Ottawa Fringe Reviews: The Sum of Ourselves

Reviews: Totem Figures, Teaching the Fringe

As I was walking to the SAW Gallery this evening, I was thinking to myself that I was feeling a little bit of Fringe burnout. Yes, I’ve seen some great shows, and no, I can’t feel nearly as burnt out as the Fringe staff and volunteers or certainly the performers, directors, and stage managers. But still, feeling a bit tired all the same. However, (and yes, a nod to those who’ve seen Cutler’s show), the shows I saw this evening may very well have rung the truest for me for the entire Fringe (Circumference excepted). And I love the fact that there is a CHUO ad on the SAW page in the program guide.

One final note before my thoughts on tonight’s shows, I have given a couple of “bad reviews” this last week. I know many people feel this is part of the reviewer’s job, that they owe it to their audience to tell them to not go see this show and to avoid that show at all costs, etc. But honestly, and as someone who has been on the receiving end of bad reviews, I’m deciding to not buy into that. I’ve removed the “bad review” portions I posted on this blog and have replaced them with different thoughts. Because ultimately, who am I to be doling out critiques of someone else? Does it make me feel good about myself? It certainly can’t help those I’m writing about. It’s not that I think my reviews were even particularly that bad, but just that I wonder what good are they doing anyone anyway? And whose to say that my opinion really matters in the grand scheme of things. Art is art, and it is most definitely subjective. So if you enjoy reading what I am writing, then great. But whether you agree or not, please take it all with a grain of salt.

Totem Figures by TJ Dawe (Big Sandwich Productions, Vancouver): I loved the show. If I have the chance to see it again, I will. A lot went through my mind during this performance, and much more will continue afterwards. It wasn’t that TJ Dawe was saying anything I didn’t already know, it’s just that he put it in a way that made me listen. To both him and myself. You should go listen to what he has to say, and in the meantime, here is what I was thinking.

We are the sum of our experiences and the creators of our own meaning. Great words to live by that I’ve been saying for quite a few years now. But what do they mean? I sometimes feel that I am simply going through the motions — I get up, feed my cats, go to work, clean the litter, play guitar, watch TV, go to sleep, get up, feed the cats, . . . and the routine continues. I often talk about how I believe the journey is the destination, like it is my life mantra. But then I somehow forget to believe in it.

I don’t believe in many things. When I remember to, I do believe in the journey. I believe in energy, that it is us, it is life. I believe in trees, the earth, rocks and what they tell. But why? This play reminds me that maybe I just need to stop and take a look back, to see my own patters of my life. What are my influences? What were past influences that aren’t there now? What has always been there? Indeed, what are the faces on my Mt. Rushmore?

I highly recommend “Totem Figures.” TJ Dawe is a wonderful storyteller. From Luke Skywalker to George Carlin to high school pep rallies, Dawe may help you draw your own connections, too. www.tjdawe.ca

Teaching the Fringe by Keir Cutler (Doctor Keir Co., Westmount, QC): Definitely one of my favourites to date. What a great story, although maybe not so great for Cutler to experience at the time. He has such a great way of telling it, too. Aside from Totem Figures, this is the only show I’ve seen all Fringe where the actor is really acting as themselves with no other characters joining them along the way. Oh, I’m sure there are true autobiographical elements to almost all of the shows, some more than others, but to me both Totem Figures and Teaching the Fringe push my notion of what a play really is. It’s kind of like a spoken word performance meets a play, do you know what I mean? I mean, Cutler was acting, but as himself. As for the show, I don’t want to say a whole lot as I really enjoyed watching it all unfold. But I will say I am really curious to see how this show is met in Winnipeg. Keep us posted, Keir Cutler!

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