Byron’s Fringe Picks
Sight Unseen 2016
Some promising Fringe Festival theatre shows
By Byron Toben
Byron Toben has covered all 25 years of the Montreal Fringe Festival. For the current theatre portion, June 9-19, here is his list of top 18 picks — sight unseen.
Perennial picks TJ Dawe and Keir Cutler are not involved in Montreal this year.
Picks are generally limited to English language shows. They are listed, first by one person shows and then, ensemble shows. They are largely based on the Gambler’s Credo “Don’t bet on the horse, bet on the jockey.”
Picks Of One Person Shows
Get Lost jem rolls
The lower case Mr rolls, from Surrey, UK, has appeared in fringes all over Canada and the world, and won the Montreal first life time Spirit of the Fringe last year. A professional performance poet, his rapid fire delivery is truly unique. This year’s theme is travel.
Science, Love And Revolution
From London, UK, comes David Lee Morgan, a BBC slam poetry champion who examines what’s left of the communist ideal, accompanied by some relevant music.
Tales You Lose
Good grief, yet another Brit, albeit one who has lived in Canada. Gerard Harris from Bournemouth, UK, advises us that Heads, you also lose. Another fast talker, he has a huge Montreal fan base from years of appearances here.
Jon Bennett: Aussie Rules (Playing With Men)
Relief from the British invasion comes from a former colony in the form of Mr Bennett of Australia. Again well known to both Fringe Goers and Just For Laughs fans (5 times). This year’s theme is football… er soccer to us north Americans.
Get Your Shuffle On
Montreal resident Laura Flynn, from another former colony, Ireland, returns to the Fringe with playing cards and observations of absurd banality. Sounds off hand a bit like T.J. Dawe’s most popular hit, 52 Pickup.
Me, The Queen And A Coconut
Vancouverite Andrew Bailey makes this list if only for the clever title. Plus the fact he actually lived and worked at Windsor Castle and received good reviews from Victoria B.C. and Edmonton.
A Personal Growth
Vancouver also sends us Alyssa Kostello, who tackles a young adult’s experience confronting the effects of stage 4 cancer. Andrew Bailey (above) is listed as a collaborator.
A Perfect Picture
Montrealer Laurent McCuaig-Pitre has written and performs in this homage to Kevin Carter, Pulitzer Prize winning photographer, who confronts God and his “inner vulture”. Directed by QDF guru Len Richman.
Australia’s burlesque queen Becky Lou brings physical comedy from Melbourne. Will she replace the gap from Miss Sugarpuss’s retirement?
Picks Of Ensemble Shows
Captain Aurora II: A Superhero Musical Sequel
Last year’s selection for the Centaur’s annual Wildside returns with a Sequel. Choreographed by Nadia Verrucci (who also plays the evil Queen), Trevor Barrette’s space opera is a surefire hot ticket.
ATM: The Musical
Cannot resist anything from Le Nouveau International’s Alain Mercieca and directed by Lise Vigneault. “A South Park meets Avenue Q style musical set on Wall Street.”
Love And Pasties, Miss S.
Holly Gauthier-Frankel, well known as stripteuse Miss Sugarpuss, apparently has written this piece as a farewell to her portrayals in that role in future. A fitting time after her fine effort in Last Night at the Gayety at the Centaur. Her co-star in that musical, Tamara Brown, directs.
Star Trek: Discovery
Verdun’s Elizabeth B., the Fringe’s perennial Sci Fi contributor, celebrates Star Trek’s 50th anniversary this year. She goes where no other woman has gone before to assure CBS that she does not claim to be associated with it in any way to preclude a copyright/trademark law suit by it. (It is rumoured that CBS has more financial resources than her tiny Black Box Productions.)
Above are 13 pre-seen picks. Can’t resist throwing in five others whose descriptions sound enticing, out of some 60 listed.
Bushel And Peck
From Sussex UK, Allistair Knowles of the wildly popular Jamesy Boys returns, in a “comedy cocktail celebrating love on the edge of humanity.”
Montrealers Jeff Gandell and Marianna Vial plunge into a forbidden love affair while developing a new weapon to end WW II.
Honesty Rents By The Hour
A world premiere read at Inifinitheatre’s Pipeline series. A New York/Montreal venture stars local Howard Rosenstein.
Looking To Upgrade
San Diego’s Lisa Perdace, winner of San Diego Fringe award, blends stand-up, cabaret and more.
Plays By Kids
Anything by Chocolate Moose theatre is worth while. Here, adults perform plays written by kids. Are the adults revealing their inner child, or the child authors their inner adult?
Three French language shows, based on classics, seem may well be worth a turn. They are: Les Justes by Albert Camus, Rashoman by Akutagawa and V comme VIAN, songs of Boris Vian.
The St-Ambrose Montreal Fringe Festival runs from Monday, May 30 to Sunday, June 19.
The theatre portion is from Thursday, June 9 to Sunday, June 19 at 12 sites and 10 OFF sites (a few shows at the OFF sites begin on Thursday, June 2).
Pick up the free programs at the beer tent (St. Laurent et Rachel, any of the venues or at many coffee shops or pubs, mostly in the plateau district. Coloured felt tip pens help in your planning. Most shows are about 60 minutes. Most individual tickets are $8 or $10, plus $2 tax each.
Best deal are passes for 3, 6 or 10 shows, where you save the equivalent of the taxes and get a free beer. (A carte Blanche pass is available for all shows for Energy Bunny fans at $275).
New This Year
Venues no longer hold back 25% of seats until one hour before. You can still get a ticket during that hour, but only if any seats are left.
Images: courtesy of the Montreal Fringe Festival
Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club