Normally, it's not a good thing to make a festival director cry.
But when Vancouver Fringe Festival executive director David Jordan first saw the latest show by Fringe comedy legends Peter n' Chris – also writers for CBC's The Irrelevant Show – it was so funny, he couldn't hold back the tears.
"They're the darlings, and I think this is one of their best. It just had me crying," said Mr. Jordan of Here Lies Chris, a show that may or may not involve the death of Chris. "They do some of their usual antics, but they also do some really innovative stuff with the audience, and I love it."
The show is one of 108 on offer at this year's Fringe – the eclectic annual fest made up of un-juried, uncensored productions that are drawn from a hat, or chosen on a first-come, first-served basis.
The roster includes plenty of Fringe stars, including Vancouver favourite TJ Dawe, Mike Delamont – known the world over for his God is a Scottish Drag Queen series – and Wonderheads, which feature characters in wondrously expressive masks.
But Mr. Jordan recommends that Fringe goers also try out lesser-known shows, among them Israeli artist Roy Horovitz's My First Sony, about a child's obsessive documentation of the deterioration of his family; Chris & Travis, a high-energy improv comedy that promises to "entertain by any means necessary"; and Kathleen Duborg's Faroe Islands and Ostrich, which take place in a boardroom and involve two seminars – one on whale activism, and one on how to spin an oil spill.
The fest also features a series of site-specific video installations by eight emerging artists who, with mentorship from local theatre company The Only Animal, created pieces set in a Granville Island parking garage. In addition, organizers have introduced a new reading series for female playwrights, one of whom is Mom's the Word co-creator Jill Daum, whose husband, Spirit of the West singer John Mann, was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. Her new play explores their experience with the disease.
Known for its fun, informal atmosphere, the festival also offers the Fringe Bar, where theatre lovers can get the latest buzz on which shows are must-sees, rub elbows with Fringe performers and catch live music from DJs to singer-songwriters to a rock 'n' roll choir. They're even hosting a bona fide square dance, no experience necessary.
"It feels like somewhere in Europe," Mr. Jordan said. "It's tucked away on this cobblestone alley on Granville Island, and you walk in and go, 'Wow, where did all this coolness come from?' It's a really neat little scene."
The Vancouver Fringe Festival runs through Sept. 20 (vancouverfringe.com).