Another year, another Fringe. Unlike 2006, when I had the benefit of a Fringe pass thanks to my assistance with the festival’s website, this year I was on my own. I only saw a few shows, but I had a very satisfying experience and saw some great shows, including one which has been selected for the upcoming “Pick of the Fringe”! My Fringeing got underway with a bang on Thursday the 6th when Scott Ashton Swan put the word out that free tickets were available for “Hot Pink Bits”, a bit of fun and naughtiness performed by New Zealander Peggy Ashton. Scott was actually billeting Peggy at his place during her stay here for the Fringe (an arrangement the festival sets up for many if not most Fringe performers). Despite the 11:45-on-a-weeknight start time, I jumped at the chance, and was rewarded with a very funny and entertaining show. In her character of “Hot Pink”, Peggy not only kept us laughing with cheeky humour and some clever songs, but even provided fun facts and trivia about the global sex industry – including some uniquely Canadian contributions! The phrase “audience participation” strikes fear into the heart of many, but not me – I’m usually happy to end up on stage any way I can! This time though, I was a little anxious due to the “adult” nature of the show, but I needn’t have worried. I correctly answered a couple of her “game show” questions… and sprang up to briefly dance with her during her closing musical number, performed amongst the crowd. The real audience participation role, however, was a “stripper dance” where an audience member was outfitted with cowboy garments (all in shades of pink), and asked to do their best stripper routine as they removed them. I wouldn’t have minded being picked for this, but I was also quite happy to simply watch as the guy she selected put on an impressive peformance! One might think he’d been practicing a long time for this moment…On Saturday I returned to Granvile Island to enjoy “Rainer Hersch’s Victor Borge”. It was everything I look for in a Fringe show – great humour blended with a compelling story including both comic and serious elements… and music! This British comedian masterfully brought the great musical comedian Victor Borge to life on the small Performance Works stage, and also told (as himself) two stories: the fascinating life story of Borge, who escaped the Nazi occupation of his native Denmark and changed his name, and became a sensation in America; and his own tale of performing comedy, being compared to Borge, a man he’d not even heard of at that point, then learning about and eventually meeting him. I didn’t return to the Fringe until Friday night, the 14th, when I tried to cover both ends of the religious-comedic scale by catching “Get Off the Cross, Mary!” (blasphemous puppet slags the Catholic church) and “So Kiss Me Already, Hershcel Gertz!” (Jewish girl experiences angst, trauma and romance at religious summer camp). First order of business was to locate Club Fringe, the central hangout where I could kick back, read and enjoy a hot beverage while people-watching and waiting for tickets for the first show to go on sale. It turned out to be a fortunate choice: this casual spot, full of comfy couches, was also the location of the nightly “talk show” called It’s Good To Know People. And even better, it’s FREE! As I was waiting for that to start, who should take a seat next to me but the tough-talking puppet Fluffy 10th Street, and her operator Tara Goerzen (who I’d actually met, along with her husband, at a party last year – small world!) I stayed in this celebrity company as long as possible, then dashed off to line up for my first show of the evening. Alas – I was too late. The mere pittance of at-the-door tickets were gone in a flash. So naturally I ran back to Club Fringe to catch more of “It’s Good To Know People” – which featured not only Fluffy but also performers from Flamenco Confusion (hip-hop flamenco!), If Tap Shoes Could Talk (Gene Kelly meets Seinfeld!) and much more. I shot some video – check out the highlights below. Finally it was time to head for the Playwrights’ Theatre Centre down the road for Amy Solloway’s wonderful show about summer camp. She is a charming stage presence and a masterful storyteller who brought her tale and characters wonderfully to life. This was actually a shortened version of her show, but luckily she was chosen as a “Pick of the Fringe” and will be presenting the full 70-minute version September 20, 21 and 22 at the Waterfront Theatre. I plan to go! While waiting for Amy’s show to start, I even ran into local accordionist Geoff Berner. My Fringeing came to a close last night with “If Tap Shoes Could Talk”. Here’s a summary from their own site: “If Tap Shoes Could Talk follows the paths of four distinct, colorful New Yorkers, whose lives interweave and are transformed by chance encounters with dance. Jane, a young performer, freshly arrived in the city, rehearses and perfects her tap dance skills in her apartment. Across the courtyard her eccentric neighbor Smith envies Janeâ€™s freedom to dance and enjoy the metropolis while he spends his days working from home at the computer. Elsewhere, we see Sarah, Smithâ€™s assistant, and Robert, a college professor, as they fall in love during an evening out that culminates in a magical moment on the platform of the subway. Watching Robert teach his creative writing class we gain insight into New York and the lives of its residents through excerpts of E.B. Whiteâ€™s famous essay Here is New York.” It was marvelous. All in all, a fantastic Fringe. Even though I only saw a limited number of shows – they were ALL winners!