Team GigCity Fringe Rises!

Colin Maclean Fringe GigCity Edmonton

Colin Maclean: 80 and still keen

Here’s a first: GigCity is going to be reviewing actual plays at the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival this year – led by esteemed local theatre critic Colin Maclean, who’s still gung-ho at the age of 80.

In the past, we merely lurked on the periphery of Edmonton’s most interesting festival – with stories about the dreaded Star Rating System, Rude Audiences, Critics Criticizing Critics, and an attempt at a meta Rotten Tomatoes-style review aggregator. Always a bridesmaid on the outside looking in. That’s because most of our reviewers were once employed by news-papers, which usually recruited all their entertainment staff and then some to cover the Fringe every year.

Media has changed. In February 2016 PostMedia merged the two newsrooms of its two local dailies, The Edmonton Journal and The Edmonton Sun. No longer needed were the services of The Sun’s Maclean – longest reigning theatre critic in town, he started with CBC in the 1960s – and entertainment critic Mike Ross. More recently, there was some kind of purge at Vue Weekly magazine – and so former longtime Vue theatre writer Mel Priestley will also be reviewing Fringe plays for us this year.

Think of GigCity as a lifeboat.

Meanwhile, with fresh staff, Vue will again attempt to review every single Fringe play this year, more than 200 of them. The Journal also sends a big team of reviewers, led by their own esteemed theatre critic Liz Nicholls. Their stories will appear identically in both The Sun and The Journal. Add in more print, radio, TV, and (increasingly) internet, and it’s clear the Edmonton Fringe remains the most covered festival in town. There is no lack of material.

Mel Priestley GigCity Fringe Edmonton

Mel Priestley

That’s because the Fringe is an important festival. It’s more than just an exchange of ideas punctuated by Australian street performers. It’s a funhouse mirror of society. Merely reading the blurbs for more than 200 plays opens a fascinating window into the current human condition. Short analysis: People are feeling a bit anxious right now. You get to see what other people are thinking about, and realize how much is shared: dreams, hopes and fears brought to life with an astounding variety of live theatre, created by dedicated artists on the front line. It’s no coincidence this year there are so many shows about mental illness, or killers, or doomed relationships, or so many comedies. Strangely, there are less “End of the World” plays than there were in previous years – 2013 was big for zombies – yet so many more have sexual content. You couldn’t possibly see them all.

What does this all mean? We aim to find out.

Watch for Colin Maclean’s first round of reviews Monday morning.