Be very pumped: further thoughts on a big Fringe opening night

Ten: The Show. The Little Red Ball Company. Photo supplied.

By Liz Nicholls,

Tonight’s the night: the biggest opening night in town, by a considerable margin. Come 8 p.m. Destination Fringe, with its 164 shows on 27 venues (artfully scaled down from the gargantuan 2019 edition) is up and playing. The great thing about the Fringe is that you can devise a logistically sound, viable plan to see shows (without roller-skates, I need hardly add), sure, or you can improvise.

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Don’t be overwhelmed; be pumped. has already posted a selection of promising prospects for your consideration. Have a peek here. And a further cluster of shows I’ve enjoyed at previous Fringes, or even in the season. Have a look here.  

Here are some further thoughts for finding yourself a route to your Destination Fringe. 

The Fringe’s only … circus show. That would be Ten: The Circus Show, the work of Calgary-based The Little Red Ball Company. Kate Ryan (not the Edmonton Kate Ryan we know, the artistic director of the Plain Jane Theatre Company) explains that, in a reverse of the usual migration of theatre onto film, the show is the stage premiere of an award-winning 35-minute digital film. 

The rigging in the Westbury Theatre (Stage 1) is up, with its 4,000 pounds of weights, for a cast of six performers with impossible  virtuoso skills. “We challenge ourselves,” says Ryan, who’s worked with Edmonton’s Firefly Circus Theatre before now and regards Annie Dugan as a mentor. 

The show is a way, she says, to channel “the pain and negativity of (the last two years) into an opportunity for growth and creativity…. We’ve all been suffering through some kind of grief.” 

Ah yes, grief. In March of 2020 The Little Red Ball Company went from doing 250 shows a year to … two. “I didn’t experience it in seven stage, but 10.” Hence the name of the show. Ryan gave each of her ensemble a word, with the challenge “make something, create something, put it out there…. Move through it; play with it. And they did, beautiful pieces.” They are, she says, “a tribute to human resilience…. The audience leaves feeling empowered.” 

Each performer has two acts. Ryan herself opens and closes the show. Ryan herself, a specialist with hula hoops: she has somehow mastered the rarefied skill of balancing a hula hoop on her face while other performers dive through it.  

The Fringe’s only … controversial very tough-minded solo polemical play. My Name Is Rachel Corrie is fashioned from the diaries and emails of the astonishingly committed young idealist activist killed by an Israeli army bulldozer in 2003. Emma Ryan, a theatre veteran who’s just graduated from U of A theatre school, stars. 

Fags in Space, Low Hanging Fruits. Photo supplied.

The Fringe’s only … hybrid of sci-fi and gay rom-com. That would be Liam Salmon’s Fags in Space. The workings of intergalactic romance are as yet mysterious. 

Ghouls Ghouls Ghouls, Send in the Girls Burlesque/ House of Hush. Photo supplied.

The Fringe’s only … marriage of burlesque and ghost stories, Ghouls Ghouls Ghouls by Send In The Girls Burlesque and House of Hush. Like so many shows how can that even work? Guess you have to be there to find out. 

Rebecca Merkley in Jesus Teaches us Things, Play The Fool Festival. Photo supplied

The Fringe’s only … opportunity to actually see Jesus, substitute-teaching a Sunday School class. Jesus Teaches Us Things is the inspiration of Rebecca Merkley, the winner of this year’s Gerald Osborn playwriting award. It started out as a short entry in the Play The Fool physical comedy festival. Now it’s a full show. 




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