Skipping Stones Theatre’s “Life of Len” at the Windsor-Walkerville Fringe Festival

The Windsor-Walkerville Fringe provided another afternoon of exceptional theatre with Life of Len produced by Skipping Stones Theatre. This one man show starring Eric Branget follows Len through several of the highlights in his life. Most of these memories focus on his relationship with his brother, Jimmy, and how things change with each life event.

Branget plays Len from childhood to old age, and watching the transformations happen instantaneously was impressive in its seamlessness. From a young Len, obsessed with space travel and Flash Gordon, to an elderly man who can’t find anything (it may be lost in the 90’s) Branget adeptly navigates all of these situations and everything in between. We get to fully understand Len, and where some of his trouble-maker nature comes from (he didn’t mean to break the radio the second time, he swears), but also the great deal of hero worship he has for his brother, and how that translates to the choices he makes throughout his life.

One of the most ingenious elements to the play was how the other characters were represented on stage. Instead of talking to blank spaces and imaginary people, Branget uses household items to bring the other characters to life: Jimmy is a coatrack, Peter (Len’s son) an umbrella, and Pearl (Len’s wife) a lamp. Not only did these objects become something for Branget to play off of, they also provided opportunity for a great deal of comedy and were an unexpected but entertaining accent to the performance.

A personal favourite, and one of the more poignant memories, of the play was when Len decided to go and fight in World War Two. What’s normally depicted in such serious manner is made light as Len complains about his chores with his battalion and has shreds of maps all over his barracks. Yet in this levity we hear some of his most touching remarks about his brother; his presence in Len’s mind all too fresh and frequent despite the distance and trying circumstances. It was a beautiful moment, and really struck a chord for me.

The play ends with this beautiful playing with the phrase Please Play Again, the roll-up-the-rim result no one wants, but is a moving reminder of just how short life is and how the ones we love will always be there for us, one way or another.

There are only a few more chances to catch this awesome piece at the Olde Walkerville Theatre! July 28 at 1:15, and July 30 at 1. Don’t miss it!!

Drawing Board Production’s “Bedwetter” at the Windsor-Walkerville Fringe

Drawing Board Production’s latest creation, Bedwetter, depicts the real life trials and victories of Tamlynn Bryson, the co-creator and story-teller. Directed and co-created by Kyle Kimmerly, Bryson reflects on her childhood from ages seven to fifteen and what it feels like to have “accidents” even when entering into young womanhood.

What I loved the most about the piece was its breathtaking honesty. I can’t imagine what it must be like to talk about a difficult part of your past so openly with groups full of strangers every day. But Bryson fearlessly shares her story, and knowing that every element and emotion expressed in the play is true gives a gravity to the levity she’s able to make of the situation now. 

Part of that levity comes from the ability with which Bryson is able to switch from one character to another in her story. Her changes in physicality and voice that accompany each new personality create her world for us while showcasing the immense talent of the actress. Even Kimmerly gets in on the action, doing Goofy-cartoon style voiceover instructions for some of Bryson’s more trying sleepovers.


The pop culture references which were included in the show were very powerful; they showcase not only what is put out in the media about bedwetters, but also how inundated we are with those references and therefore what we’re supposed to think about them. The majority of them came from comedy shows, where the bedwetter was always the butt of the joke. It was especially impactful to hear them drown out Bryson’s own positive voice: a perfect example of how negative media affects us, no matter how loud we think that positive voice is. 

 And these perceptions changed so drastically over time for Bryson as well, going from being open and honest about her situation to hiding it from virtually everyone in her life. It was difficult to watch as her self-esteem is broken down little by little by characters she’s playing herself. But it so accurately depicted what it’s like being a teen who’s maybe a little outside of “normal” that everyone is able to connect to her story. 

You need to check out this hysterically self-referencial, moving, and engaging show at the Olde Walkerville Theatre July 26th at 1:15pm, July 27th at 7pm, July 28th at 5pm and July 29 at 3:45.

Photography: Corey Palmer

Photo Editing: Larissa Nodwell 

University Player’s “Blood Relations”

The University Player’s production of Blood Relations is a perfect play for this time of year. It’s spooky, thrilling and a perfect Hallowe’en treat! I saw the show with a friend of mine on October 30th, and we both had nightmares that night about people with axes! While it’s not gory at all, it’s like an Alfred Hitchcock movie; it’s not scary at the time, just later, when the lights are off and you’re all alone.

The first thing I noticed when I entered the theatre was the set. I loved all of the articles about the real Lizzie Borden that created the centerpiece of the set. It was amazing, and really made it hit home that this story was based on real events. And it helped to show the difference between the parlour and the dining room. But I loved the staircase and the couch, everything was so beautiful, and the fact that everything was black made the paper stand out all the more. The same can be said for the costumes. First of all, they were stunning. However what was interesting was the characters who wore white. It was only the real Lizzie Borden and her sister Emma who wore any hint of white, along with their Uncle, other than that everyone else was in black. I found it fascinating! Agatha Knelsen and David Court are a dream team, and the University is definitely lucky to have them!

The story itself was fascinating, with a fabulous frame narrative that makes the ending totally mind blowing (I won’t spoil, I promise). However the story would not have been nearly as entertaining if it hadn’t been acted so well. Vanessa Lancione and Breanna Maloney were particularly impressive. These two women shared the role of Lizzie Borden, and yet neither of them was off the stage for very long if at all. The amount of text and characters that they had to know for this play was amazing; their physicality was awesome, and they were truly wonderful. However this was definitely a big ensemble piece and the rest of the cast should not go without mention. Andrew Iles, Tamlynn Bryson, Duncan Rowe, Hayley Joy and Joseph Zita were all marvellous, some of them also having to inhabit multiple characters. But truly, the whole cast so expertly brought these people to life, making us try to understand the mind of the killer, and simultaneously make us feel bad for the poor woman who was driven to such desperate action.

One thing that I found particularly interesting that I wanted to analyze a little more deeply was the space itself. It’s very interesting to be in a very small theatre like the Studio for this show. The space makes a great difference in how we as the audience feel depending on the type of play. If the play is a comedy, then the audience very much so feels a part of the play, as the actors are apt to move through the audience and it feels like a very inclusive event, which is the overall goal of comedy. However, with tragedy or with a tense drama like Blood Relations, the small space has a very different effect. For me, I felt like I was trapped, especially during the second act when you know what Lizzie is going to do. With the space so small, you realize that the action of the play is merely feet away from you, which is fun…except for when someone is murdering someone else. Suddenly you realize there’s nowhere else to go, you must stay there and watch what happens, and there is not an easy way to distance yourself by saying “oh, but that’s up there, on stage, not here” when ‘here’ is only a few feet away from ‘there’.  Therefore I felt that this space worked so well for this play, and it certainly had the desired effect on me and my friend. I’ll never look at an axe the same way again!

There is still this weekend and one more weekend to catch this terrifying thriller! You can call the Box Office at 519-253-3000 x. 2808 or you can order tickets online at http://www.uwindsor.ca/universityplayers/61/box-office