The Toronto Fringe Festival (Fringe), which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, is an annual celebration of all the wacky, heartfelt, and profound artistry that Toronto has to offer. With a staggering array of 148 shows — including buskers, bands, and visual artists — Fringe is a two-week-long art bonanza that is a staple of Toronto summers.

Trying to whittle down the shows to a manageable number to review, we decided to focus on what really seems to make  Fringe unique: the strange and unpredictable. Two shows that stood out this year were Fracture and Erotic Tales of the Old Testament.

Fracture is a modern dance production put on by the Good Women Dance Collective from Edmonton. Featuring two pieces,  “POD” and  “Shatterstate,” this dance troupe uses contemporary dance as a medium to explore relationships. While “Shatterstate” provided a fun and whimsical approach to the feeling of déjà vu, “POD” was the highlight of the show. This act conjured an image of a living organism that separated into two entities struggling to leave behind the safety of their home environment. A crumpled, opaque plastic sheet covering the stage opened the piece, pulsing with both light and the movements of the dancers within. The futuristic yet animal-like soundtrack served to heighten the eerie, corporal feeling evoked by the piece. With raw emotions and refined dance steps, “POD” bared the most primal instincts of human beings on stage, reminding us of our ever-present connection with the animal kingdom.

Erotic Tales of the Old Testament, a raunchy burlesque show purporting to  display the strength of the female characters whose names the Bible besmirched, took on a completely different tone. Although the lead narrator was a weak link, the show overall was a resounding success. Performed in the open courtyard of St. George the Martyr Anglican Church, audience members reclined on the grass, savouring a seemingly endless supply of grapes while being serenaded by a violin. Featuring burlesque acts interspersed with a musical number and a magician’s tricks, this performance far surpassed the realm of entertainment. Vivacious and bawdy, the dancers brought into focus the otherwise taboo topic of sexuality in the Old Testament, attempting to make the audience understand that in the right hands, sex is just another tool to attain power.

The Toronto Fringe Festival runs until July 14, 2013. 

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