God is a Scottish Drag Queen (Mike Delamont, Victoria, BC)
The world could use a few more laughs these days. Fortunately, God is at hand. Large, stentorian-voiced Mike Delamont, aka God the Scottish Drag Queen (“I look like a sexy chesterfield,” She says, referencing Her 1980s plaid outfit), is hilarious as the Almighty pillories the peak of creation and Her greatest disappointment: humanity. From the absurdity of the Noah story and the bunk of Scientology to the chronic undependability of OC Transpo, nothing escapes the omniscient eye of the cynical, cantankerous Lord. Christian rock, it turns out, is laden with sex. And who knew that the God of the Old Testament wasn’t really mean, She was just drunk a lot of the time? Delamont’s stand up comedy-based show frequently feels improvised, but that’s because God has a fine sense of pacing and a comic’s instinctive feel for the audience. Just don’t annoy Her by missing Her performance.
Stick or Wizard? (Eee!, London, England)
Just what happened to the Stick part of this directionless show is unknown (he is, according to the promotional material, a guy who dreams of being a stick), but there is a wizard. He’s kind of an ineffectual one if you’re expecting magic and spells and that sort of thing. On the other hand, this wizard in a sparkly body suit does remind us – more than once – that there’s magic in small things like rubber frogs, so maybe that’s enough wizardry for a benighted world such as ours. Oli Weatherly is the wizard, and he spends a lot of time vamping up and down the aisles or bringing audience members on stage to pull things out of bags and other containers. It’s fun at first but wears thin, and the show ends up drifting. Maybe it’s time for Stick to make an appearance and whip things into shape.
Get Yourself Home Skyler James (The Precariat, Ottawa)
In 2019, it’s Donald Trump banning transgender people from serving in the U.S. military. Ten years ago, it was gays and lesbians having to pretend they were straight if they wanted to serve. You can’t help but make that unsettling mental leap as you watch Kel MacDonald bring to vivid life the story of Private Skyler James who, in mortal fear, fled Fort Campbell, Kentucky for Ottawa in 2007 after it was revealed she was a lesbian. Jordan Tannahill’s script, based on the true story of James and part of his Governor General’s Award-winning trio of plays, Age of Minority, is raw and powerful, and MacDonald – directed by Hilary Peck – doesn’t so much enact the story as inhabit it. Always a bit lost, intensely lonely, smiling slightly even as she struggles to marry who she is with what others expect her to be, this Skyler James is a person you remember. A person who, like most of us, only wants to be herself.
2 Sherlock Holmes Adventures (Kenneth Brown & John D. Huston, Winnipeg)
You’d expect nothing less from veteran fringe actors Brown and Huston, but the duo’s retelling of two Arthur Conan Doyle tales is still a treat. The Red-Headed League and The Adventure of the Speckled Band are classic Doyle stories, laden with mystery and elusive clues, full of intriguing characters, and focused, respectively, on a bizarre, short-term job and an untimely death. Brown and Huston, with just Holmes’ trademark deerstalker hat and two wooden chairs as props, recreate the world of Victorian London in telling detail, complete with squeaky iron gates, horse-drawn carriages, and the feel of an age when life was slower but crime and dogged detection as rampant as ever. Each actor plays every character, including the hyper-observant Holmes and his ever-admiring companion Dr. Watson, shifting roles as seamlessly as Holmes pieces together solutions using nothing but a sharp eye and staggering deductive ability. Fun and fleet, the show is a Fringe highlight.
The Ottawa Fringe Festival continues until June 23 at various downtown venues. Tickets & information: ottawafringe.com, 613-232-6162.