Monday, August 16, 2004

Fringe Day 5, Part 1 - August 10, 2004, 5:30pm

The Swimmer
Anne Dimock
Acadia Cafe

My first and only trip to the Acadia for Fringe viewing this year, it was well worth it. But it did present some acting challenges for the performer, which I think she handled admirably. Some artists might be unsettled by the constant clatter of the coffeeshop just outside the stage doors, or the repeated footsteps of people in the offices above tromping about. Anne Dimock, to her credit, was so focused on her story that we remained focused, too.

This is some of the best kind of theatre - back to basics. A single person onstage in a blackbox space, no fancy effects or special lighting, the simplest of costumes and for the set only a place to occasionally sit down. This was all about performer and language and both were of high quality. It was gratifying to see that this little show in a little space had still managed to attract a nearly full house of attentive listeners.

In relating the personal specifics of her battle with breast cancer, Anne Dimock hits on the universal. The fears and hopes that she has, we, too, have. The generous helpings of humor, both light and dark, and the knowledge we have as she leads us into the tale that she has in fact survived and still stands before us, help make a difficult journey one that we are willing to embark upon. The fact that the tale is being told at all is itself a symbol of hope. And she doesn't just speak to the women in the audience. She addresses the men who are present as well, and tries to equate these losses and shifts in identity to something we, too, could comprehend. The inclusiveness of the storytelling is also something to be admired.

Two stories are stand-outs - the way in which Anne deals with breaking the news of the cancer to her pre-teen daughter (including taking her out to buy her first training bra), and the tales of a special dress and the milestones it encompasses in her life (milestones that now include this battle with cancer).

If I have a quibble with the piece at all, it is merely a matter of staging, and then only a small one. There were a number of points when the performer left the stage to effect a costume change that seemed, in retrospect, as if they didn't need to be hidden. I'm not suggesting the actress disrobe on stage, but every time she stopped and left, some of the momentum of the story was lost. I would have liked to remain continuously in her company, speaking even as she was transforming herself from one look to another. It's to her credit it that I neither wanted nor needed a break from her story or the storyteller.

Overall, this solo show was the type of experimenting the Fringe supports best - giving an artist a chance to try something new and perhaps for them a little terrifying, and providing that opportunity in the safest of environments - with low risk financially, and the most enthusiastic of audiences to cheer one on. Kudos all around. I look forward to seeing Anne Dimmock take the stage again.

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