Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Oliver the fringe

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It's not a typical boy-meets-girl story. David Ladderman and Lizzie Tollemache were both theatre performers in Christchurch, New Zealand. But then the theatres they worked in were destroyed in the 2010 earthquake that levelled much of the city.

"We went from quite a cushy life to not having anywhere to perform," Tollemache says.

In that year the city was supposed to be part of an arts festival that happens once every two years. Tollemache and Ladderman were supposed to be performing Macbeth, but with every venue and most of the city in disarray, it looked as if the festival wouldn't happen. But instead of cancelling, Macbeth became a post-apocalyptic version of the Scottish play, which they performed on the rubble of an old bar.

"The whole town was living in those conditions. We had no power, we had no water. We spent our evenings with one another around open fires... and that's how we did the show," Ladderman said.

"We ate, drank, and smoked, live onstage, over actual open fires," Tollemache said.

They've since moved to performing around the world with fringe shows. Both Ladderman and Tollemache are in a Shakespeare-inspired play called Battle of the Bastards, based on King Lear. The play, Tollemache said, is inspired by "Shakespeare's biggest bastard," Edmund.

The play was in some ways inspired by their makeshift performance in New Zealand.

"We have to leave this town, we have to go somewhere where we can work, so we have to tour with minimum stuff... so let's do a show that can fit into a gym bag," Tollemache says.

In addition to the play, Ladderman does a ladder act, from which he takes his stage name. Tollemache also has a busking act she performs on the streets. A few hours a day she becomes a "coin-operated girl" -- which means she stands on the corner, dressed like a clown doll, perfectly still, until someone activates her by throwing money into her hat.

"When I decided I was going to start busking, I didn't want to do an all-black, all-white, all-silver statue thing. And when I was little, I really loved red dolls, so I thought, why not," Tollemache says.

And some good came out of the disaster that destroyed their hometown: Tollemache and Ladderman started dating after they met each other around the ruined buildings they used as stages.

"I don't wish it on anyone, but I'm not sorry we lived through it," Ladderman says.

-- -- --

DAY 4: Saturday's fringe numbers attained a new daily record for indoor attendance, according to executive director Chuck McEwen: 10,138 tickets were sold. Of the 130 performances, 18 were sellouts.

oliver.sachgau@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 22, 2013 D5

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