comedy Like a Fly in Amber, while award-winning playwright Johnny Salib brings his acclaimed Oasis Love to Hamilton, and Fringe veterans Haley Pace and Ryan Percival give us the last stop of their The Teeny Tiny Music Show. Outside of the theatres, and inside the Fringe Club at The Baltimore House, you’ll want to catch a double-header of the now infamous Lip Sync Battle hosted by Fringe favourite Leila and the Karaoke Cabaret presented by the Eye of Faith.
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. Think of this list as a road map to navigating your own path to another awesome #HamFringe.
Stephen Near is a playwright and performer in Hamilton and the co-founder of Same Boat Theatre Company. Follow him on Twitter @SNear23