The Illumination of the Grumpy Guitarist: clowns and cabaret at Fringe Festival

Check out this inventive cabaret at the Vancouver Fringe Festival.

Credit: Jer and Joy Productions

The Illumination of the Grumpy Guitarist is Fringe Fest at its best (and quirkiest)


The show has “evolved,” as co-producer Joy Ong so delicately puts it. Though the production started off as a study of love and opposites (with a vaguely linear narrative), a family emergency and near-cancellation has transformed The Illumination of the Grumpy Guitarist into a cabaret spectacular instead. Hey—it’s a Fringe show. Spontaneous cabarets are par for the course.

The Illumination of the Grumpy Guitarist


Revue Stage on Granville Island


1585 Johnston Street, Vancouver


September 8 – 18


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Whether there will actually be a “guitarist” per se is unclear, but the show is sure to illuminate grumpy audience members at the very least, with a wild mix of song, dance and eccentric characters.


No room for grumps at this Fringe Festival cabaret

“It’s going to be a great variety show,” smiles Kat Single-Dain, the show’s choreographer. She’s a longtime member of East Van’s Dusty Flowerpot Cabaret, an artist collective that’s been meeting since 2006 to stage quirky theatre events—like Depression-era dance marathons—and foster creative community.


Single-Dain is co-producing Grumpy Guitarist with Joy and Jer Productions, and the Dusty Flowerpot influence is evident.


“There’s swing-dancing, live music, something for everyone really. It’s light and comedic,” Single-Dain says. “It’s loosely based around the original plot”—a comedy about a bubbly girl trying to change her gloomy boyfriend’s show—“but the show will be made of smaller feature pieces, too.” There will also be plenty of clowning.


Clown around at The Illumination of the Grumpy Guitarist

This isn’t your red-nosed, big-shoe-wearing, tiny-car-riding clown of yore. No, the clowning in Grumpy Guitarist is modern, bold, silly and doesn’t inspire a single It flashback. Today’s clowning is really just expressive character acting—no squirting flower required.


“Clowning is about characterization and parody. And with clowning, there’s no fourth wall,” says Single-Dain. “Acting is the idea that you can’t see the audience, and the audience can’t see you. The Fringe Festival has a tradition of addressing audience directly, and having a conversation through performance.”


Though the Dusty Flowerpot Collective have done the Fringe circuit in Montreal before, this will be the group’s first time performing in the Vancouver event, and it marks the public debut of Grumpy Guitarist.


These last minute changes to the performance might rattle some players, but the actors in Grumpy know the show must always go on.


“It’s what we do all the time: dancing, moving, puppetry, comedy; we’re using what we know, and can’t worry too much about it,” explains Single-Dain.


What do they know? Entertainment. Audiences. Jokes. Whatever becomes of the show may turn out to be as much of a surprise to the performers as it will be to the audiences, but it’s sure to be an exciting result.


The Illumination of the Grumpy Guitarist runs September 8 through 18 at the Revue Stage on Granville Island. Tickets are $10-$12. Ten percent of the proceeds will go to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society.