To know her is to love her… Attending Becky Lou’s burlesque performance, Shake, is like… playing silly games with the baby sitter you have a crush on. Or rolling around in bed laughing hysterically with a lover. Or getting drunk on bad depanneur wine with a gal pal and possibly making out, though you’re not sure if that actually happened, your memory’s a little fuzzy. It’s fun, innocent, undignified, alluring… When Becky asks a question onstage, you find yourself compelled to answer, as if you two are the only ones in the room. The stage, which was not particularly tidy to begin with, winds up looking like a glittering tornado past through. High heels go flying, pasties go missing, Becky is tripping over the silk and sequins strewn across the floor, wobbling briefly, only to right herself and give the audience a charming grin and wink. Part of the thrill is feeling like the whole show could come completely apart at the seams at any second, and yet, Becky is so completely at ease on stage, inhabiting the space like she could imagine being nowhere else, and with no one else but this audience. By the end of a burlesque show, generally, the performers’ bodies have been exposed and concealed to be re-exposed again so many times that there are few surprises left, and with the Fringe being so chock-full of tassel twirling… I hate to say it, but one pair of boobs starts to look much like another. Not so with Becky; her opulent costumes, clever routines, hysterical facial expressions and charming anecdotes kept every striptease fresh from beginning to end. Shake is a burlesque that is a notch above the rest – definitely worth a watch if you’re ready to fall in love for the night. — Lyla McQueen Shah
Shake is at Petit Campus (57 Prince-Arthur E.). $12. June 16 @ 19:30, June 17 @ 21:45, and June 19 @ 13:45. Tickets HERE.
The Mysteries of the Unseen World of the Clavis Argentum
The Untold Mysteries of the Clavis Argentum is a weird and wondrous burlesque performance with little in the way of fourth wall. The performances went beyond the usual tassel-twirling and showcased several twisted, interesting acts that straddled the fence between sexy and horrifying. The puppet dance in which a dancer with puppet strings attached to her was forced by an invisible puppet master to attack herself with a dagger, all the while screaming at the audience to help her for god’s sake, was a highlight. The costumes were another winning feature of this show. Glamour and deformity came together to create stunning effects – a luscious mix of glitter and gore. However, there was definitely a sense that the show could have used a few extra rehearsals. Lines were stumbled over, stage magic was clumsy at best, and the movement, both in staging and choreography, lacked precision. Some jokes worked, but others fell unfortunately flat. The audience participation was in theory a good idea, but it often felt tacked on, or undeveloped, or plain unnecessary. Overall, show with the Latin name, as it has been nicknamed, was a piece of theatre with potential, but that lacked polish. Finally, I must admit that the snake dance, in which a performer danced seductively while wielding a live snake, made me a little uncomfortable. It’s important to note that the dancer was very careful and gentle with the snake, and that sudden movements were avoided… Opinions on whether snake-dances can be done humanely vary. — Lyla McQueen Shah
The Mysteries of the Unseen World of the Clavis Argentum is at the Theatre St Catherine (264 St. Catherine E) on June 16 @ 17:30; June 17 @ 21:00, June 18 @ 13:45, and June 19 @ 16:00. Tickets HERE.
Love and Pasties Miss S
Love and Pasties Miss S was strangely gloomy and unenergetic for a burlesque performance. Miss Sugarpuss’ talent cannot be denied; however, in this year’s Fringe show, a certain weariness seems to have set in. Love and Pasties Miss S lacked cohesiveness. It felt like a bunch of mediocre skits tied together by a narrative that was comprehensible and meaningful only to Miss S herself. There was no joy in the show, but no real pain either – more just a sullenness, occasionally badly masked by a cute line or repetitive dance routine. Even in a sub-par show, Miss S’s talent as a dancer cannot be denied; the deliberateness and precision to each of her movements is mesmerizing. However, the outfits and choreographies were uninspired. The extra characters in the show felt unnecessary; but then, the whole show felt unnecessary. If there was a point, a narrative, a message, a backbone to the show, it eluded me completely, which would have been fine if the show had not committed an even worse crime; it was boring. Overall, one had the sense that Love and Pasties was more for the performer herself. Where burlesque, even when poignant and tragic, strives to invite the audience into its world, Love and Pasties was closed in on itself, excluding the audience. If you’re looking for a good show, I wouldn’t bother with this one, but if you need to make peace with the death of Miss S, Love and Pasties will convince you, once and for all, that it is indeed time for Miss S to go quietly into that good night. — Lyla McQueen Shah
Love and Pasties Miss S is at the Theatre Sainte-Catherine (264 Sainte-Catherine E.). June 16 @ 21:00, June 18 @ 20:45. Tickets HERE.
Me, the Queen, and a Coconut
Andrew Bailey brings a lot of heart and spirit to a performance which dabbles between the loss of a loved one and the essential personal conflict with faith. I have to say that having spent years trying to understand my own faith, it’s not only hard to go through it, but to actually speak to it artistically and create a stand-up comedy presentation from it is no mean feat. For that Andrew has my kudos. For all the banter which comes through his story of having the opportunity to work at Windsor Castle as a half-church man, this was a bit of a lost journey between self-discovery and self-healing. Greatly influenced his grandfather’s life and attempting to find his own, Andrew ends up at Windsor surrounded by the edifices that resonate with names like Henry VIII, King James and traversing through the villages where the Magna Carta was written. We get a bit of a history lesson on the grandeur that in all likelihood Windsor Castle would be. But the show is not about his job at Windsor Castle, it is about coming to terms with his grandfather’s passing and reconciling the great influences he has had in Andrew’s choices and perhaps his conflict with his faith. I did enjoy all the asides, that brought comic explanations to verbose vocabulary, but I felt slightly deprived of a real and profound engagement with questions of faith/lack thereof and its attempted reconciliation. — Karan Sinj
Me the Queen and a Coconut is at the Black Theatre Workshop Studio (3689 Jeanne-Mance). $12. June 17 @ 17:15, June 18 @ 23:59, and June 19 @ 20:30. Tickets HERE.
When I saw Saor (free) listed, I thought, ooooh, free Fringe show. I have a pass, so technically that doesn’t matter. But no, Saor (free) isn’t free. It is about freedom, though, or the feeling of freedom and why it is something worth pursuing. This one-woman show is about the adventures of Carlyn Rhamey, millennial. But don’t let that put you off. In fact, this may be the first storytelling show I’ve seen at the Fringe which is about being a millennial in all its idealistic glory. While I kept waiting for my snarky, jaded Gen X self to swat this innocent into reality, the urge never came. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Carlyn’s company as she led us on her post-University-rite-of-passage European travels. It’s Carlyn herself who makes the show. The content of the adventures, much like the show itself, are defined by her energy, her optimism, her trust, her romantic longings, her openness, and her small acts of bravery. She’s like Bridget Jones (the movie version) crossed with Girls. The result is not the stale breath of a three Guinness night, but the playful breeze of an Irish spring morn (say that with a Dublin accent for maximum effect). Like all adventurers, she’s the kind of person who can pull off both. I couldn’t help but root for her and hope that others drop their intellectual armor long enough to take a chance on this sweet and funny production. — Rachel Levine
Saor (free) is at Mission Santa Cruz (60 Rachel W) on June 15 @ 21:45, June 16 @ 20:45, June 18 @ 13:45, and June 18 @ 20:30. $12/10. Tickets HERE.