Fringe Festival Report
Part 2: June 10 to June 13
This year’s crop is rich and varied
By Luc Archambault
So, to continue with this amazing festival, here is what I had the opportunity to see:
L’imprévisible forme des corps aux lendemains de la vie
(Johanne Gour Danse)
Venue: Studio Multimédia du Conservatoire de Musique de Montréal
No language (dance)
It may sound harsh, but this is truly an amateurish show. In spite of the heavy-sounding title (the unpredictable form of bodies in life’s tomorrows), nothing in this choreography lends itself to such philosophical musings. We are left with an impression of young dancers, going through a dance class, and not a particularly good one. And this year’s dance shows are so few in numbers… only two! Why should we be indulgent and tolerate such a bad spectacle, whereas in previous years this Festival has had some of the year’s greatest dance shows in the city? Avoid this one, it’s a dud.
Venue: Salle Jean-Claude Germain, Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui
This particular gem deals with hoarding (syllogomania means compulsive accumulation). This is a clownesque approach to a psychological problem, dealt with great fun and inspiration. Never boring, with two of the most sympathetic performers of this year’s Fringe. But the language barrier will be harsh for English spectators…
SCUM: A Manifesto
(Scantily Glad Theatre)
Venue : Mainline Theatre
You remember the film I shot Andy Warhol? This is the same story, but told by two Saskatoon actresses. With strength and determination, a great text, a great show. Definitely a must-see this year. One of the more memorable shows so far.
(Beige Theatre Co.)
Venue: Montreal Improv theatre A
This one involves a Jewish lawyer who is assigned as legal aid to a young neo-Nazi skinhead charged with murder. We see the length of their relation, from the first meeting till the after-sentencing. It is a testimony to tolerance, to difficult but necessary opening-up to divergent points of views, to redemption and human solidarity. Poignant, and very well acted. Once again, a must-see.
(Devon More Music)
Venue: Petit Campus
A Canadian (from Vancouver) takes us on a bicycle ride retracing the Berlin Wall, and all the history surrounding it. With music, songs and spoken word, this imaginative show is truly inventive, both in its format and originality. A great ride, even for an old critic who lived a year in that amazing city. Plenty of anecdotes, loads of accurate information. One will get the urge to (re)visit Berlin (and eat some currywurst)!
Venue: Mainline Theatre
This is billed as an outgoing exploration into ritual and privacy. A bed-ridden patient. A women dressing up to go out. A worker on his lunch break. A nurse tending to her patient. They all (well, except for the patient, of course) conduct their everyday gestures, within their own universes. Highly interesting. Which is even more so, because of the central location of the venue, and the short time-lapse of the performance. One can easily fit this little gem in between two longer shows…
(Viva Diverse Productions)
Venue: The Wiggle Room
This is a plunge into the burlesque, a live-music cabaret, full of kitsch and wit. The performers are over the top… try hard to see this one, you won’t regret it. Especially if you’re out and fringing with a good numbers of your friends. Because this is a performance which is heavily dependant on the crowd’s participation. The merrier (or even drunker) the better! Great fun indeed! And the Wiggle Room is the kitschiest venue of this year’s festival. With all its red velvet, it is the perfect place to experience this Cabaret from down under (Australia).
(Théâtre de l’Université de Montréal)
Venue: Montreal Improv Espace B
When we go in, we are given an electronic voting device. We’ll have to vote on moral issues involving rapid decisions that policemen have to make in the blink of an eye. Based on interviews with real cops, this show tries to remain neutral, but falls too much on the ‘good’ side, the side of the law, of the police force. This is not an investigation on police brutality, on over-the-top abuse of power. This is way too gentle a take on such moral ambiguous grounding. Especially with the introdutionary images of all the protests that have rocked this city (and many others around the globe), with images of riot squads descending upon protestors with all their might. But where is the demarcation of all this within this show? Nowhere. This is a shame. They try to show our ambiguous relationship with Order and its agents, but this is a one-sided deal. Not a mature work. Still has to put on meatier text and concept before it should be performed again.
La Ferme des Animaux
(Pourquoi pas !)
Venue: La Chapelle
This is a truly great adaptation of Orwell’s Animal Farm. With very limited means, just masks (and not even full-faced ones) and crutches, this well-rendered version gives life to this seminal literary work. Uplifting and inspiring. Big-budgeted theatre companies should inspire themselves with this oh so modest performance, but with such intensity, strong text, and great role-playing! A major show. Not to be missed!
Mettre en pièces
(Les Usurpé.e.s en Cavale)
This is a truly amazing performance. Young women who talk about love and longing, deep emotional sorrow, with the aid of a giant puppet, pulled apart, both literally and figuratively, this one has to be seen to be believed. A great show. Another one not to be missed.
Il n’y en aura pas pour tout le monde
(Théâtre du XXIIème siècle)
Venue: Montréal Improv Theatre A
Described as neo-Marxist vaudeville. The story (or shall I say the histrionics) of rich Angelinos living the great life, but where something goes wrong in their mostly bored-out existence… A very verbose play (now this one isn’t meant for Anglophones!), but very well acted (by comedians with gravitas…) and a well-rounded script. Very enjoyable.
Orson Welles: Shylock
(The Shylock Project)
Venue: Black Theatre Workshop Studio
Reflecting the genius and cleverness of Orson Welles, this performance beats any attempt to properly set his life on stage (or through any other medium). This is rendered by a stellar cast, playing Welles throughout his career, obsessed as he was with Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and his troubled life, always in search/need for financial support, oblivious for the lives of those around him (like all great artists). Did I mention just how great this show is? This is THE must-see of this year’s Fringe. Inventive, informative, great acting, magnificent text, a spellbinding play. An all-round masterpiece.
Images: St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival
Read also An scéal na hÉireann: Festival Bloomsday Montréal
Writer and journalist, globe-trotter at heart, passionate about movies, music, literature and contemporary dance, came back to Montreal to pursue his unrelenting quest for artistic meaning.