Fringe Festival – Day 10
I’ve done the Fringe for a few years now and one thing I can say for sure: my name alone doesn’t get butts in the seats. Audiences recognize the names of a few production companies (Transatlantic Love Affair, Four Humors) but it seems to me that at least part of what brings audiences back to the same artists year after year is the recognition of the personality.
Joseph Scrimshaw was a great example of a performer whose name drew people to his productions. It was both his writing and on stage charisma that keep them coming back.
In most cases, I don’t think audiences notice who wrote or directed a show at Fringe.
They see my name and they don’t think “hey – I remember the other shows that guy wrote.” They think: “who’s that guy?”
It’s my own fault, of course, for writing shows that don’t feature a part for me. And for being more of a character actor than a lead.
It can be frustrating, at times, to feel like you have to win your audience back with each successive year. Yet, that is what most fringe producers do. Those who don’t have to do that aren’t lucky. They are talented and consistent.
And I have to admit I’m just a little bit jealous.
I watched four shows on Saturday. One of them was mine so let’s talk about the other three, shall we?
Adapted from a series of diary entries written by an anonymous woman living in Berlin when the Russians took over the city. It is an account of survival in the most horrific of circumstances.
Even though the script is taken from diary entries, the entries themselves are somewhat detached and that was, I think, the biggest problem with the play. With almost no emotion in the words, the result was a muted performance that perfectly matched the material but resulted in something that wasn’t dynamic enough.
Stories of starvation, desperation, and rape don’t need to be filled with yelling and angst but in this case, I felt like the nature of the source material made a difficult transition to the stage. At times I was at arm’s length from what was taking place. The author was likely at arm’s when she wrote her acount and yet it made for a challenging experience as a member of the audience.
None of which should take away from the performance of Eva Barr (who also adapted the work). She was fantastic.
I was trying to go to another show but a sell out meant I found myself at this one instead.
Upon entering the theater, I looked up the show and learned I’d be watching a mash-up of two Chekov comedies. Ho boy. I really don’t like Chekov.
What I should say is that I don’t like the way most people produce Chekov. I find his stories prodding and dull and populated by miserable people being miserable. He is said to have believed he was writing comedies but they are almost always produced as drama.
The two plays in question, however, were broadly slapstick affairs that had almost nothing to do with what most people associate with Chekov. I enjoyed myself as much as I had at any other show over the course of the festival. The two plays were performed almost in tandem, with actors playing duel roles and rapidly changing back and fourth as the pace became more frenetic.
A standard theatrical convention, sure. But executed well, it is very effective.
There was a lot of yelling, as has been noted in other reviews. However, the scripts seemed to call for a lot of yelling so I wasn’t bothered.
I was fortunate to have stumbled into the theater for this one. I wish I’d seen it sooner as I would have spent more time recommending it to others.
A remount of the same show from the 2014 Fringe, the boys from Four Humors improvised a show based only on the show image, show title, and short show description.
Improv is always a little risky so individual experience may vary. The show I saw was just about perfect. We were taken on a tour of director Jason Ballwebber’s brain and let’s just say that things weren’t pretty in there.
By the point the entire cast was staging an intervention with Jason, I was convinced I’d go see this show every year if they kept doing it.
And I keep hoping one of these years they will pull one of my shows. It’s probably for the best that they don’t do it because there’s no question their interpretation of my show would be a lot better than the show I wrote.