With something like 160 show's at this year's 30th Anniversary Fringe Festival, trying to decide what to see can be daunting. But the good news is that with so much on offer there is sure to be something for everyone on a fringe stage, and even more likely that there will be something truly remarkable that you wont want to miss.
We've scoured the schedule and read all of the other preview pieces to put together our list of what you should consider for this first week of Fringe. They may not all end up being winners, but these are the shows that are generating a lot of interest across and represent a wide range of styles and subject matter. But even better than just a list, we've come up with a mock schedule for your first week. Of course we know you'll have your own priorities and availability but this is one way you may be able to fit them all in! We'll also provide you with updated recommendations next week based on what we've seen and heard.
But for now get out your calendar and let's get to work.
Thursday July 5th
If you're able, you should try to catch Bikeface today at 6:30 at the Annex Theatre. Did you know Victorian era doctors used to warn women that one of the dangers of biking was " 'bicycle faces': becoming over-exerted, wild-eyed, un-sexed vulgarities, when faced with nothing before them but the wide, open road?" Us neither. This 60 minute one-women show will take you on a journey across Canada dispelling gender myths and exploring haunted graveyards along the way. Sounds like an exciting ride.
From there you can head to Factory Theatre for Life in a Box at 7:45. Life in a Box is a bromance set to music that travels through post-apocalyptic time and space. You could also head over to the Monarch Tavern at 8 pm for Lighter in the Air. Featuring live music and a different comedian each performance this show explores "artistic integrity, unfulfilled expectations, nostalgia, romance, and an uncertain future."
But what ever you do, you're gonna want to get back to Factory by 9:30 to see Anywhere. This might be the most buzzed about show at this year's festival so be sure you get to see this one early before it starts selling out. Anywhere is one of two shows in this year's festival by Dora award winner Michael Ross Albert. Featuring a cast and creative team of indie theatre heavy-hitters, Anywhere is an exciting new drama that questions how we can genuinely connect in a cynical, digital age.
If you're able to see shows during the day on Friday July 6th and have kids aged 5-12 you should start your day at 1:45 with Shadow Kingdom. The Mochinosha Puppet Company from Japan developed this projection puppetry show and it sounds incredible. "Minerva is a young girl who loves spending time with her smart phone, often at the expense of good night's sleep. After her phone is stolen, she travels to a dreamy world where she meets an Owl who wants to rid the world of sleeping forever." It's 60 minutes and being presented at the George Ignatieff Theatre.
At 2:45 you can catch Martin Dockery: The Bike Trip. This one is a little less kid friendly as it's about a bike ride on LSD in 1943. But it sounds wild and we'd definitely like to check it out at at the Tarragon Extra Space.
If you're not able to get going before the 5 o'clock bell tolls you can make your way to Factory for the 6:45 performance of Ding Dong Girls. Created by Dora Award winning playwright "Christopher Richards (Molly Wood) and author Gordon Bowness, this hilarious drag musical is the mostly untrue legend of a cross-dressing misfit who gathers around him four other young gay men to form a madcap, politically-motivated drag troupe in early 1990s Toronto." If you are a fan of drag this is the show for you.
At 8 o'clock you've got three excellent choices and since you can't see them all at once and they only run at 8 pm you'll want to find 3 days to slot all of these in. We the Men at the Cadillac Lounge is an invitation into the man cave that will likely provoke and engage audiences. Be sure to get your tickets for this one in advance as it has sold out at other festivals. It's on Friday, Saturday and Sunday both weekends of the festival at 8 pm.
Featherweight at the Paddock Tavern, which has already received a rave review from Mooney on Theatre also runs every night of the festival except Monday July 9th, at 8 pm. The third 8 pm show you will want to catch is The Grass is Greenest at the Houston Astrodome. Another offering from Michael Ross Albert which critics raved about at the NY Fringe, “Astrodome” is a comedy about envy, art, the constant search for something better, and three square-feet of AstroTurf. Astrodome plays every night of the festival, at the Freedom Factory Gallery.
On Saturday you should start your day back at the Annex Theatre for #KanderAndEbb. eap adores Ryan G. Hinds and you will too after you see this delightful cabaret tribute to two of the best song writers of all times. If you'd prefer to see this one in the evening you can swap it out for something on either Tuesday or Thursday night after 9 pm.
After that you need to make your way to the Al Green Theatre for Cheri at noon. Sky Gilbert's latest offering is "based on the novels of Colette and deals with issues of ageing and the true nature of love. If that's not your thing, or you want to wait to see Cheri next week you can catch Women of the Fur Trade at 12:30 in the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace. It received 1st place in the Toronto Fringe New Play Contest and is definitely worth pencilling in.
After a well deserved break for rest and sustenance you'll want to return to Passe Muraille at 5:45 for Andy Warhol Musical: In Rehearsal. We've been hearing a lot about this one and we'd definitely consider it one you wont want to miss. With Warhol only running 55 minutes you might be able to make it down to the waterfront to depart on the 7 pm voyage known as Flooded: A Show and Sail Around the Toronto Island. You can catch this ride every day at 7 except Tuesday the 10th, but with only 35 spots available be sure to book tickets in advance.
If you want to take it easy on Sunday and see just one show make it Everyone Wants a T-Shirt! at 2:45 at the Theatre Passe Muraille backspace. We are really looking forward to this "twisted comedy about entrepreneurial failure, commercialized feminism and how to sell a shit-ton of t-shirts".
On Monday July 9th if you're not worn out from your weekend of theatre head to the Factory at 5 pm for an improvised farce from The Howland Company, in association with Bad Dog Theatre called Entrances and Exits.
On Tuesday there's First Dates at 1 pm at St. Vladimir Institute. Billed as "a journey through the wondrous world of the meet up, the make out, the awkward, and the pre-destined." First Dates is "..stories about the broken-hearted many, the open-hearted few, and our search for connection in these fragile times."
If you're still at it by Wednesday, we'd head up to Tarragon at 5:15 to catch Morro and Jasp: Save the Date. If you have seen any of Heather Marie Annis & Amy Lee previous work you know this show is not to be missed. Afterwards make your way to the Annex for the 7 pm performance of Circus Shop of Horrors, which pays homage to beloved horror films, by melding the grotesque, with acrobatics, circus, dance, drag, and illusion! If you're a horror film buff this is the show for you.
Whew! We made it through the first week of Fringe. Thursday there are performances of a bunch of the shows we've listed and this is a great day to catch up on any of the shows we've mentioned above that you haven't seen. You can catch Shadow Kingdom at 10:30 am, Circus Shop of Horrors at 12:00, Anywhere at 12:15, Andy Warhol Musical at 12:45, Bikeface or Entrances and Exits at 1:45, Everyone Wants a T-Shirt! at 4:30, The Ding Dong Girls at 5:15, Lighters in the Air at 6, Cheri or First Dates at 7:30 and #KanderAndEbb at 9:15. So you've got no excuse!
We'll be sure to follow up mid-week with our picks for the final weekend of festival. By then we'll know what you absolutely should not miss before the end of Fringe!
See you at the theatre!