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Fringe 2008 - Day 9

Well, it's crunch time now folks. Only three days left to see dozens of innovative and occasionally bizarre shows at the 2008 Fringe.

And while you're out there desperately cramming as much theatre into 72 hours as you can, remember to show the Fringe volunteers a little love. It's hard work, but there wouldn't be a festival without them.

Continue reading for reviews of How To Build and Empire, Sarah Hennessey Time, Middle of the End, Viva Vivi!, and Kaliban.

How To Build an Empire
(Reviewed by Graeme Stewart)

This is an interesting zygote of a show about the subtle and poisonous influence of imperialism in Canadian history. And I don't mean 'zygote' in a negative way. How To Build an Empire is clever and insightful, but it doesn't quite feel finished. Its four narrative elements- a cub scout, a history teacher and class, and a slideshow of the more egregious examples of Canadian racism- are all driving at the same point, but never quite come together to drive home the moral.

Writer and performer Stacey Douglas does an impressive job portraying all of the play's various characters. She brings detail and precision to her roless, and the play is richer for it. For all its exuberance, the Fringe rarely showcases this kind of poise.

How To Build an Empire plays at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace July 10, 11, 12. For more info, check out the Toronto Fringe Website.

Sara Hennessy Time
(Reviewed by Tatiana Kachira)

Back in my university days I often found myself on a bus a seat or two away from a group of loud obnoxious teens and twenty-somethings whose vocabulary appeared to be limited to four words (not counting pronouns and interjections): "go", "be", "God" and "like", as in "HE WENT OH MY GOD AND I WAS LIKE WOW" (that's right, no punctuation - I am not wasting commas on this sort of thing; I feel bad enough making the letters do that). Unfortunately, Sara Hennessy's monologue stirred up those unpleasant memories.

Unlike the more eloquent stand-up comedians, Hennessy relies primarily on tone of voice and dynamic body language to deliver her content. Though I, frankly, found a lot of the jokes, as well as the way they were presented, plain annoying, the rest of the audience seemed to relate to the performance very well. Enthusiastic cheer and incessant laughter filled the room. So, if you like this sort of thing, go to this show. You'll be like wow oh my god this is so cool.

Sara Hennessy Time is playing at the George Ignatieff Theatre (15 Devonshire Place) July 11, 12. For more info, check out the Fringe Toronto website.

Middle of the End
(Reviewed by Graeme Stewart)

Unrelentingly morbid, Middle of the End aims for some insight into the nature of existence and ends up just being kinda creepy. When the perpetually angsty Lufa discovers his sister and her fiance are serial killers, the stage is set for some rather hackneyed fulminations on morality and family. The script is awkward and crammed with cliches, and the flat performances don't help much. The play strains to be provacative with frank depictions of sex and violence, but the whole exercise never achieves anything close to emotional truth. This show has one note, and it's not a very interesting one.

Middle of the End plays its final show at the Factory Studio on July 12. For more info, check out the Toronto Fringe Website.

Viva Vivi! (Reviewed by Tatiana Kachira)

What a phenomenal little piece of theatre! For starters, it's visually flawless. Black and white and mostly free of words (English words, anyway), it watches just like a 1920s movie. It is also chock full of cute ingenious little tricks that will have you smiling non-stop (it's worth going to this show just to see the actors walk "up and down the stairs" on a completely level stage).

Impeccably put together and acted out, Viva Vivi! is pure delight to watch. My only complaint is that it's over too soon, in only 45 short minutes. A true Fringe gem. Very strongly recommended.

Viva Vivi is playing at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse July 11, 12. For more info, check out the Fringe Toronto website.

(Reviewed by Graeme Stewart)

Kaliban was one of Shakespeare's more unusual character creations, and this show explores his life after The Tempest. As he wanders the globe, the misshapen Kaliban's various misadventures weave a subtle commentary about humanity's failings. In the end, the show posits an old, yet still important, question: who is really the monster? Writer and performer Andrew Hamilton does a nice job with the character, and deftly navigates a 45 monologue in iambic pentameter.

The show goes by pretty fast, and doesn't leave much in the way of resonance. In its current incarnation, the show is interesting but low-cal. Hamilton needs to find a way of bringing the narrative into the present and engaging his audience with the underlying themes.

plays at the Royal St. George on July 11, 12. For more info, check out the Toronto Fringe Website.

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