As I walk through the crowded Fringe Club in the now historic Honest Ed’s back alley, I see that I am caught between clowns, food stands, and actors basking in a tipsy, post-performance glow. I push my way through the most densely creative parking lot in Toronto to sit down with Laura Philipps, the Visual Fringe Coordinator, to discuss the ins and outs of what goes on at the Fringe Club.
What does the Visual Fringe actually consist of? As Philipps explains much of what goes on at the Fringe Club is actually part of Visual Fringe: merchandise, alley plays, buskers, art exhibits, and games all comprise the Visual Fringe.
(Keep reading for photos and more on the Visual Fringe)
The Visual Fringe is sort of like a miniature version of the Fringe Festival that operates at the heart of the main festival. With ideas ranging from brilliant to absurd, the Visual Fringe offers something for everyone – much like the shows in the festivals.
Some of the oddest ideas have proved to be the most interesting. One such exhibit, Always a Bridesmaid, displays old wedding dresses on canvases layered with plastic. This display is not only visually fascinating but also carries deeper messages about society and gender norms. As Laura Philipps explains, “it takes hetero-normative tropes and slashes them apart”.
One of the most unexpected combinations of concepts is the [x]static booth where you can play a game of chance to win a relic from the company’s past performances. The game they are using is on loan from the Science Centre and has been designed for statistical accuracy. The idea behind it is that success in theatre is often left to chance.
One of the most popular exhibits this year – and possibly the greatest invention since sliced bread – is Flip the Table. In this exhibit you receive a menu where you can choose the different options of items to put on the table before you flip it. Philipps explains that though it might appear dangerous, there are safety precautions and it’s in a controlled environment.
Philipps explains that Flip the Table is a great introduction to theatre for those who may not be so familiar with the Fringe Festival. You are given the opportunity to release your aggression or express your excitement. So no matter what mood you are in, you can unleash your emotions in a very theatrical way.
Some of the craziest things the Visual Fringe has encountered so far are guerrilla performances by external groups. Some of the alley plays or buskers have been disrupted by non-Fringe performers who want a part of the action. The Fringe performers, however, have learned to adapt to unpredictable conditions and have thrived off of the exciting energy of the club.
The Visual Fringe is an integral part of the overall festival allowing even the most unconventional artists to have the chance to take part in Toronto’s liveliest, quirkiest theatre festival.
Photos by Samantha Wu.