Fringe reviews: Fat Sex has electrifying panache; Driftwood harkens to the adrift

The Times Colonist is reviewing the Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival, which continues in downtown venues to Sept. 4. All ratings are on a five-star scale.

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Fat Sex

Langham Court Theatre, 805 Langham Court

Continues today, Thurs., Fri. and next Sun (Sept. 4)

Rating: Five stars

Don’t be misled by the advertising for what at first glance seems like a show that solely skewers pop culture’s obsession with women’s body issues and apparent desperation to have better sex, particularly via magazines such as Cosmopolitan.

While Steve Larkin does address this issue with subversive panache through his electrifying fusion of music and the spoken word, it’s just part of what the Leeds-born satirist, Oxford lecturer, philosophy graduate and performance poet rails against. Larkin, whose affability and quick, biting wit recalls Craig Ferguson, also conveys the social conscience of Pete Seeger when he fiercely strums his mandolin for acerbic assaults on everything from corporate malfeasance to globalization, which he wickedly riffs on in The Post-Colonial Global Blues.

A cheerfully irreverent rebel whose intelligence is abundantly obvious, and who isn’t afraid to slag confessional poets or dare suggest that watching Disney is more harmful than porn, Larkin won over his sparse opening-night crowd with apparent ease. I suspect other audiences will as enthusiastically accept his invitation to chant “wanker” repeatedly during an audience participation number.

Typical of this creative anarchist’s disarming off-kilter style was that he chose to address the opening-night audience collectively as “Sydney,” simply because it happened to be the loudest name shouted out when he asked us to identify ourselves in unison. As philosophical provocateurs go, this guy’s the real deal.

— Michael D. Reid

Driftwood

Fairfield Hall, 1303 Fairfield Rd.

Continues today, Mon., Fri. and Sat.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars

In a world where many millenials can’t seem to resist over-sharing or throwing pity parties online, it’s refreshing to see ones who can creatively tell their own hopeful stories live onstage. This is what several young local theatre artists are doing in Hawk Mom Productions’ collaborative storytelling series, united by a theme recalling a time they found themselves adrift. The first two monologues, by Esther Rzeplinski and Caitlin Holm, respectively, were book-ended by local musical-theatre stalwart Cati Landry’s impressively original compositions. Accompanying herself on keyboard, the singer-songwriter, apparently inspired by Carole King, puts her beautiful and dynamic voice to particularly good use conveying a woman’s liberation from a suffocating relationship in I’m Done, a highly listenable tune that would be at home in a Sondheim musical.

Although she appeared somewhat constrained referencing her 10-minute monologue’s script, Rzeplinski’s account of her fading friendship with Cassie, her close friend at a Christian high school, and her increasing faith challenges, is achingly authentic and evocative. Sentiment is leavened with humour, as when she matter-of-factly recalls helping her former best friend “go pee” while wearing her wedding dress.

Not surprisingly, a reference to how she cringed when her mother “liked” one of Cassie’s photos on Facebook after they began drifting apart drew big laughs.

Appearing onstage with a blue sling supporting her broken right arm, Holm demonstrated her skills as an actor and natural storyteller.

Her alternating wit, timing and intensity as much as physical appearance brought Ellen Page to mind, as Holm riffed on the challenges of maintaining a long-distance relationship.

The Calgary-born theatre artist, we learn, fell for “my love” just as he was about to move to Toronto, coinciding with her own recent move to Victoria.

“I fell off a rock wall because I reached for something and grabbed nothing,” explains Holm, who effectively uses her physical injury as a metaphor for her romantic complications.

Not everything works, such as a grilled-cheese sandwich analogy that falls flat. But Holm is an appealing performer, notable for her naturalism and humour-assisted candour, as when she rants about her self-pity after hearing about the romantic bliss of others who get to live in the same town.

“I am so disgusted and bitter about it!” she says. “How dare they be happy?”

— MDR

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