Nancy's Alternative MUST-SEE List at the 2014 Toronto Fringe


Phew! Today feels like the first bit of breathing room I've had all week. We arrived in Toronto on Wednesday and drove right up to the Tarragon Theatre as I was running about 30 minutes late for my tech rehearsal. The team and I  had left Ottawa early and stopped in Gananoque to interview Julia Mackey who was in town with her incredible and unbelievably successful Jake's Gift. Toronto traffic made us late, but it was worth it to capture an interview with that lovely lady for the documentary.

The beautiful souls beautiful souls who created the story that had me weeping openly  with grown men in a theatre.

That said, I have never been happier to have a stage manager for my show in all my life. I was told a few weeks ago that the Toronto Fringe requires one and so I drafted the help of my wonderful (ex)-wife, Mikaela Dyke. #dykenny lives again! She spoke to the technicians, took charge of my frazzled nerves (I hate being late!), made set-up a breeze and my lights look pretty. I can't tell you how convenient it is to have that outside eye. Not having to be on stage and run out into the audience to see how something looks saves so much time!

The show is now open and I've seen quite a few more. Roller Derby Saved My Soul is doing unbelievably well in Toronto so my worries were unfounded. But that's a story for another post. If you're reading this, chances are you want to check out my Must-See List of shows at the Toronto Fringe.

With close to 160 shows to see at this festival, the city is definitely not lacking in the MUST-SEE list department. I've seen at least a dozen from media outlets and local bloggers alike. I've even been lucky enough to appear on a few of them. With 100% of tickets being available in advance online (though as of writing this, the ticketing site has been down since yesterday), many of these shows are selling out and/or have sold out their entire runs.

And with good reason! Rosa Laborde is a well-recognized professional in the Canadian theatre world in a super small site-specific venue. NOW Magazine cover girl, Kat Sandler, is one of my favorite theatre writers ever and Punch Up is f'n hilarious and sad at the same time thanks to some super sweet and grounded performances from her cast. Just say the name 'TJ Dawe' in Fringe circles and a show is pretty much guaranteed 5 stars and a sold-out run. jem rolls is, to quote the NOW again, a 'true Fringe gem' that consistently delivers a verbal tour-de-force. Peter n Chris have turned pantomine into it's own art form. Oh and I guess they are pretty funny too. These shows get chosen for a reason because people know you are guaranteed a solid good time.

I've heard some grumbling about this 100% of tickets available in advance policy. Like it's unfair for pass holders who can't use their pass to get tickets in advance, for instance. Personally, I love it. Mostly because I believe, with all these popular shows selling out, that folks might actually try something new. In the spirit of the Fringe, let something surprise you.

Which, after all this talk, finally brings me to my list. This is a list of shows that have either pleasantly surprised me or that I hope will do so very soon. So without further ado, in no particular order:

Concrete Kid

Met this gang at the London Fringe, but didn't have time to catch it there. So happy though that I finally got to see it here. Loved the writing, loved the story, loved the dance transitions. There's a lot to love about this show, not the least of which you get to see a group of cool young cats put on a sweet sweet show for you.

An Ode to the Dyads

O.M.G. this show! I went because a friend gave me a ticket and I couldn't agree with the Mooney on Theatre reviewer more when she said: "I have never wanted a show to be longer more than this one." In the spirit of surprise, I did what I usually do, which is not read anything about the show, including the program blurb before going in. I had no idea I was walking into a movement piece and I'm glad I didn't because movement and dance isn't usually my thing. But man oh man do I now want it to be. This show is beautiful! So much joy on stage. The movements are precise and tell an interesting story, one that I could have kept watching for another hour. I even got misty-eyed towards the end. Just see it, ok?

The Dark Fantastic

It may not be surprising that a Martin Dockery show is awesome, but this one is unlike any other show of his I've ever seen. And I've seen 5 of them. Simple story-telling enhanced by sound and light... I can't do it justice. It just kind of blew my mind.

Aiden Flynn Lost His Brother So He Makes Another

Winner of the Best English Theatre Production award at the Montreal Fringe, this is an charming story told with no dialogue. I still haven't seen it because they are touring the circuit and I can catch them elsewhere, but my anticipation for it keeps building every day.

Dr. Frightful Presents: Dead Air

From the same crew that brings you Aiden Flynn, this show is premiering in Toronto. Check it out and be able to say I saw it then before it explodes everywhere else.

Mr. & Mrs. Alexander: Sideshows and Psychics

Some folks come a very long way to take part in Fringe. These two are in all the way from New Zealand. They killed in Ottawa and you should check them out here to see why.

Watching Seana McKenna Watch Paint Dry

I honestly just love the name of this show and would see it for that reason alone.

Karenin's Anna

Fringe is often a huge success for comedies, but don't be afraid of drama! Danny Padgett and Caitlin Robson are sure to give some strong performances, so go check them out.

Silent Party Interlude

Another one I saw in London. Sweet and charming and filled with some wonderful songs, Devon Moore gave me the feels in all the right places.

And ok, for number ten, I would be remiss, if not a little biased, if I didn't ask you to check out Roller Derby Saved My Soul. If you sit close to the front, there's popcorn.

So there you have it. There's still a full week of theatre left, so go don't just stand there, SEE SOME THEATRE!

And let me know your surprise picks in the comments below.