2016 Fringe Theatre
Festival Continues

Five More Catchy Shows from the Montreal festival

By Byron Toben

ATM: The Musical

I plead guilty to being an unabashed fan of Le Nouveau Theatre, which has produced a number of scripted but improv-like gems such as the Depflies series.

In this show, writer Alain Mercieca plays the hippie father and director Lise Vigneault the hippie mother of Catherine, the part time bank teller and seamstress (Maite Sinave) and her brother Elias (D.J.Mauser), the bright but jobless grad who spends his time watching porn at home.

Christine’s meagre earnings support the other three.

I plead guilty to being an unabashed fan of Le Nouveau Theatre, which has produced a number of scripted but improv-like gems…

In the meantime, aimless Adam (Paul Naiman), who lives off a trust fund, is bestfriends with Jacob (Chris Sanniford), a financial officer of the bank where Christine works. Rich but lonely, he is smitten with her and invites her to a party given by the owner, Donna Lump (Sandi Armstrong, who played Jesus in Superband — where do you go after playing God?). This parody of the Donald brings the house down. In the Threepenny Opera, Mack the Knife opines “How much better it is to own a bank than to have rob one”, but I digress.

Christine drags along Elias, who, in a peyote haze, comes up with the idea of making ATMs more personally friendly, encouraging more deposits. The machine becomes a mix of Avery Schreiber’s 1970s friendship machine and later, the Venus flytrap Audrey II from the1980s Little House of Horrors. All this is aided and abetted by a neat four piece on stage band — and lots of songs that, while not in Brecht-Weil cadence, emphasize class consciousness.

ATM: The Musical continues at the Théâtre Ste-Catherine on June 16, 17 and 18.

Bushel And Peck… and Thunderfoot

A confession. For years of seeing James and Jamesey shows, I thought the duo were from England, due to their veddy British accents and themes of London and tea. Turns out they are Canadian from Vancouver, where they have won multi comedy awards. At this Fringe, they are back, but split up into two separate shows, each of which continues J & J’s trademarks of lots of physical comedy, mime and audience involvement.

bushel and peck fringe

Alastair Knowles and Stephanie Morin-Robert
Image: Thaddeus Hink

In Bushel And Peck (which has nothing to do with Adelaide’s song from Guys and Dolls, but is a unit of measurement), Alastair Knowles (former Jamesey) is paired with real life partner Stephanie Morin-Robert.

The couple’s bare stage contains a bulbous lamp, an actor’s manual and a giant 3×6 plywood rectangle. When the two are not being creative with their oversized white shirts and tan raincoats, which double as hoodies, they demonstrate amazing mastery in balancing and twisting their third partner, the rectangle, which, it must be said, gives only a wooden performance compared to the innovative enthusiasm of the humans. Lots of balloons add to the merriment.

In Thunderfoot, Aaron Malkin (the former James) does a solo with only a chair on stage, but his adeptness at miming plants, doors and walls make the space seem more crowded. He is also versatile in voicing his rural father and local towns folk as he recounts the mystery of his mother, missing since he was only four. All this has something to do with — shades of Alice in Wonderland — growing giant size and shrinking small again. Also, overtones of villagers with pitchforks rallying against Frankenstein’s monster.

Both of these shows are hard to describe in words without spoiling some surprising effects. Suffice it to say, you will enjoy!

Bushel And Peck and Thunderfoot continue at La Chapelle on June 16 and 17

Me, The Queen And A Coconut

Help! Stop me before I buy again! I purchased books flogged by top Fringe performers Ms Coleman (Self Exile) and Mr Morgan (Science, Love and Revolution), resolving that that’s enough for now. But flesh is weak, and next thing I knew, I had purchased another, this time from Vancouver master storyteller Andrew Bailey.

He performs his solo wonder in a really bare room, not even a chair.

… title not withstanding, the Queen here does not get bopped on the noggin by a coconut nor bump heads with an underling as in the famous Mr Bean episode.

On stage, no physical props (well, yes, a paper letter to read). Once again, clever script, varied tones and appropriate gestures and voilà to paraphrase the bandido’s reply to Humphrey Bogart in the Treasure of Sierra Madre, “Badges? I don’t need your stinking badges” (or costumes or sets or multi media).

queen coconut and me

Andrew Bailey – Image: Britt Small

Here, Mr Bailey, the grandson of an Anglican priest, was groomed to follow suit and performed well in studies and apprenticeship, culminating in a year in England at the magnificent Windsor castle, where Henry the VIII and Henry VI are buried and have become, post throne, tourist attractions.

Readers, if, like me, you have difficulty distinguishing the eight Henrys one from the other, contact Westmount Magazine ( and I will forward you my handy quickie guide on how to tell them apart.

Anyway, title not withstanding, the Queen here does not get bopped on the noggin by a coconut nor bump heads with an underling as in the famous Mr Bean episode.

Mr Bailey eventually decides that, while appreciating the intent of spiritual impulses, he does not really believe in empty ritual or even in God. This belies G. Bernard Shaw’s quip that you cannot convince a clergyman of the nonexistence of God as his livelihood depends upon it.

So what to do? Why become an actor? And to add to the challenge, a Canadian actor in the Fringe, to boot. Which is what Mr Bailey has done and does divinely well.

Me, The Queen And A Coconut continues at the Black Theatre Workshop on June 17, 18 and 19.

Star Trek: Discovery

Elizabeth Cano’s Black Box productions has presented a number of entertaining Sci-Fi shows at previous Fringes. Here, it takes on a space drama biggie, Star Trek, especially loved in Canada because its Captain Kirk was Montréal’s own William Shatner, for whom McGill’s student union building is named.

montreal fringe festival

Star Trek: Discovery – Elizabeth B.
Image: Chris Wardell

No Kirk in this original episode, which hands out the best glossy printed program I have ever seen on a Fringe show. And it properly credits the seven designers as well as the thirteen actors.

Unlike the many bare stage solos at the Fringe, behold a large space ship set. Alas, the tech crew encountered some glitches or delays during the first few performances, which have since been resolved.

The plot involves distrust between Earthlings and an advanced quasi-human race despite the best efforts of their respective doctors, Alain Heillig of the aliens and James Murray of Earth. These are the two older actors in a crowd of recent theatre student grads.

Director Bruce Lambie had directed Spider Robinson’s show God Is An Iron, also produced by Black Box last year, which featured Tali Brady who appears in this Star Trek as the Governor of Earth.

Will love and patience prevail over hot heads and violence? Although the future ain’t what it used to be, you can judge for yourself.

Star Trek: Discovery continues at La Chapelle on June 16, 18 and 19.

For Fringe times and other info, consult the free paper program or go to or call 514 849-FEST (3378).

Feature image: ATM: The Musical – Danny Belair

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

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