Nisha Coleman was raised by hippies. This, as she says, has some pros and cons. Some pros: hippies like nature, hippies don’t like institutions such as school. Some cons: hippies don’t have money, hippies go camping for family vacations instead of to Florida. Living in a hippie family very much shapes Nisha’s life, giving her freedom and a steady diet of tofu and lentils. But all is not rainbows and peace signs. At a young age, Nisha’s hippie-but-not father tells her, “Don’t be yourself.” She takes this advice to heart, spending a good deal of her young life “in exile” from herself as the title of the piece suggests. Finding her way back is as much luck as it is bravery. I don’t want to reveal too much about this juicy, wonderful gem of a show. Nisha is a fantastic storyteller, a captivating performer, and an all around interesting person. She speaks important truths, lives fascinating lives, and most importantly, resonates with authenticity. This is one of the best show’s you can see at this year’s Fringe.
Self Exile is at La Chapelle (3700 St. Dominique) on June 17 @ 22:15, June 18 @ 14:15, and June 19 @ 18:15. $12. Tickets HERE.
Making a distinction between the verbs to secret and to secrete, Thea Fitz James warns us that she’s not only going to tell us stories about her life (she will secrete), but she’s going to tell them in such a way that nothing may be true (she will secret). “I want you to like me,” she says. Does that mean she’ll say whatever it takes to make us like her? I know that the Cretan paradox can be simply infuriating (“All Cretans are liars,” said Empedocles the Cretan), though I suppose that’s probably not the most striking aspect of this show. It is Thea, who spends the show mostly as a naked lady as she entwines difficult personal stories with a discourse on the meaning of the naked lady in history, in medicine, in art, in pop culture, and in politics. The show’s meaning is slippery: is she fabulously raw, or just blinding us with our own prejudices? Is the show about Thea’s experience with naked ladies or what naked ladies represent? Is this a cry for attention or a cry to pay attention? Self-absorption or a reflection on the plight of all woman through the self? A lecture or an art piece? Theatre about therapy or therapy through theatre? All and none of the above. Judging the work as a whole is hard when its author is ambiguous about her intent. Of all the moments that impressed me most, her ability to time her dialogue to the show Sherlock was an artful bit of theatre. Another standout moment is her breakdown of a Playboy image that appeared on her father’s computer by projecting it on her own body. Yet, the personal details of her life she shares are used like lures to bait us and reel us in. She reads excerpts from a diary that are haunting, suggesting a horror — yet she never tells us what is behind them. She seems to say there is nothing behind them, or that there is another story behind them, but we will never know it. She covers her words like a wise magician, hiding what she doesn’t want to show while drawing the audience’s attention with shiny things. She knows she’s showing us her naked body and it distracts us from the fact that she’s not showing us her story. My overall assessment is that this show is good for the brain and I walked out with my mind full of thoughts. For others, it may just sound like the history of feminist ranting. — Rachel Levine
Naked Ladies is at the Montreal Improv Theatre (6997 St Laurent). $12/10. Juen 13 @ 18:30, June 15 @ 23:15, June 17 @ 22:30, June 19 @ 16:15. Tickets HERE.
The Cockwhisperer — A Love Story
She ain’t talking about male chickens, folks, it’s the male organ. Colette Kendall knows a thing or two about the dangly bits between a man’s legs. She even shares Cock Facts, such as the number of men who can auto-fellate (I think she said 1 in 500, but I was laughing and may have missed the actual number). Combined with all the cock talk, Colette shares her story about a few important cocks in her life, from the first one she saw live (her brother’s) to the one that made her the woman she is today. In Montreal, a show like this is going to have a hard time getting traction. Everyone thinks they know all there is to know about the male organ from the age of seven and hearing about it from a middle aged woman, even one who has it going on like Colette, conflicts with the local sense of sex savantry. However, for those locals who can check their armor and their jaded attitude, this show has plenty to offer. The Cockwhisperer is a great story about coming of age sexually in the 70s and 80s, full of jokes and references that even those born in the 80s will get. For those who don’t, Colette is kind enough to show a few appropriate slides to clarify. Colette is likable and became all the more so as her show continued. She has good comedic timing and connects easily with the audience, especially when they give her feedback to respond to. She has brassy presence and cool intelligence, which is inspiring to see on stage. Colette also saves the best and most important points for last, leaving her audience with a lasting impression that stays long after.
The Cockwhisperer plays June 16 @ 18:45, June 18 @ 2:15, and June 19 at 19:45. $12. Tickets HERE.
Sleeping In Chairs at the Gates of Valhalla
This show is about your nightmare — my nightmare too, of course. It’s not one of those nightmares where you are being chased or are threatened. It’s a nightmare you might have to live through while awake. 29-year-old Rosie’s soul-mate Adrian is in a medically induced coma and in the time between Christmas and New Years Eve, she has to make decisions about his life while his body refuses to cooperate with her plan. The show brings us to Adrian’s bedside and Rosie makes us feel as if we are there beside them. With very human imperfections, Rosie battles shift changes, different doctors and nurses, numbers on medical equipment, hand washing, masks, and sleep. Sometimes she is determined, sometimes too tired to fight. Everything hangs on a report of results from the latest test which is inevitably inconclusive. Days and nights blend, and watching, I feel hazy as if time has stretched and shrunk simultaneously, a feeling that must be all too familiar to those facing this situation. Sleeping in Chairs at the Gates of Valhalla is a tough show in terms of its subject matter and it is unfortunate that this sensitive, poetic show will probably never attract large crowds as a result. However, for actress Rosie Peregrine-Black, this might be a boon because she’s still on book and consequently, the show has yet to reach its full potential. When she has the confidence to perform without that stack of papers, I think this already quite striking production will be even more powerful and perhaps even override the promise/threat of its grave subject matter. There is levity written into the script, but being on book doesn’t allow it to be used effectively. I did have a few script gripes as well. Not much is told to us of Rosie and Adrian’s relationship, and I found myself wondering why his parents, optometrists, didn’t turn up during this critical period. Whatever the reason for not including them in the script (too cumbersome, too focus-shifting, not there, etc.), the audience needs a reason not to think about them. — Rachel Levine
Sleeping in Chairs at the Gates of Valhalla is at the Montreal Improv Theatre (6997 St Laurent). $12/10. Juen 13 @ 20:15, June 14 @ 23:30, June 17 @ 13:45, June 18 @ 22:15. Tickets HERE.
Get Your Shuffle On
The third in a series of one-woman shows I see in one day, Laura Flynn’s Get Your Shuffle on is an odd piece that makes me think of fairy magic. Coming from a small place, Dundalk, Ireland, Laura thinks of herself as fairly boring and dull — “ordinary” as she says. Her imagination, though, is anything but. In this show, we meet Flynn’s alter-egos, including a red boa-bedecked performer Rita who is obsessed with Patrick Swayze and a witchy woman who makes predictions about Laura’s life based on an umbrella. Every now and then, she throws a glass of water in her own face. The audience gets to do origami, sing, and even dance if they want. This is a sweet and gentle show and I enjoyed it for being both meandering and undemanding. No one is trying to be something they aren’t here. Get Your Shuffle On isn’t going to win any awards, but having an open heart and enough bravery to push your own limits of social awkwardness is worth sharing. — Rachel Levine
Get Your Shuffle On is at the Montreal Improv Theatre (6997 St Laurent). $12/10. June 13 @ 22, June 16 @ 23:59, June 17 @ 15:30, June 18 @ 20:45. Tickets HERE.
The Montreal Fringe Festival continues until June 19. Tickets and information for all shows HERE.