Of the 41 theatre shows in the Fringe Festival, Uther Dean is going to see 38.
"The three I am not seeing, I physically cannot see."
It's no marathon effort for the writer and critic, who routinely sees more than 100 plays a year, and is therefore well-placed to call his picks of the Fringe.
The first that comes to mind is the puppet/live action fairytale, The Road That Wasn't There (February 12 till 17). Trick of the Light Theatre has a "really high pedigree", says Dean, and the play was staged in the Edinburgh Fringe to great acclaim. It's a good choice for families whose options are limited: "The Fringe tends to skew adult."
Speaking of which, Dean rates Put It In My Blowhole (February 21 till 24), "a pun-y comedy about mermaid sex that is also a really well-made play".
For the punter who "wants to veer slightly more experimental", Dean suggests the works of Binge Collective: The Whales (February 16), For Your Future Guidance (February 20 till 24) and Beep Test (March 4 till 9).
"The Whales is basically people pretending to be whales and getting people to help un-beach them on the waterfront," says Dean. "It's surprisingly less annoying than you'd think.
"Binge Culture do the Fringe really well because there's a sense of humour to everything they do."
But the Fringe is also an opportunity to see up-and-coming talent, and Dean recommends Rageface (February 19 till 23), the second work from young playwright Adam Goodall.
"It's about duality, to get thematic. It's about someone who works at a supermarket stacking shelves, but is also a big shot on an internet forum."
Dean is also looking forward to Freya Desmarais' show, Home: The Hilarious Comedy About How I Nearly Killed Myself (February 20 till 23). "It's someone telling a really interesting, really personal story, while working hard to avoid ‘theatre as therapy'."
Dean himself has written and directed A Play About Space (February 16 till 20) as part of the My Accomplice theatre company. He describes it as a "high spectacle, epic, Star Wars and Star Trek-style, sci-fi, action film" - on the stage.
But recommendations go only so far, and Dean says the Fringe is also about taking a chance.
"The best and the worst things I've ever seen have been in the Fringe.
"It's balanced by the fact that the tickets are usually substantially cheaper than normal, so it's there to take risks.
"You've just got to be prepared to be less angry if things are bad."
Information on these shows and more is at fringe.co.nz.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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