Fringe Festivals happen all summer around the world – from the world’s largest event in Edinburgh, Scotland, to the delightfully unique one right here in Nanaimo.
What is a fringe festival you may ask? It’s a kind of free-wheeling show brought to you by theatre troupes from around the world. They each bring their own combo of stage talents – actors, musicians, comedians and storytellers – to the masses in hilarious, and at times, absurd ways. There’s also plenty of opportunity for audience participation in the shows.
Nanaimo’s 10-day festival happens Aug. 10-19, at three locations: Port Theatre, Vancouver Island Conference Centre and Harbour City Theatre. The shows explore everything from the fall of the Berlin Wall during the Cold War, using sock puppets and slam poetry, to a musical sendup defining big life events where the audience gets to play DJ.
When you’re not being entertained by humans dressed as beavers in Beaver Dreams or splitting your sides during the comedic play Terror on the High Seas, check out some other out-of-the-ordinary things to do in Nanaimo. Here are five suggestions:
See the seaplanes
It’s not every city that can boast the idyllic sight of seaplanes gliding off the water and into the air or landing with a delicate splash on its harbour front. But it’s a daily occurrence in Nanaimo, also called the Harbour City. Enjoy the day exploring the waterfront, watching people catch crabs or fishing (maybe try it yourself!) or zip off in their motor boats or a kayak for a blissful day on the ocean. Along the waterfront, you’ll find many places to enjoy a coffee or ice cream or just soak up the island vibe.
Music lovers’ must-see
Audiophiles will love checking out the vast collection of Fascinating Rhythm on Commercial Street in downtown Nanaimo. Looking for that oldie but goodie you loved from your high school days? You’re sure to find it at this locally owned shop that sells everything from the latest releases on CD to electric guitars, collector edition vinyl records and – wait for it – 8-track cassettes.
More theatre, please
The Port Theatre is one of the three venues for shows during the Fringe Festival, but it’s also a place to take in some truly original, sometimes naughty, bawdy and off-beat performances and plays beyond the fringe season. The theatre’s OFFstage Lobby Theatre Series is just the place to get a big helping of comedic cynicism, racy performances or poignant storytelling told in daring ways.
Chill at the Vault Café
The lived-in look of the vintage velvet furniture, worn wood tables and chairs and fringed lampshades give this popular café its comfy, stay awhile feel. It makes it the perfect place to rest for a coffee and a bite after a morning of exploring Nanaimo’s downtown. The food and atmosphere at the former bank (hence the name) leans to retro casual. When you’re ready to order, step up to the counter and choose from a generous selection of comfort foods written on the blackboard menu. Specialties include daily house-made soups, wraps, specialty coffees and a big ’ol burger.