Toronto Fringe: Giant Bowl of Soul Candy

Live theatre is a mind massage. Live theatre that’s intimate, unpredictable and affordable is a giant bowl of soul candy. Thank heavens for the Toronto Fringe Theatre Festival.

With 150 performances at 30 venues, the Fringe is one fiercely creative indie theatre roller-coaster. Its genres include comedy, drama, musical, sketch, dance, physical theatre and puppetry. To “Fringe” is to binge your heart out on theatre, and to liberate yourself from traditional expectations. I attended five performances as part of my inaugural Fringe experience.

Aiden Flynn Lost His Brother So He Makes Another, presented by Theatre Howl, is a whimsical homemade journey through the caves (and ingenuity) of companionship. Instead of dialogue, Morgan Murray and Danielle Spilchen romp, tumble and shadow puppet their way to bittersweet salvation.

Who Killed Gertrude Crump? is a “one-woman murder mystery puppet show” presented by Monster Theatre. Tara Travis spills so much charm and wit into her characters that you spend half of the show crazily amused by the plot and the other half wondering how the heck she juggles everything. 

The Dysmorphia Diet tackles the thorny (and often misunderstood) world of eating disorders. Writer/actor/director Clay Nikiforuk ambitiously sets out to “re-asses some troubling patterns” around eating, not eating and eating too much. With each her 15 characters, she delicately unwinds the sorrow and neurosis caused by being at war with your body.

“This is the closest we’ll ever get to seeing Andy Kaufman,” my husband whispered to me during Great Battles in History. The premise alone is ridiculously tempting, because a solo musical comedy about “the most important moments in military history” just needs to be seen. Through delightful sarcasm and gritty paranoia, Mark Shyzer makes audiences giggle. And squirm. And believe that Napoleon spoke like a pirate.

In What Mama Said About “Down There,” activist Sia Amma playfully draws audiences into her frenetic web of female sexuality. She has passion to burn, and her collection of brazen anecdotes aims to spark women who haven’t yet seized their intimate feminine selves. The performance is presented by Global Women Intact, whose goal is to end female genital mutilation.

The 26th annual Toronto Fringe ended yesterday. Many Fringe shows tour throughout Canada. The Best of the Toronto Fringe, featuring the festival’s top eight productions, takes place July 16-30 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts.