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Byron’s Fringe Festival
“Peeps” diary /2

Channelled in the style of Samuel Pepys’ 16th century diary

By Byron Toben

Lost contact with Mr Pepys for a while, now back. This is my third unplanned channelling of a famous writer to review Montreal plays. First was Damon Runyon for Segal Centre’s Guys and Dolls, then Ernest Hemingway for Hudson Theatre’s Great Gatsby, now famous diarist Samuel Pepys for The Fringe. See the end of this review for list of other famous literary diarists – BT

Refreshed after abandoning yon Byron whilst he pursued business and Bloomsday events, I rejoined him on…

June 15

Interstellar Elder

Off to one Théâtre La Chapelle, where played one Interstellar Elder, said person incarnated by a physical actress par excellent, namely Ingrid Hansen who doth portray one of a cargo of humans aboard a “space ship”, she being selected by programmed robots governing the craft, to dust off and monitor said cargo for years, the boring nature of which, coupled with unbending commands that do put HAL from 2001 to shame, results in a rebellion by said grandmotherly figure in a most rousing finale.

Thence off to Théâtre St Denis, where Montreal Fringe head Amy Blackmore did most kindly provide us an “elevator” for more accessible access, thus avoiding the dark and winding staircase, where played the delightful Kafka’s Metamorphosis: The Many Legged Musical. There I encountered a perceptive reviewer, one Janis, whose words put mine own to shame, and so her remarks have been “posted” on this most admirable WestmountMag in lieu of mine own.

I only add that Mr Kafka, though younger than me by 200 years, hath power to remain ever revived.

Witness ye his Report to an Academy, turned into a play Kafka’s Ape, which hath toured widely with Howard Rosenstein portraying said talking simian.

Lesson to future Fringe playwrights… brand recognition sells!

So too, with Rick Miller creating all time fringe show, MacHomer, the same so accomplished by blending Mr Shakespeare with one cartoonish Homer Simpson. Lesson to future Fringe playwrights… brand recognition sells!

Thence south on St. Denis, and west as well to the former pizza place converted into Théâtre Ste-Catherine, there to witness a superior solo show Buyer & Seller, performed by the most excellent Mr Donald Rees. And again, said articulate Janis hath rendered into word a review herein to which I prefer to any that I might pen. So see her account of a young actor hired by an imperious celebrity, a Miss Barbra Streisand, as a clerk to her collection of “kitschy” artefacts.

Again, home to a late repast of pindjur and so, to sleep, covered by a duvet which I prefer to the usual blanket.

June 16

Awkward Hug - WestmountMag.ca

Awkward Hug

Up on a bright sunny day, and off again to an early afternoon show at the ground floor MAI, namely Awkward Hug as enacted by one Cory Thibert of distant Vancouver. Mr Thibert, a competent actor and story teller, has been dramaturged in this show by Fringe idol TJ Dawe and it shows, with a certain loose but confident demeanour.

Here, a certain stiffness in his family when he was 19 led to a lack of touching and showing affection which finally resolves in a hug, albeit somewhat awkward. Lots of boxes are involved, reminding one of Mr Dawes’ first Fringe play, Tired Clichés. There, Mr Dawe jumped onto many empty boxes from high heights. Here they are just used for packing.

After sipping a tea on site, ’twas simple enough to stay for the next show, same venue, wherein fellow Englishman jem rolls, who doth, like real life poet e.e. cummings and fictional cockroach archie, favour the lower case. This all in a piece entitled, I, Idiot, best described by Mr rolls’ own leaflet as containing: Adequate Poetry; Poor Clowning; Lousy Singing; Rotten Dancing; Funny, Though.

‘I did find his (roll’s) many references to proper Englishmen, like myself, offensive, though mainly correct.’

Said monologue has no relation to Russian Dostoyevsky’s novel of similar name, although it doth touch on subjects philosophical in guise of humorous ironical comment. More physicality than ’tis usual in mr rolls’ frequent Fringe appearances – “more Fringe festivals than anyone on earth”, claimeth he. Comic interpretive modern dance adds diversity to his rapid-fire observational comments that include Sartre’s statement that “Hell is Other People”. I did find his many references to proper Englishmen, like myself, offensive, though mainly correct.

I, Idiot - WestmountMag.ca

I, Idiot

Ambling along St-Laurent, encountering various street fair browsers mixed with Fringe goers ’twere pleasant enough. Encountered yet another fine reviewer, this being one Julia, to whom I also defer to her well written WestmountMag pieces on Rootless Tree at the high altitude Free Standing Room and Greasy at Cafe Cleopatra, the first being an absurdist one act and the latter a parody on the musical Grease.

What wonders will tomorrow – the closing day – reveal? And so to bed after a coffee flavoured yogurt nightcap.

June 17

Down be we to the final three on our list.

First, at the northern limits of the Fringe at Studio Jean Valcourt ’twas, The Autism Monologues.

‘What a pleasure to see internationally known director/writer Jacqueline Van De Geer displaying her acting chops as well.’

Whilst there be multitudes of individual monologues for actors to perform, there are only two group monologues with such mentioned in the title. Most famous is Eve Ensler’s 1998 Vagina Monologues, since celebrated worldwide and involving about 20 roles, which have attracted to perform therein most famous women celebrities in America. It discusses, frankly, many difficult problems faced by women.

The Autism Monologues - WestmountMag.ca

The Autism Monologues

This seems to be the model for author Christine Rodriguez’s collection of six types that do live with various forms of autism. Director Jen Viens, who appears as a featured actor in Rootless Tree, mentioned yesterday in Miss Julia’s review thereof, has assembled a gutsy group of performers, including Ms Rodriguez herself. What a pleasure to see internationally known director/writer Jacqueline Van De Geer displaying her acting chops as well.

Augmented by Julie Barbeau, Jean Bernard and Stephen Booth, gripping portrayers all, an instructive and compelling 60 minutes.

What The Hell Happened To My Patio Furniture?

What The Hell Happened To My Patio Furniture?

From whence, hastening a long stretch south to MIT B, where a lighter What The Hell Happened To My Patio Furniture? did await.

Writer actor Josh Budman performed this effort, involving a rich man stealing used patio furniture from looser types like Josh to resell at secret underground auctions to trendy buyers, this did equate with the heightened prices for torn worn up blue jean trousers. Mr Budman acknowledged credit to well known story teller director Jeff Gandell for polishing the show with his Hamlet-like advice to suit the word to the action, the action to the word.

And so, finally to MIT A where yet another roving Brit, Charles Adrian, donning female garb did become a Ms Samantha Mann to discuss Stories About Love, Death & A Rabbit. Some poignant bits about spinsterhood, a lot about rabbits, and a host of enough “Sorrys” to qualify as Canadian.

After, ended all with a tasty Paella outdoors.

‘Some poignant bits about spinsterhood, a lot about rabbits, and a host of enough “Sorrys” to qualify as Canadian.’

’Twas a fine outing, but back to writer’s Valhalla way beyond the Fringe for me. Being channelled so long is energy draining…

Byron here again.

While Mr Google lists hundreds of diarists, there are six who are not only famous, but have ongoing readership:

Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) kept diary 1660 -1669 as he witnessed both the great plague and the great fire of London and the Dutch war. Discussed frankly his own failings and attendance at theatre.

Anne Frank (1929-45) kept diary 1942-44 while hiding from Nazis during World War II. Salvaged from debris by father’s employee.

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) wrote 5-volume diary (and 6 volumes of letters) before her suicide.

Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) kept life long diary from age 10, even while also writing Alice series.

Robert Scott Falcon (1868-1912) kept diaries of his Antarctic explorations including his fatal last one in 1912.

Harry S. Truman (1881-1972) kept intermittent diaries which were later combined with his letters and notes into an “autobiography”, the most famous entry of which was his 1945 decision to use the nuclear bomb.

Feature image: Charles Adrian in Stories About Love, Death & A Rabbit
All images: courtesy of the St Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival

Bouton S'inscrire à l'infolettre – WestmountMag.caRead also: Byron’s Fringe Festival “Peeps” diary


Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club.


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