Fringe review: Ain’t True and Uncle False

Paul Strickland in Ain’t True and Uncle False. Photo by Dan R. Winters.

By Liz Nicholls,

Ain’t True And Uncle False (Stage 4, Academy at King Edward)

Here’s a new concept in horticulture: “implied garden.” It’s Will Perjure’s creative Eden of upside-down wine bottles and painted cups, handles skyward, with the sign “Mug Roots: Do Not Dig Up.”

The relationship between Art and Life doesn’t come much more whimsical than in this sly, verbally dexterous show from the Kentucky yarn-spinner Paul Strickland. In Ain’t True And Uncle False, this amiable and puckish heir to the great American Mark Twain storytelling tradition, returns to the Big Fib Trailer Park and Cul De Sac (scene of his hit Papa Squat, which I’m now awfully keen to see).

And he takes us around the place to meet its population of distinctively named tall-tale characters, with their own origin backstories, their own quirks, their own creative pursuits (like goldfish taxidermy), their own collective mythology.

We meet Fay and Brie Cation, for example, Siamese twins born 18 months apart, joined at the hand. We meet Ma and Papa Ganda, the latter the vice-president of the local pea-punching plant.

Pea punchers? They’re the consummate pros who make green peas into the black-eyed kind. We find out that the resourceful Will, who lost his left hand as a little kid — he couldn’t find it anywhere — becomes a pea kicker instead. 

There’s a loony brilliance to Strickland’s distinctive kind of quixotic playfulness. And it’s combined with a metaphorical cast of mind that gives Strickland’s stories, his aphorisms, and his songs a certain homespun philosophical resonance. Which may, after all, be the whole point of storytelling:  “gardens that will never grow, beauty that never dies.”  Storytelling with a distinctive Southern flavour and sneaky smarts. 

As seen at the Winnipeg Fringe.

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