Byron’s Fringe Festival
Channelled in the style of Samuel Pepys’ 16th century diary
By Byron Toben
After having channelled Damon Runyon for the Segal centre’s Guys and Dolls, I bethought meself unlikely to channel another author again.
Yet, this condition did evince itself when, newly accoutred with a walking stick, I did hobble from show to show at the 2018 Montreal Fringe Festival, bound to record, dear reader, in the style of Samuel Pepys diary, some 360 years ago.
Thursday, June 7
Having perused the voluminous Fringe program, decided to first attend the performance of Love Potion to begin. Pleasant enough, a second play by Irene Saharov, directed most ably by Donna Byrne.
Most excellent casting with Dan Wheeler, as 50ish momma’s boy living with controlling mother Linda Shesko, on vacation when dodgy cousin Adam Racine uninvitedly crashes the apartment with his latest get rich quick scheme, a quick acting love potion.
Much amusement as sisters Susan Corbett and Sylvia Mauri meet the cousins through the Internet.
… ’twas pleased to see Toronto’s popular Sex T-Rex back for 5th year.
Thence to newly improved Fringe Park, with small Italian lights, two beer tents instead of one, and ticket trailer more accessible from street. Dined upon small portion of French Fries from always-packed Patati Patata en route to next show, Crime After Crime (After Crime). Climbing the rickety stairs of the Mainline theatre, ’twas pleased to see Toronto’s popular Sex T-Rex back for 5th year.
Greatly impressed with physical theatre demonstrated by flexible actors in portraying different styles of “cop” dramas, from 50s “noir” style to 70s “heist” films, to 90s and beyond.
Colour blindness, diamonds and balletic fight scenes do abound.
St Laurent Street Festival doth prolong traffic delays in returning home, but did persevere, and so to bed.
Friday, June 8
Up the solid banisters to the Petit Campus to view Betch A Sketch which doth consist of banter, dance about and song parodies (one I knew, that of Adele) by QDF people – Caleigh Crow, Steph McKenna, David Noel who, aided by three other damsels, perform for 45 minutes, the whole lightly directed by Donald Rees.
Imbibed a “straight” (sans glace) cranberry juice at the Petit Campus Bar while awaiting the next show there, which ’twas A Man Alone: Al Goulem’s One Man Show.
Whilst I be loath to lavish exuberant praise on objects under observation, yet I do declare that this show doth garner a “ten” for those inclined to grade said objects in numeric terms.
It doth contain serious matter – fatherhood, mass shootings, media reaction and the like, yet, as doth all good theatre, contain oddments of humour so as to balance the whole.
In summary, I do predict this show to be remounted at the Centaur’s annual Wildside Festival come next January’s wintery winds.
‘… I do declare that this show (A Man Alone: Al Goulem’s One Man Show) doth garner a “ten” for those inclined to grade said objects in numeric terms.’
This being Friday night, one more visitation allowed before retirement, so downstairs to St. Laurent, gingerly through the crowded annual street festival, thence upstairs to the Montreal Improv Theatre A (there being two such this year, A and B), to witness Around the World in Eight Mistakes.
From Seattle comes this solo show by and with Sophia Walker. In an evening of “upstairs and downstairs” viewings, it is fitting that this lady was born in the UK. However, as an infant, she was raised in Russia then transported to the USA, thence to Belgium, and back to the UK, which sponsored stays in Africa and Asia.
Some of her most important revelations came in the most dangerous regions. Maintains an infectious laughter despite all.
Not exactly Jules Verne’s time deadlines, but enough to win an UK award for spoken word.
Well once again to home, a kefir nightcap and to bed.
Saturday doth start with two at the ground level MAI.
‘Director Andrew Cuk most cleverly deploys his cast of eight (five women, three men) students from John Abbott College where he doth instruct drama.’
First be Find Me. Based on the sad but true history of one Verity Taylor, an incorrigible child given to insults, bullying and foul language. Despite earnest attempts of her parents, brother, doctors, social workers and others, her burning of a chair resulted in her being placed in a high security psychiatric hospital for the rest of her life.
Director Andrew Cuk most cleverly deploys his cast of eight (five women, three men) students from John Abbott College where he doth instruct drama. The women each portray Verity at one time or another, while also splitting roles as mother, teacher or nurse. Likewise the men, their roles accordingly. The net effect, in live theatre, be a splintering reminiscent of Picasso’s Demoiselles D’Avignon painting.
Following which, up in an elevator, to the Black Theatre Workshop and another solo show by Australian stand up comic Matthew Ryan with his tales of performing English Language solo shows in South America while still learning Spanish and so accordingly entitled ¿Hables Ingles?
Indeed, his exuberant personality and tribulations of “roughing it” at hostels throughout the continent won great audience favour not excluding mine own.
And so again to home, this time yogurt and blessed sleep.
Refreshed with a Sunday day of rest, but balancing the Fringe circuit, upcoming business conferences, plus the Bloomsday Festival, had only time for Flute Loops back at the Petit Campus and once again mine own cranberry libation.
Herein, Vancouver’s Devon More is a one-woman band as she blows a flute, strums two guitars, taps a baby xylophone, foots a playback loop device and all the while quotes Stephen Hawking on the Big Bang and the nature of the universe. Now and then, also sings a few verses.
‘Vancouver’s Devon More is a one-woman band as she blows a flute, strums two guitars, taps a baby xylophone, foots a playback loop device…’
While too fast paced to be Physics for Dummies, it doth provide an interesting mixture.
To be continued, dear reader, after next weekend…
Feature image: Love Potion cast
All images: courtesy of the St Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival
Read also: Byron’s top Fringe picks sight unseen 2018
Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club.