Fringe review: Gordon’s Big Bald Head: Usurperman!

Gordon’s Big Bald Head: Usurperman!
Directed by the Hand of Fate; Rapid Fire Theatre Society; Varscona Theatre; until Sun., Aug. 25.
Our Score
Gordon’s Big Bald Head: Usurperman!

By Miya Abe

Long-time Fringe-goers know that Gordon’s Big Bald Head needs no introduction. The show is so popular, so enduring, it is back at the Edmonton Fringe Festival for its 25th year and has been held over in the past. For good reason, too; the concept is winning, the players are excellent alone and as an ensemble, and the show is absolutely hysterical.  

For those unaware, the show involves improv masters Jacob Banigan, Mark Meer, and Ron Pederson ‘usurping’ another Fringe show chosen by a random audience member, based on its synopsis in the festival’s program. In their opening performance at the 2019 Fringe Festival, Banigan, Meer, and Pederson took on “Check Me Out,” a play about a group of female friends working at a grocery store. With skill and lightning-quick, seamless ‘scene changes,’ they created a story about the female friends plotting a murder against their boss, another murder plot involving the store’s head office staff, and two stoned teenage boys who are slated to save the day. The show included appearances by Richard Nixon, the ghost of a character’s mother, an old man living under the floorboards of the store, and an armed robbery flashback—all weird, all ridiculous, all fitting into a mostly cohesive narrative arc that wrapped up in exactly one hour. 

Each of these talented actors brings something slightly different to the performance: Mark Meer has a commanding presence and injects clever references into the show, Pederson’s twisted sense of humour takes the story to unexpected and warped places, and Banigan’s facial expressions and characterizations are subtle and endearing. Together, and armed only with three chairs, a backdrop and some music, these three create long-form improvised magic that will hopefully return for another 25 Fringe Festivals.

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