Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Victoria Fringe Fest performers tackle personal issues through performances

August 16, 2017 by Elias Orrego, contributing writer

“Be prepared for anything and everything in between.” These are the words of stand-up comedian Mark Hughes, who will be presenting a solo performance, Tragedy + Time Served = Comedy, at this year’s Victoria Fringe Festival. Hughes says his show is “dramatic storytelling with comedy very, very heavily peppered in.”

“In my stand-up, I get in trouble for my jokes a lot, and people ask, ‘Mark, why would you even think that’s funny? How could you find something like that funny?’ This is where it all came from, in the show: spending time on the street as a heroin addict, spending a third of my life in prison, I’m a survivor of sexual abuse… Being a bank robber. Absolutely, 100 percent true. Sometimes people think that I made it up. Nope, nope, nope.”

Hughes says that Tragedy + Time Served = Comedy has been received well among people in recovery, people with mental health issues, and former inmates, but he says that the show isn’t only written for those people. He says it’s also for the person who has no problems and just wants to hear an interesting story.

Mark Hughes is bringing his solo comedy performance, Tragedy + Time Served = Comedy, to this year’s Fringe (photo provided).

“I didn’t want it to be just for—for lack of a better term—marginalized groups,” says Hughes. “I want it to be accessible to anyone. I think I’m able to get it across and I think I’ve written it in such a way that even if you’ve never done anything I’ve done, the core human experience, the baseline thing that’s universal to all, is there: feelings of alienation, loneliness. The details are different but underneath it all, it’s the same.”

Diane Barnes, another of this year’s solo performers, says that the unique setting of Fringe suits her performance, My Stroke of Luck, which she has performed at other Fringe festivals.

“The Fringe audiences are, ‘I’m up for anything. What’s this one? Is it funny? Okay. Is it clowns? Okay. Magic? Okay!’ It’s different, you know,” Barnes says.

Fringe, which started 70 years ago in Edinburgh, still follows its founding principles of openness and spontaneity, which help to make it so enjoyable and popular today.

“Fringe is different because it’s kind of random, right? You apply and maybe you get in, and maybe you don’t,” says Barnes. “It’s un-curated, which is fun. It means all sorts of things that have to get past the gatekeeper can be seen. In many places they couldn’t get past the gatekeeper.”

As a retired medical doctor, Barnes brings a unique perspective to the stage. She was a diagnostic radiologist until she had a stroke; after that, she was in rehab—and out of work—for a year. When she got back to work, she realized after a few years that her heart wasn’t in it anymore.

“I had realized this really doesn’t feel the same because, you know, I’m a lot different than I was before,” she says. “I found I was much more wanting to engage with other people. Being a radiologist, we consult other doctors, but we’re doctors to doctors, so we basically sit in a dark space and analyze images all day and make dictations and occasionally pick up the phone and talk to people and occasionally go in and ask a patient about something and then the technician generates the study. I found that just wasn’t the way I wanted to work anymore. So I started looking around. I took an improv class called Show Up for Your Life. I thought, ‘Well, if I don’t show up now, when will I ever?’”

Victoria Fringe Festival
Wednesday, August 23 to Sunday, September 3
Various prices and venues
intrepidtheatre.com

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