The Vancouver International Fringe Festival saw over 700 acts play all over the vibrant city, and even though there were so many theatre and musical events I wanted to attend, I knew it would be an impossible feat due to busy schedule constraints. I made a deal with myself however, to see at least three acts throughout the festival. It was suggested to me that I go see Pump Trolley Comedy, and being a Comedy Fanatic I immediately decided I was going to make my way to the Cultch to check it out.
As I took my seat in the intimate little theatre at the Cultch, I suddenly became a little apprehensive as to how I would feel about Pump Trolley Comedy. I had been so looking forward to the show all week and had built up such high expectations, what if the cast of PTC didn’t quite meet them? Being an Irish lady who is a fan of outstanding Irish Comedians such as Tommy Tiernan, Dylan Moran and Dara O’Brien, and having lived in Vancouver for quite some time now, I have come to realise that when comparing Canadian humour to Irish humour, at times the differences can be worlds apart. This is the case both ways I suspect, as friends I have made here do not find my sense of humour at all funny and I receive blank stares after I proceed to tell a joke. (I mean honestly, I’m hilarious…. right? Ha… Ha.)
My concerns were completely unnecessary. The opening scenes saw a young female teacher (Tegan Verheul) going through the Alphabet with her class (The Audience). In a booming, cheerful voice laced with falsity, Verheul recited a poem about all 26 letters using usual examples from A is for Apple to Z is for Zebra. What set this rendition apart from the version I’m sure ever school going child has had drilled into their young minds, was how through gritted teeth she used the letters to tell a story about how her husband had cheated on her, even calling one of his mistresses “Queen of the Whores” towards the end of the recital. Her stint had the 20 something audience members, including myself howling with laughter.
The acts that followed were equally hilarious, including a Poker game which saw two men raise the stakes by gambling everything from their money to their wives, to their very own lives. We were introduced to unusual characters such as Sunflowers as we watched them come to life as they broke through the earth to the day they wilted, hilariously documenting their experience. A grandfather gets his grandchildren into trouble, as although they successfully (but not without some internal difficulty) avoid temptation by leaving the forbidden brownies alone, grandfather eats one and the children are blamed. Another sketch tells the tale of a couple from the future who go baby shopping and end up creating a monster baby as they just cannot decide on what kind of child they really want.
During the hour long series of comedy sketches, there were 2 in particular which almost had me in tears of laughter. The first was of a young man being interviewed for an executive position within a company. Nick Harvey-Cheetham, our quietly heroic interviewee sat under the intense gaze of his no-nonsense interviewers who fired a series of absurd questions at him about his impressive resume. They noted that he had been made Class President for Life at school, how he received the key to the city at a young age and about how as a toddler he had caught a paedophile through acting as bait to lure him to the police. Over the top questions included “If you were a tomato what type of tomato would you be?” and “What is your favourite sex position.” The questions which were fired quickly in staccato fashion at the young candidate never fazed him, and some of his answers were so utterly hilarious, this sketch also filled the little theatre with laughter from the audience.
My personal favourite act of the night was when a Wise Bear (Tom Hill) almost elegantly arrived on stage on all fours. Not knowing what to expect, I immediately erupted into fits of laughter when the bear stood up in front of the microphone and to the sound of inspiring infomercial-like background music, proceeded to give a motivational bear speech in a deep, classy Morgan Freeman type voice, in the hopes of imparting his years of wisdom to the younger more naive bear community. With a heavy sense of heartfelt duty, he advised that all bears should hibernate – this is the key to their success. He scolded them for eating garbage from the bins in North Vancouver and told them that female bears were rare. “If you find one, just f*ck it.” He paused in the middle of his speech and the music ceased as a young girl wandered out nearby onstage, humming to herself as she went. Without warning, Wise Bear viciously attacked and “ate” the young human, in a naturally animalistic manner. Once he had finished his unexpected meal, he stood back up in front of his audience, the music began once again and he continued to spread his worldly words of wisdom to all other bears.
Pump Trolley Comedy certainly lived up to my high expectations and I quite literally spent an entire hour grinning from ear to ear. Unfortunately the Vancouver Fringe festival has come to a close, but I would strongly advise – in a deep bear-like voice if I could – to keep an eye on this witty group’s website for future upcoming shows.