3 Fringe DRAMAS

Slack Tide

By parts&labour with Blarney Productions, Edmonton, Venue 8 (Old Strathcona Performing Arts Centre)

This new work from young playwright Bevin Dooley pulls no punches in tackling weighty subjects. It’s set in Killer’s Cove, a local teenage hangout on the beach outside a small fishing village. The exact location isn’t named, but through clues in the script we learn it’s the sort of generic economically depressed, socially conservative rural town that affords no good prospects for its young people.

Dooley unspools her plot bit by provocative bit through a conversation between Matty (Chris Cook) and his sister Annie (Julia Guy). He’s been in jail for the past six years for committing an act so terrible it made him a target for regular beatings by murderers, rapists and arsonists. His sister didn’t visit him the entire time. And he’s there on that beach, clutching a bouquet of roses, to beg forgiveness of their friend Mary (Merran Carr-Wiggin), for what he did.

The show’s first half is riveting. Dooley’s script is mysterious and absorbing. The estranged sibling tension between Cook and Guy is completely believable; Cook in particular does a marvelous job in conveying a wonderfully complex emotional range and depth.

Both plot and tone take a sharp turn in the show’s second half with the entrance of Mary. It’s here that Dooley’s script stumbles a bit; it feels a bit rushed and unfinished, especially for the level of emotional action that the characters have to display. Still, this is a great debut with lots of potential. I’d love to see it fleshed out further.

3 out of 5

To Be Moved

By Blarney Productions, Edmonton, Venue 28 (The Playhouse)

Sound is as much a character in this show as the people on stage. To Be Moved spins the tale of a young couple in love through physical movement and a heavy soundscape – though uit is labelled as a “drama” in the Fringe program. Our two protagonists (Zoe Glassman and Kristian Stec) are in the deliriously optimistic early days of love, when everything is perfect and they can’t get enough of each other. But then tension steps in, they have a fight, and then tragedy strikes.

The sound and movement fill in much of the emotional resonance of this work: a push-pull of bodies coming together and apart under the rising and falling crescendos of heavy synth organ. So, too, does an array of lights on stage contribute to the show’s sensory layers. Unfortunately, the exposition detracts from this build-up. The plot points are signposted and so predictable as to be basically formulaic, and at times the writing relies on poetic turns of phrases that feel forced or heavy-handed. It’s a tender, sweet story, visually interesting, but falling short on its intellectual reach.

2 out of 5

A Beautiful View

By Precipice Productions, Edmonton, Venue 15 (Holy Trinity Anglican Church)

You can usually bank on at least one Daniel MacIvor show at the Fringe. This year, it’s this 2006 two-hander. The story explores a pair of women recounting the accidental relationship they developed over many years. It’s both a friendship and a romantic partnership spun out of a single fateful encounter, and then bound up in all the complications and pain that comes with the latter.

We learn all this in a classically MacIvor way, full of conversational irony, wit and awkward silences – which often speak volumes more than what’s actually said. Therein lies the charm of this show, as well as its difficulty – to do the script really well, the timing needs to be bang on. The duo on stage (Nikki Hulowski and Samantha Jeffrey) handle the material capably, though their exuberance steamrolls some of the script’s more nuanced subtleties. Similarly, the age of these two performers takes us out of the story a bit – the characters are middle-age, exploring their multi-decade relationship, so its feels a bit odd to see two women in their 20s on stage.

This show is described as “comedy-drama” in the Fringe program. This version definitely leans more towards the former – an understandable reflex given that we’re at the Fringe, and the impulse to draw audience laughs is a mighty one. Still, that tendency means things don’t always flow so smoothly when the story takes a turn to the latter.

3 out of 5