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Photos: Entering the Fringe zone

Weird world of showbiz turns up to party in the square

There were plenty of telltale signs you were in the Fringe zone at Centennial Square on Wednesday. Try close encounters with a "psycho bitch," a human flower bouquet, an "existential caveman" and a body-painted topless woman, for starters.

The Fringe block party was a moving feast of theatre, music and showbiz hucksterism.

Heather Jarvey, co-director of Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, dispensed therapeutic advice, Lucy-like, for a donation of a nickel or more, with proceeds aiding the Kids Help Phone, to promote the Peanuts comic strip parody.

"Charlie Brown's all grown up and dealing with some heavy stuff," she said, noting the show uses dark comedy to explore such teenage issues as homophobia, bullying, teen pregnancy and drug abuse.

Tokyo clown Yanomi, eye-catching with her powdered face, giant pink spectacles and head covered in flowers, talked up her solo act A Day in the Life of Miss Hiccup.

"There's a traditional saying in Japan, 'If you have flowers on your head that means you're a little bit crazy,' " she said. "Miss Hiccup is a happy, crazy woman living alone and she loves all the sounds of music in world."

The "psycho bitch," incidentally, is also the playful title of Tamara Lynn Robert's darkly comedic one-woman show recounting her struggles with mental illness -- "a topic that still needs to be talked about more," she said.

Toronto comedian Nile Seguin, here to perform Fear of a Brown Planet, his show inspired by the issue of race in showbiz, joked he was envious of the gratitude Robert has been getting. "People are thanking her for doing her show," he said." People laugh at mine, but no one's thanked me."

Victoria actor and playwright Jim Leard is involved with four shows this year-- his memory play Thank You My Love, Goodbye; his Story Theatre productions of Pinocchio and The Magic Soup Stone; and Gonads and Gametes, his son Jeff's comic journey into the lives of sperms and eggs.

"He plays millions of characters," quipped Leard, whose son is following in dad's footsteps -- starting his career at age 23, fresh out of the University of Victoria.

Fringe manager Ian Case said this year's block party was moved since there were some crowd control issues on Broad Street last year, and the city offered increased support.

"Things haven't been that easy financially for the arts lately, so any help we can get from the city is hugely appreciated," he said.