Reimagining and claiming the theatre
What astounds and delights me is how few companies at the Fringe go over the top to present succinct theatre.
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois
I have found, over 20 years of covering it, that the Fringe is where the young reimagine theatre. Yes, in all the works, you can see and hear echoes of theatre history, but I am so often struck by the feeling: that is something new! Not something new-new, but a completely surprising variation on age-old themes. And that is how theatre renews itself.
For instance, in Think Outside, there was a monster: a character that goes back to Beowulf, Wagner's dragon, Ibsen's Borg. I have seen at least a dozen incarnations of these beasts on stage and even created with grotesque budgets they were not satisfying. But this little company created a credible monster from nothing except imagination and the thousands of cultural references (from Lord of the Rings to video games) which made their creature fascinating. (It is one of the striking effects I mention in my review.)
Indeed, what astounds and delights me is how few companies at the Fringe go over the top to present succinct theatre. (I think, again, of the present scandal in London where Dave St-Pierre's dance company not only confronted - a good thing - but affronted - a tiresome thing - by going into the audience nude to spread arse-cheeks and expose anuses to the public.)
This does not mean theatre at the Fringe has become safe or bland, in the last editions. Indeed, it is that very rare thing: challenging; challenging not just to the theatrical status quo but to the social and moral codes which prop up the theatrical status quo. A few years ago, for instance, Keir Cutler (in Teaching As You Like It) did a dangerous fandango around the question of teachers' sexual relationships with minor students...even as he made us laugh! In this year's The Sods, Jason Thompson brings us into a smut palace and asks us questions about the role of pornography without ever actually voicing the query aloud.
By all reports, Cameryn Moore presents a very frank show about female sexuality. Hers. Sure, you might think, it's been done. Yes...but not as frequently as the Fringe's reputation might suggest, more rarely with honesty and even more rarely still by a woman for a woman performer. Sexual confessionals at the Fringe are a dime a dozen - but how often do they, as Moore does, celebrate?
Moore is, in effect, joining an army of innovators saying that it's time mainstream houses were handed over to truly new ideas from truly new theatre people as - perhaps - theatre as it is (and as it is subsidized) doesn't speak to a far larger proportion of the population who want to go to theatre to get something other than a lesson in theatre literature history.