Atlantic Fringe Binge - Day 6

Good news (plus reviews)

click to enlarge It's not all Smoke and Mirrors at Fringe
It's not all Smoke and Mirrors at Fringe

Shine up your silver-wear. Thanks to a  funding boost, the Atlantic Fringe gala has been upgraded from tinfoil to pure sterling!

As chair of Halifax's Special Events Advisory Committee, Councillor Steve Craig led the charge to increase the city's financial support to Fringe, which had been inexplicably cut by 40 per cent this year.

Yesterday, Council voted 9-6 in favour of increasing the grant from $8,750 to a cool $20,000.

Festival director Thom Fitzgerald says, "Salutes to Councillors Steve Craig, Waye Mason and Jennifer Watts for responding to this issue in a forthright, clear and determined manner, and most importantly to the City Council for recognizing the importance of art and culture to the people of HRM."

Smoke and Mirrors

If you haven’t seen the fun, jaw-dropping magic of Michael James before, you will undoubtedly find yourself scratching your head in bewilderment, all the while tittering like a small child. For all you returning fans, the game hasn’t greatly changed. Smoke and Mirrors will be more like a trip down Memory Lane- fun, but you can imagine yourself using your fleeting Fringe time more effectively.

For all you hocus-pocus fans, James does not disappoint. He is an excellent showman and all of his acts are guaranteed to amaze. All the magical classics, balloon tying, disappearing acts and card tricks are here in spades, with plenty of extra surprises. Michael James has a natural rapport and ease when interacting with the crowd, and his ample opportunities for audience participation ensure a great night out.

- Carey Bray

Love with Leila

I confess! I am in love with Leila. Leila dances,  Leila cooks (famous for her baklawa) and loves to clean. Smart, sophisticated and a terrific hostess, she should be any Persian mother’s dream; a loving daughter with excellent marriage prospects … if it weren’t for her condition.

Playwright/performer Izad Etamadi has created one of the most endearing characters of this year’s Fringe. She welcomes us into her home in Persian fashion, offering a rich variety of little treats to snack on. She flirts and gossips and soon has us all in the palm of her dainty hand. Bewitched by her big brown eyes, soon we’re dancing with her. Like a Persian Judy Garland her optimism never fails her. No matter what trials life sends her way, she charts her own course.

Love with Leila can be enjoyed purely for the pleasure of her company. Along with his deliciously camp sense of humour, Mr. Etamadi reveals a deep affection for Iranian culture. He may not be beating loudly on the drums of defiance here, but he’s certainly tapping out a rhythm of quiet personal resistance. In the end, his indomitable Leila refuses to acquiesce to a society that demands absolute conformity. Staying true to her authentic self, Leila triumphs. And so do we all.

- Hugo Dann

Salt Water Moon

I was extremely impressed by Sackville Student Theatre’s beautiful production of David French’s play Salt Water Moon (1985), which plays at the Living Room as part of the Atlantic Fringe Festival.

Set in rural Newfoundland in 1926, the play tells the story of two teenagers, Jacob and Mary, whose relationship was thwarted when Jacob left unexpectedly for Toronto. Now he has returned to find her engaged to a man he loathes and must attempt to win her back. Mary is a bitter, and practical, spitfire played by Sally Faulkner with grit, strength and intense subtlety. Alex McGrath’s Jacob is charming and quick-witted, but with deep roots in his community and loyalty to his values.

Salt Water Moon is a somber piece that explores poverty and the question of whether financial security or matters of heart are more prudent ways of life. This production never descends into melodrama, maintains a captivating sense of tension and makes good use of silence; it wisely doesn’t bog itself down with attempts at accents, and the performances are nuanced and deeply felt.

If you’re looking for an evening of drama this Fringe, I highly recommend you see Salt Water Moon. These students have bright futures ahead of them.

- Amanda Campbell

There are Fewer Acorns This Year

Terminal illness. Infidelity. Sibling rivalry. Ever-shifting fortunes.

This is the stuff that soap operas are made of, and with There are Fewer Acorns This Year, playwright Nick Jupp has crafted an entertaining one.

The story centres on a dying woman (Tamara Smith) who decides to make the most of the time left to her. But in order to live her final months to the fullest, she decides to take stock of her relationships with those closest to her - her sister (Angela Butler), her husband (Mike Taylor) and her brother-in-law (Calum MacLean).

As befits the melodramatic nature of the play, none of the characters have great depth. But the actors have a lot of fun playing up the baseness of their natures.

Through a series of plot twists, it is revealed that not everyone is who they seem, but ultimately, everyone gets what’s coming to them.

A reference to a little blue object (which I finally figured out was Viagra) near the end of the play is confusing and clunky. The audience knows there is romance in the characters’ future. No need to spell it out.

- Kate Watson

Get Around Me

“In order to survive, you have to go hard.”

Gillian English’s motto has served her well- not only in Aussie Rules Football, but also in life. English scores another winning performance with Get Around Me, a counterpart to her other production, Drag Queen Stole My Dress. In this fantastic chapter, we are given a spell-binding performance that unexpectedly surpasses the emotion and integrity English discovered within herself during the events of Drag. The result is a show that is hilarious, heartfelt, and full of gumption. Succinctly stated, it’s a juggernaut of a show.

Gillian English just wanted a job. Trying to impress potential Australian employers, English was catapulted into the insane world of “footie.” Discovering an affinity with the sport, English soon found herself representing Canada on an underdog team in the Australian Football League. The show mainly operates as a hilarious slideshow, but just when you’ve had enough, English shifts gears, forging an intensely emotional show. After an abhorrent moment of sexual harassment pits her between football and a management team who refuses to treat her as a human being, English draws the line in the sand. She is unapologetic and she won’t back down to anyone. Get Around Me is as heartbreaking as it is inspiring, making it a winner in my book.

- Carey Bray

The Eulogy

It’s fun reading my colleagues impressions of the shows we’re all writing about.I certainly can’t improve on Carey Bray’s summary of The Eulogy: “A ballet with gasoline.” That may well be the best review quote of the 2015 Fringe. You bet I’m jealous!.

I can only add that, while I shared his enthusiasm, (Mr. Burgos is a born clown in the best European tradition, I ache to see what he’d do with Checkov’s burlesques), I caught a piquant but alluring whiff of social/political critique in The Eulogy. As with Love with Leila, one can enjoy this comic delight as it presents itself, but when one of the eulogist’s multiple personalities began to resemble a certain incomprehensible American President, I whispered knowingly to myself, “Aha! Satire!!”

 - Hugo Dann

You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown

You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown
(1967) is a musical adaptation of Charles Schultz’s comic strip that beautifully captures both the humour and the heart of these beloved characters. Side-By-Side Productions’ of this musical, which plays at the Bus Stop Theatre as part of the Atlantic Fringe Festival, is joyful and heartwarming and showcases real musical theatre talent in this city.

Anders Balderston plays Charlie Brown with beautiful earnestness, oscillating from pure hope to vulnerable heartbreak. Becca Guilderson shines brightly as Sally Brown, capturing with gusto and hilarity the erratic emotions of preschoolers. Marietta Laan nails Lucy’s renowned crabbiness, but is best in the moments where she finds her nuance and humanity. Cat McCluskey brings Snoopy to life with panache and silliness.

The show’s greatest moments are when every moment is milked for its ultimate in playfulness and fun and there is an equal balance between the characters’ roles as Philosopher and Child. There were elements with pacing, especially with movement, that on Opening were still coming together, but the heart and the energy of the piece is solid, and I think that is what will win over audiences, especially children.

- Amanda Campbell 

For information about show times, venues and costs, visit

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