Fab Lab Cab
The newly packaged Lab Cab , which has morphed from a monthly event into an annual two-day festival, proved a piñata of multidisciplinary performance fun at Factory Theatre last weekend. We saw a dozen of the nearly 50 brief performances that filled every corner of Factory, from staircases to rehearsals hall and from parking lot to carpentry shop. Loved Marjorie Chan 's puppet show, Sweet Protest , about Canadian kids in the 40s striking against the high price of candy, and Anna Chatterton 's clever wordplay in A Single Line Up , performed by seven women aged 10 to 80.
Hadn't seen Claire Jenkins except in theatre pieces, so it was a pleasure to discover that her seductive singing voice and magnetic personality anchor the musical troupe Claire Jenkins Avec Band. In A Herbal Remedy For Life Ache , Kate Hemblen , Sarah Manninen and Camille Stubel created a bizarrely comic piece about three bugs selling a strange kind of telescope. Latin Heat featured Melissa D'Agostino as an outrageously funny Spanish spitfire complaining about her tardy theatre-producer lover.
Wonderfully clever and moving was the fu-GEN production of David Yee 's 4 Unrelated Stories About Being 28 Years Old , set in the theatre's various washrooms. It follows a quintet of friends ( Nina Lee Aquino , Leon Aureus , Camellia Koo , Richard Lee and Yee) through dating, marriage and impending childbirth.
But the Lab Cab sprinter's prize goes to Maev Beaty , who performed her own solo show Critic , about a food critic's affair with a chef, at 1 pm, and less than a half-hour later appeared in Hannah Moscovitch 's wonderful Mexico City opposite the entertaining Brendan Gall . Totally different characters for Beaty, and equally fine work. Both shows benefited from the talented directorial hand of Alan Dilworth .
Organized by Aviva Armour-Ostroff and André du Toit , this newly formatted Lab Cab proved to be an artistic shot of adrenalin.
On the western fringe
VICTORIA - Caught the Victoria Fringe , which celebrated its 20th anniversary from August 24 to September 4 with a 40-show fest. The westernmost Canadian Fringe is like SummerWorks in its size; its five venues are only a few blocks apart. The difference is that only one of them is a real theatre -- the others are community halls and gyms.
Run by Intrepid Theatre 's Janet Munsil (author of The Ugly Duchess and Emphysema), the Victoria Fringe is more laid-back than Toronto's. Even on the first weekend, it's rare for more than 20 people to line up for a show, and there's a lot more sauntering than running from venue to venue.
We'd already seen two of the fest's best, Matthew Payne 's The Lab (in the Toronto Fringe) and Jacob Richmond 's Legoland (in SummerWorks). The Lab, with Payne playing all the roles, impressed even on a second viewing. And in Victoria he did it with a sprained ankle, which meant carrying rather than wearing a female character's flashy heels.
The audience, packed into a semi-trailer, appreciated the skill with which the Theatre SKAM writer/performer created characters through voice, props and lights, and was totally drawn into the mysteries of the show.
Intentionally saw shows by Victoria and Vancouver troupes that aren't likely to travel here. One highlight was Darren Barefoot 's Bolloxed , presented by Theatre Tart and directed by Michael Scriven , about a Canadian in Dublin who gets involved with an Irish woman. At one point performers Paul Drexler and Mercedes Dunphy play the man's testicles, which actually turns out to be funny rather than crude.
Meg Braem was a standout in her solo show, The Year Of Falling Down , directed by Britt Small . The poetic piece about an inveterate cupcake-eating caregiver was humorous and moving.
David Brock 's Ambassador Bridge was sometimes melodramatic but tied its various plot elements together nicely in the tale of a family caught between two worlds, the U.S. and Canada. The BumbleBee Theatre Collective production, directed by Christie Little , featured fine performances by Gina McIntosh as an American woman who wants to rebury her husband across the border and Justin Carter as the black grave-robber who helps her.