I’m starting to panic as I enter Wednesday. There are so many shows that I’m super keen to see, but can’t figure out how to make it to all of them. This is what happens when you draw up a schedule and every day, make it to the first show, and then take a different trajectory completely. At least I got to see a very solid collection of shows this year.
Attention Seeker makes me glad that people like Gerard Harris walk among us. With endearing frenetic energy, the South African/UK storyteller explains how he took the road-less-traveled-by to a life performing comedy. Well, comedy among other things (I promised I wouldn’t reveal too much). The storytelling narrative is creatively constructed and meshes with Harris’ mercurial personality. He’s very conscious of his flaws and that kind of vulnerability contrasts with the chosen points of his self-deprecation. If you were to watch him at half-speed, he’d still seem to be moving at a faster clip than most people. Come with your antennae up so you don’t miss a thing; he’s very funny and some hilarious insights are delivered almost as after-thoughts
Attention Seeker is at the Studio Multimedia du Conservatoire (4750 Henri Julien) on June 12 @ 20:45, June 13 @ 12:00, June 14 @ 17:15, June 18 @ 19:45, June 19 @ 21:45, and June 21 @ 15:30.
Seven. The Roots of Self
In this sensitive piece of contemporary dance, the gamine Mel Sirois interprets seven phases of life from childhood to death. It could easily be seven chakras or any and all other mystic and spiritual “sevens” one encounters in life. Each uses a different “language”, ranging from acrobatic movement to poetry. Part of what makes the piece work so well is how transitions are handled. For example, the transition from childhood to adolescence consists of raising increasingly mature questions with the stuffed toys of her childhood. As for the life phases themselves, I especially like how wearing clothing that doesn’t fit represents adolescence. Sirois has an expressive face and her movements convey a range of emotions that are recognizable yet abstract enough to feel universally applicable.
Seven Roots of the Self is at the Studio Multimedia du Conservatoire (4750 Henri Julien)
Absurdist sketches about contemporary life are the source material for Die Mutter. In between each sketch as they change clothes, Deborah Ring and Noemi Salamon give feedback with intellectualized German accents a la Deieter’s Dance Party. The show was irregular, with a few strong sketches and a few that felt like they were trying too hard to please the American SNL-loving public from the 1990s.
Die Mutter is at the Montreal Improv Theatre (3697 St Laurent)
In this show, Mochinosha Puppet Company tells sexy adult stories using shadow puppets. Seri Yanai tells the stories in Japanese, while Daniel Wishes provides the English portion. It’s part translation, part not. The two also work together to bring the paper puppets to life against a gong shaped white screen behind. Some coloured transparencies used as scenery break up the shadow and lit from the front white-wall effect. Oni follows a three-inch tall man who goes out in search of his fortune while encountering demonic beings called Onis. Within this main story are several other stories about merchants, princesses, and sea creatures. What works best are the creative and unfamiliar aspects of Japanese folklore culture: the shadow puppets themselves as well as demons, dragons, and magic. Unfortunately, the show doesn’t gel completely. I also felt that it never lives up to the promise of telling adult, sexy stories. The way the puppets have sex and even the jokes seem better for a much younger audience. Bawdy and more bite please!
Oni is at Studio CirQus (4247 ST Dominique)
Look At This Guy!
When a European conductor loses his line of work, he begins an epic adventure to the Americas in search of something. What he finds are people from many different walks of life, all with advice. Talented McGee plays different characters who interact with him and provide clues to life’s new meaning. McGee is experienced on stage and it steps what could have been a disconnected series of sketches into something coherent and fluid.His costume changes are done without interruption. His choreography matches well with the music. He knows when to respond spontaneously to the audience and when not to. His characters don’t shy from being manly. This one is a lot of fun.
Look at This Guy is at the Montreal Improv Theatre (3697 St Laurent)
Baker’s Dozen: 12 Angry Puppets
The butcher did something to the baker in the tub and the candlestick maker may or may not be involved. Who knew a nursery rhyme could be so controversial? When 12 puppets of very different personalities sit on a jury that votes on this fate of the accused, the audience learns how differently one’s peers assess guilt and innocence. The facts of the case have no relevance when homophobia and other prejudices come into play. This extremely well-done puppet show is gripping and entertaining. The highlight is puppeteer Adam Francis Proulx who takes one blank periwinkle muppet-type puppet and gives eyes, hair, voice, movement, and personality to each of the 12. His metamorphosis into each new character, male, female, young, old, and Russian alike, is wizardry. Proulx’ provides the facial expressions that the puppets lack with complete conviction. For all that, I can’t get my head around the fact that I am not comfortable with the political side of this show. I find the critique of the trial by jury system too simplistic for what is a far more nuanced (and complicated) situation. Also, can one address stereotypes if the puppets themselves seem to be “types”? Best not to get too deep about these matters and enjoy this show for its craft, wit, and cleverness.
12 Angry Puppets is at the Montreal Improv Theatre (3697 St Laurent)
To check out more Montreal Fringe Festival times and shows, click HERE.