Photo: Sandy Nicholson.
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Fringe20 anniversary series celebrates 20 years of theatre with Giant Invisible Robot

This fall, the Ottawa Fringe Festival, which is a part of a worldwide indie theatre movement, is marking its 20th anniversary by bringing back its most eclectic shows to the Ottawa stage.

Presented Oct. 68 at the Arts Court Theatre, the festival specializes in theatre art and this month’s shows of choice included Giant Invisible Robot and the one-woman absurdist comedy Joe: The Perfect Man.  

Patrick Gauthier, director of the Ottawa Fringe Festival, University of Ottawa alumnus, and part-time professor at the school’s Department of Theatre, explained the meaning behind the Fringe20 Series as well as the choices of productions for the fall season.

“Fringe20 is a celebration of 20 years of our Fringe Festival,” said Gauthier. “So, what we’re doing is we’re bringing back (a bunch) of old shows that were hits from past years.”   

One of the perennial favourites on display this month is Giant Invisible Robot, which first hit the stage in 2007 and has won multiple awards since then.

Written and performed by award-winning playwright Jayson McDonald, this story takes audiences on a journey of the solemn friendship between a shy young boy named Russel and his imaginary giant robot companion.  

“They grow up together, they suffer the slings and arrows of life,” said McDonald. “They take it out on entire cities—death and destruction wherever they go. But it’s comedy. It’s a lighthearted approach to death and mayhem.”

And certainly, there’s no doubt about the production’s comedic approach, as McDonald was quick to impress his audience with the dynamic character impersonations such as a quirky scientist and an uptight general.  

Despite the minimalistic set, the lighting and cartoon sound effects created by McDonald, the show offered nothing but pure enjoyment for his audience.

As the writer and the actor of a Fringe production, McDonald spoke with the Fulcrum about why Giant Invisible Robot’s one-man show format offers him an unlimited degree of creative freedom.

“I wrote the piece and I’ve (been) performing it since 2006. Being the writer and the performer means I can change whatever I want, whenever I want. I still really enjoy performing it.”

With Giant Invisible Robot coming back to Ottawa after almost a decade, Gauthier believes that McDonald’s performance has certainly become stronger over time.

“The first show was in 2007 and now we’ve come back to it nine years later,” said Gauthier. “It’s a more confident show now and a more mature show. And Jayson, he has grown as an actor and the performance has gotten stronger.”

Even though Giant Invisible Robot is a one-man show performed on an intimate stage, the eccentric characters within the production brought the performance to a greater level.  

“It’s a great way to spend an hour. It’s fun, ” said McDonald. “It’s got an emotional nucleus. You’ll go away feeling … really satisfied.”

While the Fringe20 series remains to be a beaming success of timeless favourites, and you can catch all the classics at the Arts Court from November 2016 to May 2017.

For a full list of Fringe20’s upcoming shows, please visit their official website.