10 artists to watch at this year’s Fringe Fest

Sure, there are more than 10, and some are made from cloth. But keep your eye on these talents, who cover the gamut from comedy to drama to... puppetry.


If you spend any time around Buddies in Bad Times, you likely know Spain both as a performer and as coordinator of the queer company’s youth program. He’s channelled Grace Jones and Madonna in Of A Monstrous Child: A Gaga Musical and performed in several other shows by Alistair Newton most recently he appeared in Andrew Kushnir’s Small Axe. Now he’s an ensemble member in pool (no water), a play about friendship and mining a personal tragedy for one’s art, written by British playwright Mark Ravenhill (Shopping And Fucking, bitchy TV show Vicious). Tarragon Mainspace.



Some of the best and darkest musical theatre these days is by Anika Johnson and her working mate, Barbara Johnston, know collectively as Johnson & Johnston. Not only are they part of Spice Girls tribute band Wannabe, but they’ve also taken their show Blood Ties to the Edinburgh Fringe and, if you watch Orphan Black, you saw a snippet of it when soccer mom Alison was in an intentionally disastrous production. J&J collaborate with their Wannabe partner Suzy Wilde on Summerland, a large-scale site-specific musical about high school students caught between two worlds after a bus accident. Sure to be lots of energetic fun, since many of the performers are from Wexford Collegiate School for the Arts. Harbord Collegiate.



Crawford, who’s starred in several CBC shows, including many seasons of This Hour Has 22 Minutes, is clearly the festival’s biggest draw. His name is even in the show’s title: Gavin Crawford: “Friend” “Like” #Me. In fact, you’ve probably already seen his tweets and Facebook posts about the show, co-written by his real-life and writing partner Kyle Tingley. That’s apropos. The solo character comedy deals with social media etiquette. But we’re pretty sure you’ll be “liking” the show afterwards and retweeting our glowing review. Annex Theatre.



Griffin and Sullivan, frequent theatre collaborators as well as wife and husband, bring a sharp-edged energy to their work whether the tone of the material is comic, serious or a blend of the two. Sullivan, known for Baby Redboots’ Revenge, recently appeared in Fringe hit Potosí and Kat Sandler’s Liver. This past year Griffin performed in Harper Regan. For the Fringe, they team up for The Merry Wives Of Windsor, Shakespeare’s comedy featuring the outrageous knight, Falstaff (Sullivan), who tries to woo a pair of married women simultaneously. Griffin plays Mistress Quickly, a barmaid who helps turn his plans into a laughable catastrophe. Given that the production is by Shakespeare BASH’d, veterans at presenting the Bard in a pub setting, expect a winner. Victory Cafe.



Rapid Fire Theatre’s Todd Houseman and Ben Gorodetsky are impressive improvisers, as anyone who caught their act at the recent Combustion Festival discovered. Drawing on their ethnic backgrounds – Gorodetsky is the child of Russian immigrants and Houseman is First Nations – as well as audience suggestions, they present three improvised tales, including a Cree origin story and a Chekhovian drama. For the third story they choose a new genre each show. The result is unpredictable, instructive… and very funny. See listing. Factory Studio.



We missed the intelligent and entertaining puppet troupe Shakey-Shake and Friends in last year’s Fringe. Glad they’re back with that most famous of the Bard’s works, Hamlet, which like their other shows blends classic text with modern pop references that’ll win over youngsters as well as their parents. Here, one of the puppet kids would rather play video games than see a Stratford production of the Danish play, and his Muppet-like friends convince him it’s worthwhile and fun. There won’t be anything rotten in this state of Denmark. George Ignatieff Theatre.



Last year Smythe presented an earlier version of her show In Case We Disappear at the inaugural East End Performance Crawl. It’s hard to describe: part spoken-word poetry, part storytelling and part a cappella music. The stories are about anything from attending her younger brother’s elementary school graduation to initiating a drunken booty call with an ex. But they all ring true, and Smythe is a charming, spontaneous performer who’s grounded and honest. Can’t wait to see her connect with a larger crowd. Tarragon Extra Space.



If you feel some extra wattage emanating from the Annex Theatre this week, you can be pretty sure Hinds is inside doing his show Starry Notions. The exuberant, charismatic performer is a canny cabaret artist, as he’s demonstrated at Just For Laughs and a recent residency at Buddies in Bad Times. Expect lots of showbiz anecdotes and unique renditions of songs and show tunes (the talented Mark Selby is musical director). Oh, and tons of star presence. Annex Theatre.



You won’t likely know Tobias’s name, but if you’re a Fringe fan you’ve probably seen another of his co-creations, Die Roten Punkte, the popular comic music duo (German sibs Otto and Astrid) who’ve toured the world and appeared several times at the Toronto Fringe. Audiences can experience a different side of Tobias in his latest work, The Orchid And The Crow, a tragicomedy that explores faith, identity, ritual and growing up as a Jewish atheist. Producer Clare Bartholomew, who also co-wrote the songs, is his cohort in DRP. Al Green Theatre.



You may remember the rubber-faced Lorenzo as well as Nicky Nasrallah, Gillian Bartolucci, Ted Hambly and Allana Reoch from their hilarious Fringe 2014 sketch show Everything Is Fine! Some of them got even sharper laughs earlier this year in Panacea, which got a rare 5Ns from us. Now they and a bunch of others are back in Lorenzo’s Everyone Loves Marineland, which promises an extended narrative about a marine park worker who’s battling animal activists and business types. With Shari Hollett directing, this is the equivalent of a sure Fringe thing. Randolph Theatre.

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