Fringe Fest 2017 was one for the record books

The biggest ever Toronto Fringe was also one of the best and most diverse


Fringe 2017 will go down in history for several reasons.

It was the biggest ever Toronto Fringe, with 160 shows, which may have had something to do with its record-breaking sales of $519,707 (the first time it’s broken the $500K mark) it was the first Fringe at its new home at Scadding Court the near-paperless ticketing system, which had a trial run at last winter’s Next Stage Festival, went very smoothly and this was the final Fringe under executive director Kelly Straughan.

It was also the year that #FringeFemmeTO, a hashtag to celebrate women playwrights, directors and choreographers at the Toronto Fringe, really broke through and got people discussing gender parity in theatre.

In fact, 67.5 per cent of shows, or 108 out of 160, were written, directed or choreographed by a female artist.

That’s an amazing statistic, especially since it’s not reflected in the theatre scene during the other 50 weeks of the year.

It was also a great year for cultural diversity. Some of the strongest ensemble shows, like Nasty, Grey, Hands Down and Lysistrata showcased performers who reflect the population of the city, and not the same old white faces we see routinely on mainstages.

Since many Fringe shows often find another life afterwards (Kim’s Convenience, The Drowsy Chaperone, Da Kink In My Hair are just the biggest examples), let’s hope this diversity is the start of something permanent.

Speaking of remounts, lots of shows have remount potential.

I could see The Clergy Project, SoulO Theatre’s show combining three members of the clergy (an Anglican priest, a rabbi and a Unitarian minister) telling their life and work stories, elsewhere.

The Howland Company and Slow Blue Lions’ production of Sam Steiner’s dystopic relationship two-hander, Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons, was solid enough – and so timely, considering the administration south of the border – to transfer somewhere else. The Theatre Centre, next year?

I hope the poppy novelty songs from Barbara Johnston and Suzy Wilde’s Maddie’s Karaoke Birthday Party find more life they’re too good to be forgotten.

And surely someone – Obsidian? Buddies? – will consider bringing back Steven Elliott Jackson’s The Seat Next To The King, a powerful two-hander about race, queerness and politics.

Meanwhile, I’m hoping the Montreal Company La Fille Du Laitier, returns. Their Macbeth Muet, a wordless version of the Scottish play using the simplest of props and a whole lot of imagination, was one of the fest’s hands down highlights. Perhaps they have a version of the Danish play to bring next time?

Here’s NOW’s annual list of the best of the fest.

OUTSTANDING NEW PLAYS (in alphabetical order):

Caitlin & Eric Are Broken Up by Caitlin Robson, Eric Miinch, Jess Beaulieu Delirium by Martin Dockery Grey by Chantal Forde Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons by Sam Steiner The Life Henri by Adam Bailey The Seat Next To The King by Steven Elliott Jackson She Grew Funny by Joanne O’Sullivan

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Macbeth Muet

OUTSTANDING PRODUCTIONS:

“Am I Pretty Now?” A Musical Romp Through Plastic Surgery Bendy Sign Tavern Brain Storm Butt Kapinski The Clergy Project The Life Henri Macbeth Muet Magical Mystery Detour The Seat Next To The King Seeking Refuge Shirley Gnome: Taking It Up The Notch 32 Short Sketches About Bees

OUTSTANDING DIRECTION:

Brain Storm (Taliesin McEnaney) Caitlin & Eric Are Broken Up (Jess Beaulieu) Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons (Harveen Sandhu) Macbeth Muet (Jon Lachlan Stewart) The Seat Next To The King (Tanisha Taitt) 32 Short Sketches About Bees (Paul Bates)

Lysistrata _fringe17.jpg

Lysistrata

OUTSTANDING ENSEMBLES:

Bendy Sign Tavern Brain Storm Grey Hands Down Lipstique Lysistrata Maddie’s Karaoke Birthday Party Murder In The Cottonwoods Nasty Seeking Refuge 32 Short Sketches About Bees

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCES:

Martin Dockery (Delirium) Deanna Fleysher (Butt Kapinski) Shirley Gnome (Shirley Gnome: Taking It Up The Notch) Ruth Goodwin and James Graham (Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons) Kat Haan and Ross Somerville (Kara Sevda) Janelle Hanna (Bad Baby Presents: Rules Control The Fun) Conor Ling and Kwaku Okyere (The Seat Next To The King) Rose Napoli and Jakob Ehman (Ten Creative Ways To Dispose Of Your Cremains) Franco Nguyen (Soaring In Liquid Skies) Clara Prévost and Jérémie Francoeur (Macbeth Muet) Caitlin Robson and Eric Miinch (Caitlin & Eric Are Broken Up) Jillian Welsh (No Place) Gemma Wilcox (Magical Mystery Detour) 3

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