In his wisdom, the Great and Wise Vladimir Putin (democratically-elected leader of the free world) has dispatched Vasily Djokavich: Russia’s #1 State Approved Comedian on a cultural exchange to the Toronto Fringe Festival. He has brought many laughs, many tears, and also possibly potato! (There is not actually potato: is old Russian joke!)
You need to know precisely two things about Vasily: firstly, it’s all schtick. Russian drag, sort of halfway between the cold war and the terrors of modern Russia. It’s very, very good schtick, but it’s schtick, and if you’re one of those people who doesn’t care for it, you’re gonna hate this show.
You also need to know that Morgan Cranny (the performer) deals in anti-humour, digging his laughs out of irony, runaway stories, surrealism, and confounding audience expectations. His brand of it is peculiarly accessible, and it’s of the highest quality, but it’s something many people will find an acquired taste — if they can acquire it at all.
But at opening night, he had us in stitches: it’s difficult to describe his set without spoiling it, but I was especially drawn to a scene about Yelp, a lengthy chunk of audience participation, and any moment he had an opportunity to improvise.
If there’s a problem with this show, it’s the ending: it’s not bad, but after spending the entire show continually ratcheting up the investment and complexity of his act, to have it come down as it does is a bit disappointing.
You wouldn’t know it from the sound of people leaving the theatre, though: this is one of those performances where people quote favourite lines and bits to each other all the way down the stairs and into the street. One of the best stand-ups I’ve seen at Fringe in ages: say “Da” to Vasily Djokavich!
- Vasily Djokavich: Russia’s #1 State Approved Comedian plays at the Factory Mainspace. (125 Bathurst St.)
- Tickets are $12. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Scadding Court, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Content Warning: Audience Participation.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible through a secondary route.
- Thursday July 6th, 08:45 pm
- Saturday July 8th, 11:00 pm
- Sunday July 9th, 04:45 pm
- Monday July 10th, 05:30 pm
- Wednesday July 12th, 01:45 pm
- Friday July 14th, 09:15 pm
- Saturday July 15th, 07:30 pm
Photograph of Morgan Cranny by Justin Carter.