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The fabulous Fringe Fest returns to Victoria for a 31st year

Offbeat theatre productions impact audiences in various ways
Lana Schwarz from Melbourne, Australia performs in Lovely Lady Lump, one of a number of solo female performances scheduled in this year’s Victoria Fringe Festival. The 31st annual festival runs Aug. 23 through Sept. 3 at various venues. Photo contributed

Genevieve Nickel/News contributor

It’s a 12-day celebration of theatre and other performance arts that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

There won’t be a shortage of entertainment, not with the 31st Victoria Fringe Festival boasting 58 companies, 350 artists and 400 performances, many of which have multiple show dates. This is more than previous years, thanks to a new venue at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church on Douglas Street allowing for an extra seven shows.

Last year’s Favourite Ensemble of Fringe, Paper Street, is back with a new show, WAR: Improv is Hell.

Another returning favorite is SNAFU, who was a runner up for Fringe Favourite Visual/Puppetry in 2016 for the Little Orange Man. This year the company is performing a female solo show, Interstellar Elder.

Sammie Gough, producer of Fringe, is particularly excited for the female solo lineups “especially, Pamela Bethel, who will be performing After the Beep and Lana Schwarz performing Lovely Lady Lump,” she said.

Other shows featuring solo female artists at Fringe this year are Olive Copperbottom: A New Musical by Charles Dickens and Penny Ashton, Hyena Subpoena and A Woman’s Guide to Peeing Outdoors.

A new local must-see act is Fake Ghost Tours by Abdul Aziz and Shawn O’Hara. The pair originally intended the show to be for stand-up comedy, but the jokes were too site specific for an audience outside of Victoria.

“We met in old downtown Victoria and started getting a lot of material because Victoria is historic and touristy,” said Aziz. The show that bills itself as a “100-per-cent accurate and legitimate walking tour of Victoria’s most definitely haunted locations,” ensures hilarity.

Another new local show to look out for is Puente Theatre’s Gruff, performed on the waterfront at Macaulay Point Park in Esquimalt. It’s a puppet musical about what happens when the grass really is greener on the other side.

Last year 20,000 people attended the festival. Sean Guist, marketing and development manager for Intrepid Theatre, is happy to work on the business and organizational side of Fringe because it allows performers to really focus on the art.

“The best part of Fringe is to see the lineup at shows, hearing people’s reviews and seeing the magic unfold,” he said.

Unlike Uno Fest or OUTstages, which are also produced by Intrepid Theatre, shows selected for Fringe aren’t curated but chosen by a lottery system. Guist explains that 50 per cent of the festival lineup must be local content, 35 per cent national (which includes the U.S.) and 15 per cent international. Other than that, “We literally draw names from a hat.”

Entry fees are at the discretion of the artist and 100 per cent of revenue goes to performers. For more info, visit

Sneak Peek for Fringe plays

You never know quite what to expect at a Fringe festival: that’s probably why Wednesday’s (Aug. 23) Fringe Eve Preview in Centennial Square is so popular.

The “famous and infamous” show, set for Wednesday starting with performance at 5 p.m. (food trucks open for grub at 3), is an opportunity to sample different acts as nearly every performer tries to win you over with their two-minute acts. Grab some food and a drink, a highlighter and your program so you can take notes and remember your favourites.