Montreal Fringe Festival Reviews : Round 3

Fringe Park 2014 Fringe Park 2014

Myths of the Future

Woo Me Myth’s sci-fi multimedia Iredea is a hero’s journey set in the future. The planet is subject to water and food shortages and a big-brother-esque Superstructure oversees the distribution of these commodities. Following a series of detonations launched by a Superstructure engineer, the planet is barely able to sustain life. Few plants, animals, people and even robots survive, and those that do are transformed, burned, and poisoned. Artist has been brought back to life by a Replicant, who outfits her with a bionic arm and charges her with a quest to find the man who launched the detonations and build a sculpture of him. In her journey, she encounters a few other survivors and must endure different trials. This very cool show has everything going for it. The future world is well-conceived. The story moves forward and evokes pathos, constructing a myth that feels ancient even though it isn’t. An engaging film fills in the details. Every dance is a beautiful and creative with choreography (kudos to choregorapher Jenn Doan) related to the story. I can’t emphasize enough how fantastic and meaningful these dances are. I can’t even pick a single favorite — the reanimation dance of the Artist, the man who learns to walk again, the fight with a jellyfish, the encounter of the Artist with the Wanderer. All of them. Eek. The costumes are great and meticulously tailored. This group didn’t miss a single detail. Oh, and the robot! The robot is just those last few drops of gas in an already full tank. A successful Indiegogo campaign probably helped pay for some of these refinements and it comes through. Even if you don’t like dance, this show will impress. Iredea is a winner. Rachel Levine

Hugs Not Heartbreak

jon bennett
In spite of having an oppressive religious family background in the wilds of Australia, it must be good to be Jon Bennett. Bennett is a master of his métier storytelling. He spent three years traveling the world, turning monuments and movable objects into penises. Then, combining the two, he spent many more years traveling the world telling people how awesome it was to turn things into cocks. With an inverse proportion between heart and shame, Bennett recounts his life’s most embarrassing moments, allowing others to open up as well. Über-Funny and vulnerable — hold on to your panties, Ladies. They say that behind every great man is some long-suffering woman. Story Whore gives us insight into the women Bennett loved, starting with his elementary school girlfriend to his traveling companion of many years to the most recent past. We meet these women through letters (nb kid letters are pricelessly funny years after the fact. How sad that kids now have email), through photographs, and of course through stories. He manages something few can achieve: he recounts his love life without sounding dickish, smarmy, or boring. The hour ends too quickly and I’d listen to him pretty much the rest of the Fringe Festival if that were possible. If Bennett doesn’t get a lot of hugs after this one, the world is a very dark place indeed. Rachel Levine

Everything But the Wiener Dog

My big fat german puppet show
My Big Fat German Puppet Show show gets the most creative staging award. Hopefully, that won’t reveal too much. Frank Meschkuleit’s show has an attention to detail that is admirable – especially and including the stage set and costume. The puppets are not the cute, muppety type (for the most part). Instead, these are Tim Burton-esque puppets, both in their appearance and personality. A zombie magician, for example, reaches into a hat, pulls out a puppet on his arm, and proceeds to eat his own arm, puppet and all. In a variation of pulling the red handkerchief out of one’s mouth, he yacks up the little puppet and more. Some puppets had better “numbers” than others, but all had something likable and something uncomfortable at the same time. There are some great lines. “Why did the chicken cross the mobius strip?” jokes the Stephen Hawking stand-up (um… sit-down) puppet. “To get to the same side.” Occasionally, the tone seemed to slip from edgy to nasty, but Meschkuleit rescued it with his audience rapport and improv banter. “I know you’re not happy. Six out of seven dwarfs are not happy.” Word to the wise: the puppets are tiny, so sit up close or you miss the details. Rachel Levine

More Pepperoni

Last year’s Alex Cross and His Rise to Fame was a show that was possibly too over the top and so it was kind of a sleeper. I found myself thinking of it while watching Brighella, a retold Comemdia Dell’Arte. This show is not for people who like subtlety and nuance. But if you like your old men lusty and your humour largely below the belt, go for zany Brighella. The show is grand and big and silly with a deliberately complicated plot, a retelling of old Brighella stories. A Napoli couple, Valentino and Maria, are to wed and their respective fathers, the local pimp and the local doctor, are celebrating with drink. Valentino is caught in his lie of promising the fickle Maria tickets to see a singer. She’s on the verge of calling off the wedding, though it seems she’s not really the one woman-one man-one foot massage- type anyway. Meanwhile, the housekeeper is off to see the singer, and her son, Brighella, former hit man for the pimp, is taking her place for the day. Of course, the only cleaning up Brighella intends to do is better known as revenge. What ensues is an old-style (and by old style, I mean 16th century) comedy that involves ridiculous plot twists, drama, and bawdy humour. The actors go for it with gusto, whether milking the physical humour and over-playing the pepperoni jokes. I suspect that more convincing props and costumes and set might have added something. At least get a big sausage and not some tiny bit of beef jerky. Rachel Levine

Thought Provoking Poet


Montreal Fringe Festival Launch. Jem Rolls in his 94th Fringe performance. Photo Rachel Levine.

Montreal Fringe Festival Launch. Jem Rolls in his 94th Fringe performance. Photo Rachel Levine.

It’s my nth fringe and I’ve never gone to see Jem Rolls… until now. For lack of a proper word, Jem Rolls : One-Man Traffic Jam is stand-up poetry and Jem has been doing this for as long as 1994 (check out his bio). This year, for an hour, nonstop, Jem poetizies about traffic jams, evolution, his own sweat, and the fringe audiences. “You’re only as good as your next show,” he says (reflect on those words carefully). It’s witty stuff, and every sentence could easily be excerpted and transformed into a retweetable Tweet. “I went to a Starbucks so big, it had a Starbucks in it.” “I get road rage at the ATM.” “I wore the international uniform of the ecstasy dealer,” he says, when explaining how he returned with $20 bills stuffed in his clothing from the fringe circuit. He has that British certainty that makes it impossible to tell if he’s full of shit or really smart. I’ll err on the side of smart. His delivery feels like that of a trained Shakespearean actor, either that or he can just really roll those R’s. I found myself thinking of all sorts of things during his show (does that make it thought-provoking). To begin, his ability to memorize such a bulk of poetic material that lasts a solid hour reminds me of the great epic poets: Homer, say or Valmiki (of the Ramayana). Also, if he were a James Bond, would he be the more refined, smooth Roger Moore or the gruff, virile Sean Connery. Even when he speaks of quitotidian situations (like traffic jams) while his shirt darkens with sweat, he comes off as a gentleman. Between the clever lines and the energetic, break-neck pace of performance, it’s easy to see how he’s developed a following on the fringe circuit. Rachel Levine

For Montreal Fringe Festival schedule, click HERE. For our Fringe Reviews, click here (Round 1) and here (Round 2).

About Rachel Levine

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