Saskatoon Fringe Reviews, Day 4: Love, horror, and trombones wrap up review weekend

Elias Faingersh performs part of his show "A Solo from the Pit" for Saskatoon Fringe previews on July 27, 2022. (Supplied / Photo by Nicole Stevenson Photography)

After a theatre-packed long weekend, the final reviews of the Saskatoon Fringe’s in-person shows are here.

Check out the newest Fringe reviews below! Whether you’re into horror or comedy or dramatic one-person performances, there’s a little bit of everything on this year’s stages!

You can see reviews from Day 1 here.

You can see reviews from Day 2 here.

You can see reviews from Day 3 here.

Show Title: New-Fangled Fairytales!

What we loved:  New stories with the comfort and warmth of a cozy blanket.  

Paul Strickland is a master storyteller, with the gift of being able to read an audience and then tailor his material to them.

Billed as a show for the 12 and under set, Strickland chose to pivot when most of the people at the performance on Sunday were more likely to be carded for Seniors’ Day at Shoppers Drug Mart than Kids’ Day at the Ex.    

Strickland began with the tale of Book Head Boy and crafted a fascinating story about (perhaps unsurprisingly) a boy whose head is turned into a book. Strickland’s love of language shines through as he spins tale after tale using clever metaphors and adjectives to clearly illustrate his adventures and punctuate a few thought-provoking morals along the way. 

A couple of children arrived late and Strickland worked to include them in his adventures without singling them out or making them uncomfortable. It takes a skilled performer to be able to adapt a show on the go and still keep the performance feeling polished and professional.

What we didn’t love: There wasn’t really anything to fault in this show, but it was disappointing to see such a small crowd for such a wonderful performance. 

Verdict:  Paul Strickland presents wordcraft at its finest. Don’t let the 12 and under fool you. This is a show for all ages!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

– Lorna Batycki

Show Title: Stick or Wizard?

What we loved: Oli Weatherly is a likeable performer who interrupts their general silliness with fortune-cookie messages of encouragement. 

“Stick or Wizard?” is a physical theatre piece that is driven by audience participation. We have a wizard in all his sequined glory, who uses the audience as they would a prop, playing off what they are given by their volunteers.   

Fortunately, the show on Sunday had two delightful children who were very engaged and enjoyed their moment in the spotlight, and a daring adult who chose the Treasure Chest of Truth and aptly received the “Be Brave and Just Do It” messages.

What we didn’t love: Despite a frenetic voiceover at the top of the show culminating in the idea that we should “run,” the performance started very slowly. The show had the feel of a busker improvising his way through a crowd and it seemed, based on the show description and what was actually presented, that Stick or Wizard was a different show pre-pandemic and is now being reworked while on tour. 

Verdict:   Theatre company Eee!’s Stick or Wizard is a work in progress that can be fun, especially for kids, providing there are people in the audience willing to play along. If you don’t like shows that require you to be actively part of the performance, then do as the voiceover suggests and run.

Rating: ★ ★ ✩ ✩ ✩

– Lorna Batycki

Show Title: Rosegold

What we loved: It’s hard to imagine a genuine horror show on a Fringe stage. Donna Kay Yarborough comes about as close as one might dare imagine to pulling it off. 

The audience on Sunday didn’t learn the gruesome significance of the title “Rosegold” until we’re deep into the performance, and by that time it’s far from the only question in anyone’s mind. 

Through the premise of baring her soul in an AA meeting, what begins as a woman reliving a traumatic experience slowly descends into something dark and sinister when Yarborough slowly begins to hint that her demons might not all be metaphorical. 

Yarborough is a gripping storyteller, weaving a Lovecraftian horror story with frightening aplomb. The slow build and the graphic descriptions of gore and eldritch terrors will have you on the edge of your seat — and it’s one of the most hair-raising show endings you could experience at the Fringe. 

What we didn’t love: As the audience was filing into the theatre, Yarborough was already performing — in a small chair in the centre of the stage, leg bouncing and clutching a thermos of coffee. It didn’t add much to the experience in The Refinery, and probably could have simply opened the show instead of starting ahead of it.

While it was by design that Yarborough stayed firmly planted in her chair for the duration of the play — it’s meant to be an AA meeting, after all — it meant the show severely lacked movement. Coupled with the slow burn style of horror, the show fought against being bogged down in the early stages. 

Verdict: Yarborough is smart and dedicated, immersing herself in her role in a way that gives chills. 

If you’re a fan of insidious and suspenseful horror, go to “Rosegold.” If you let yourself be immersed in it too, it’ll have you checking around every corner for the rest of the night. 

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

– Matt Olson

Show Title: How I Met My Mother

What we loved: You’re going to want to phone your mom and tell her you love her after this one. 

Jon Paterson combines stories from his childhood with memories of his recent past as he reckons with a misbegotten youth while helping his mother deal with early onset dementia.

There’s a level of dynamism to Paterson that adds depth to his performance in a way not many solo performers can pull off. When he is recalling his troubled childhood and teenage years, he bounces around the stage with hands in his pockets — the picture of old-school cool. When he’s with his mother (or those brief moments when he plays his mother), he’s much more reserved.

It’s a brilliant journey to a reckoning for Paterson as a teen, and an understanding of his mother that he gains after she has begun to succumb more strongly to her dementia. Paterson makes you laugh at every childhood antic — only to remember each as with a gut-punch when he begins to regret his actions. It’s beautifully clever and funny storytelling for a difficult story. 

What we didn’t love: There were a couple times Paterson could have slowed down to let the audience sit in the poignant pauses he had managed to create. With such a powerful show, having a moment to think about what was being seen or said would have been a boon. 

Verdict: The info blurb for Paterson’s show on the 25th Street Theatre website suggests this is his first solo-written show. It’s hard to imagine future projects possibly topping this. 

Paterson’s performance is heartbreaking and heartwarming all at once, and by the end you’ll be smiling through your tears. 

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

– Matt Olson

Show Title: A Solo from the Pit

What we loved:  Wow – Trombone music for the win!

Elias Faingersh is a Swedish-born, internationally-trained classical trombonist with a story. 

While studying at Julliard in New York, Faingersh scored a gig with the Metropolitan Opera — which for an orchestral musician is like a jackpot win.  Except, he quickly discovered the repetitive repertoire and long “rest” sequences left him more inspired by what he called the “music of Manhattan.”

“A Solo from the Pit” is Faingersh’s story. Using pedal-powered digital technology, he tells his tale with humour and an impressive musical soundscape. His opening sequence is stunning, combining his trombone playing with vocal percussion and singing to create something captivating.   

Faingersh is likeable and relatable as he uses his instrument to recreate the sounds of his squabbling neighbours or warn of the dangers of drinking. It’s all very effective — but the true magic of this show comes from the connection he has to his trombone and the fascinating fusion of sound he has composed.

What we didn’t love:  There were some balance issues near the top of the show which muted a bit of the dialogue, but as the show progressed the sound improved.  

Verdict:   This is a great show to gain some appreciation for an understated instrument and a performer with an entertaining story, who truly understands what he is playing.    

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

– Lorna Batycki

Show Title: The Love Interest

What we loved:  This is a fun story that uses audio details very effectively to enhance the storytelling.  

“The Love Interest” is an adaptation of John Kendrick Bangs’ book, A Rebellious Heroine. Written and directed by Nathan Howe, the story centres around a feisty love interest (Paige Francouer) who doesn’t like the way she is being “written.” With a fun little twist, this show explores the relationship between characters and authors and playwrights and who is in control during the creative process.  

Theatre Howl has crafted an entertaining piece with a very strong ensemble. Makhosini Ndlovu and Savana Gallant have the task of multiple roles, but switch characters with ease and consistency, supported by some great costuming by Emily Heinek. Jonathon Pickrell, Andrew Taylor, and Francouer deliver polished performances as well, with Taylor navigating between narrating for the audience and stepping in and out of the story. 

The overall story is enhanced by subtle, yet detailed sound and music effects (credited to Howe, with Jared Beattie and Derek Desroches). The “pool” sequence was a particular standout that illustrates the care and effort that went into the production design. 

What we didn’t love: Adapting a book to a script can be a challenge and overall Howe has created an effective piece.  The character of the love interest, Marguerite is one-dimensional which is part nature of the character and part choice. A reprieve from her obstinance would not be unwelcome. 

Verdict:  If among this year’s Fringe offerings, you are looking for a more traditional comedy, “The Love Interest” should be of interest to you. An engaging cast and well-designed effort make for an entertaining show at the Broadway Theatre.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

– Lorna Batycki

The Saskatoon Fringe Festival runs from July 28 to August 6, 2022. Information for all shows, tickets, and the full festival program can be found at 25thstreettheatre.org/saskatoon-fringe/.

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