Rapid Reviews – Edmonton Fringe 2021

It was nice to have the Edmonton Fringe Festival back this year… but sadly, the restrictions of the you-know-what were especially unforgiving towards theatre. I had plans to write an Impressions post for the festival like I did with Heritage Fest, but now just doesn’t feel like the best time. I want to cover the festival at its best, and this just wasn’t it. Next year, perhaps.

That being said, I still wanna talk about the Fringe. If not the festival itself, at least the shows I watched during its run time. However, I have neither the time nor energy to write a post for everything, not with 11 shows (6 live, 5 online) to cover, and the My Five Picks format isn’t well-suited to live theatre. That’s why I’ve made this new format, for rapid-fire reviews of multiple shows. Now then, here we go!

Live Shows


Macbeth takes the well-known Shakespearean tragedy and inventively explores the nature of power and leadership with an all-female cast of three. Edmonton’s Freewill Shakespeare Festival is at the Fringe for the first time in their 32-year history bringing this exciting new adaption to the stage.

Of the six shows I watched in-person, this one was my personal favorite. It’s a fun interpretation of a Shakespearian classic, the costumes are creative, and the audience interaction is a neat twist. I don’t really have anything negative to say about the show, that’s how much I liked it.

5/5 – Pristine Condition

The 11 O’Clock Number: The Improvised Musical

Grindstone’s award winning improvised musical comedy! Based on suggestions from the audience, the cast improvises a brand new musical on the spot, complete with twisting plots and showstopping numbers. 4.5 stars “Hilarious! The show left me laughing uncontrollably!” Edmonton Journal. Best-Of-Fest Orlando Fringe- Official Selection NYC Musical Improv Festival.

A staple Fringe show, this one never fails to impress. An entire musical, improvised on the spot with only a few audience prompts? I can’t even imagine the level of skill you’d need to pull that off. If you’re a fan of improv, this show is a must-see.

5/5 – Pristine Condition

Win The Warrior: A King Arthur Tale

Written by Edmonton’s own beloved playwright Ellen Chorley (Princess Confidential, The Fairy Finders), Win the Warrior is the story of a young girl who discovers the magic of the King Arthur stories on an adventure to the UK with her father. Filled with fights, physicality and fun, Win the Warrior is perfect for kids and adults of all ages.

This play wasn’t originally on my watch-list, but my volunteer schedule brought me to the right place & time, so here it is… and yeah, I was pleasantly surprised. The actors were super expressive, and the acting really pulled me into the stories of King Arthur. I just wish I could’ve gotten a better seat.

5/5 – Pristine Condition

I Hope Nothing Bad Happens: A Sketch Show

Award-winning comedian Jon Blair takes you on a trip along the edge of disaster (but in like a fun way), in this catastrophic collection of one-man sketches, eccentric characters and hilarious plot twists that poke fun at the ways we react in the face of life’s chaos. It’ll be fine!

I generally had a good time with this one. Jon Blair is indeed a good actor, and all of his sketches were funny. I especially liked the Scatman Ouija Board and Top 500 Hats sketches. However, the music at times was too loud, drowning out Jon’s voice.

Also, the venue didn’t have good social distancing measures in place. This also applies to The 11 O’Clock Number to some extent, but it was noticeably worse with this show.

3/5 – In Need of Repair

LightningCloud Presents “BEAR GREASE”

Do you think Grease is the word? Check out the brand new craze BEAR GREASE. Hip hop duo LightningCloud bring you a Treaty 6 Indigenous twist to the classic musical. Come with your singing voice ready to roll for this hilarious night of hip hop and Indigenized musical theatre.

I wouldn’t say I’m that into hip-hop, but the concept of an Indigenous parody of Grease caught my attention, so I gave this one-night-only performance a look-see. It was certainly creative, and I loved the improvised rap introduction and the “where are they now”-style credits.

I do have to wonder though… did something happen behind the curtains? Without the gang war and street race of the original Grease, this play’s ending felt oddly abrupt, and the play ran half an hour shorter than advertised. Still though, I enjoyed it.

4/5 – Wear and Tear

2 Sherlock Holmes Adventures

The game’s afoot! The 2018-2019. cross-Canada hit returns! Two of the most-seasoned Fringe vets (Kenneth Brown and John Huston) perform two of Conan Doyle’s best-loved stories. An ideal show for Sherlock lovers! “The packed house and your correspondent loved it” (Alan Kellog, Edmonton)

Though I’d read neither “The Red-Headed League” nor “The Speckled Band” beforehand, I had a general comprehension of this play’s proceedings through my previous readings of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works. However, with the two actors constantly changing their roles, the narrative was admittedly challenging to follow. Nevertheless, dear reader, it was indubitably an enjoyable experience, of that I can assure you.

4/5 – Wear and Tear

Online Shows

MURDER HE WROTE: A Dickens of an Hour

Murderer haunted to death! Honeymoon cannibal horror!! Tabloid trash? NO! Charles Dickens! The sold out 1993 hit returns. As originally performed by Charles Dickens: “The Murder of Nancy”, & “Captain Murderer”. “…damn good….” Edge, New York City***** “…brings all the glorious bloodthirsty delights of Dickens to life.” Edmonton Journal*****

This one is my favorite among the shows I watched online. This man’s voice is so well suited for dramatic readings, and he keeps your attention hooked the entire time. Also, it’s hard to go wrong with the works of Charles Dickens.

5/5 – Pristine Condition

Gordon’s Big Bald Head: MasterThief Theatre

After emerging from their respective hidden lairs across the world, Fringe favourites Jacob Banigan, Mark Meer, and Ron Pederson merge to form GORDON’S BIG BALD HEAD! Watch in awe as these comedy cutpurses pilfer somebody else’s intellectual property and improvise their own version! ***** Edmonton Journal ***** National Post

Another Fringe staple, the mad-lad men of Gordon’s Big Bald Head just straight-up steal the synopsis of another Fringe show and act out a bootleg version of it. Need I say more?

5/5 – Pristine Condition


The Sterling Award winning team behind Silent Words returns with their new show, Deafy. Join Deaf public speaker Nathan Jesper as he takes the audience on an unexpected journey of discovering what it really means to belong. Performed in ASL, English and surtitles.

This play was simply riveting. You don’t often think about what it would truly mean to be deaf, do you? Well, this play takes you through the struggles of living without hearing, from the words and expressions of a deaf man.

I will say that the CC subtitles are way too small in full-screen mode and on mobile devices. This could make the play difficult to watch for those who are visually impaired (if that’s not ironic, I don’t know what is), but I can only fault the video player for this.

5/5 – Pristine Condition

The Sketchcronomicon

Join local comedians, The Debutantes, as they delve into the cursed pages of the most eldritch and hilarious tome of sketch comedy to ever exist: The Sketchcronomicon! Will they complete their dark ritual and unleash the cosmic embodiment of laughter itself? And if they do, will the world survive?

Ah, existential dread… it’s a fear of mine, yet at the same time a subject of interest. Funny how that works, eh? While not exactly a man of sound mind, H. P. Lovecraft was a master of this and other eldritch imaginings. As a parody of the Cthulhu Mythos, this play works pretty well, but its humor is very hit-and-miss for me.

3/5 – In Need of Repair

FOR SCIENCE! On Sabbatical

What happens when the Professor and the Lab Assistant go on summer sabbatical? KITTENS! A 15 min film with ALL NEW experiments based on the 2018/19 hit show FOR SCIENCE! Official holdover Edmonton Fringe, ***** Edmonton Journal, ***** Vue Magazine. http://www.smallmatters.ca

The shortest ‘show’ by far, this short film is only 15 minutes long. Okay, this is really pushing the limits of what can be considered theatre, and I’ve never seen any Fringe show run under 30 minutes… but it’s got adorable kittens, so I can’t complain.

4/5 – Wear and Tear

Before you click away, one final note:

All these online shows and more will still be available to access on Fringe TV until the end of this month (you don’t even need to be Canadian!), so if you’d like to watch some entertaining acts, or you want to directly support the theatre industry, this would be a good way to do it!