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Winnipeg Fringe Festival 2013 Reviews

by Shlomo Enkin, July 28,2013

The Hound of Ulster

Having enjoyed the Struts and Frets Players’ performance of “Cupid and Psyche” at last year’s Fringe, I was very excited to get to see their take on Irish mythology. I was not at all disappointed. Engaging, poignant, humorous, dramatic, and brilliantly acted throughout, The Hound of Ulster may well be their best performance yet.

The play recounts the story of the hero Cuchulainn from the Ulster Cycle of Irish legends. The legend itself is told brilliantly in a fluid combination of narration, action, and dialogue. The story includes elements of prophecy, riddling, romance, questing, violence, honour, and werewolves, and brings to mind Greek and Arthurian myths.

The Struts and Frets players convey the serious drama of these themes, even going beyond them to question whether violence is truly heroic, yet manage to simultaneously lighten the mood with their characteristic well-placed jokes and humorous additions to the legends, and with a clever interweaving of formal and modern informal language. The humour in no way cheapened the emotional and dramatic moments. Instead it combined with them to make The Hound of Ulster a truly unique experience appreciable as both tragedy and comedy.

 

As You Like It

As You Like It has everything a good Shakespeare comedy needs: crossdressing, crude humour, sibling rivalry, court fools, romances, and occasional moments of serious insight. The actors of Knavish Hedgehog productions, despite occasionally stumbling over the archaic English wording, succeeded in conveying the full extent of this comedy over to the audience. They clearly had a lot of fun with the characters, the innuendos, and the chase scenes, and the joking atmosphere made the play very fun to watch. The chase scenes often extended offstage around the backs of the audience members, with the actors’ locations betrayed by their shouting.

There were some interesting touches of modernity, including pop music during a party scene and television screens used during a dream sequence. The script was further embellished with instrumental interludes played on a banjo. While the overall effect was of course very comic, the serious moments were done very movingly. Knavish Hedgehog did a stunningly good presentation of this brilliant comedy.

 

Lost and Foundling

Lost and Foundling, presented in this year’s Fringe by the MTYP Summer Studio,  is a brilliant modern fairytale enjoyable by young and old alike. The play follows the quest of a child discovered abandoned in the Mega-Price-Mart and raised by employees to find the Lost and Found table and see if anyone has come asking for her. Guided by the narration of her friends, the three Stacies, the simple Price Mart is transformed into a place of dreams where they really can help you find anything. Yet with the miracles come terrible obstacles which must be overcome, such as the Eternal Line, the Demanding Shopper, the alluring Free Sample Table, and the mysterious Slasher.

Though aimed at children, and thus at times having morals seem a bit overstated, Lost and Foundling is so engagingly acted and narrated that it remains interesting to anyone who likes a good story. The play incorporates a number of interesting twists on fairytale motifs, with the ending coming as something of a surprise, while nevertheless fitting in beautifully with the overall storyline. It is also punctuated by choreographed crowd scenes which really reflect the hustle and bustle of a consumer situation. Lost and Foundling is definitely a masterful work of children’s theatre, and MTYP does it full justice in this year’s Fringe.

 
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