Urban Tales XI: Immigrants’
First Xmas in Montreal

Immigrant Songs present six tales recounting newcomers’ first holiday experience

By Byron Toben

Back in the day, Yvan Bienvenue created, in French, Contes Urbains, solo stories about down-and-outers, many alone, at Xmas time.

Urban Tales XI Harry Standjofski -

Harry Standjofski in Smoke

Eleven years ago, actor/director/musician Harry Standjofski adapted the format for the English side, translating some Bienvenue texts, but mostly using English original scripts, many by the performers themselves.

Some of the Urban Tales I recall off hand over the years that I most enjoyed involved Cat Kidd, Bill Rowat, Danette MacKay, Tristan Lalla and Alain Goulem.

No disappointment in the six selections this year, which on a stage entranceway built of suitcases, focused on stories of immigrants experiencing their first Xmas in Montreal. While five stories involved foreign countries of origin, one, Midnight Mess by Mr. Bienvenue told by France Rolland, involved a poor lady from rural Quebec to the big M. This recognized the confusion of internal immigrants, often rural to urban, as for example, in the USA, southern blacks to the industrial North.


… actor/director/musician Harry Standjofski adapted the format for the English side… mostly using English original scripts, many by the performers themselves.


Mr. Standjofski himself wrote and told Smoke, wherein a Turkish immigrant, living in a basement and working “under the table” in a low paying job, took to remember his former calling in sculpture by working in ‘smoke’. The images, though not too permanent, conjured up controversial political figures.

Urban Tales XI Patrick Abellard -

Patrick Abellard in The Figurine

Michaela Di Cesare wrote and told SanimaXmas wherein the Italian resident of a sealed house comments on the corpses outside her bay window. Aweful is replaced by offal.

Kenny Wong told Unang Pasko Sa Montreal by Marie Barlizo, that recites the tale of a Phillipino, recruited to work in Saudi Arabia, who converts to Islam and then re-immigrates to Canada. He is dismayed by the hedonistic celebration of his friend after winning a huge lottery.

In The Return by Pascal Rafie as told by Deena Aziz, a proud Lebanese mother brags about her son who immigrated to Canada for a good job. However, things turn dark as he is suspected of being sympathetic to terrorism.

Finally, in The Figurine by Dany Laferrière and told by Patrick Abellard, an immigrant from Haiti who manages to bring a wooden image through customs, is torn between his love for women and their refrigerators (a stand-in for food).

As usual, neat guitar work by Mr. Stadjofski at opening salvo and in bridges between each sketch.

Good homemade eggnog at intermission.

All in all, good promo for Urban Tales XII “same time next year”.

Urban Tales XI ended its five-day run on December 16.
514 288-3161

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Images: Yvan Bienvenue

Read also: Dramatis Personae’s charming winter selection

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

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