Perhaps you noticed, dear reader, that Montreal’s Improv Theatre shifted locations from the Plateau to St. Henri.
Yes… and the theatre still is home to top notch actors who produce creative, never-predictable improv shows.
Yes… and I had the good fortune to talk to a familiar from the Montreal Improv crowd, Hannah Cartmel, about her upcoming show in the Montreal Fringe Festival, Once Upon A Time and Never Again… An Improvised Fairytale.
The show, as the title suggests offers a fairytale to its audience. And, in true improv style, the actors call upon the audience to make suggestions as to what fairytale they want to see (as well as give a summary for those unfamiliar with the story). The actors will then either retell the fairytale from a different perspective or add new components, perhaps both.
“It’s completely fresh every time,” Cartmel says. The actors don’t even have set characters in case a familiar tale is chosen. “Whoever decides in the moment they’re going to play the role, plays the role.”
Fairytales are a natural fit for Cartmel’s improv group, Priddy Playful Productions, which has spoofed familiar television shows like Bridgerton and Game of Thrones. Cartmel notes that popular television and fairytales overlap in so far as there are total devotees who know every detail in each. “There is that general fan base of people who are familiar with it. Some people will come just because they love fairytales.”
Retelling a fairytale in a new way is part of the tradition of telling stories.”Even Disney tells stories that are different from the Brothers Grimm, and you get similar stories from different countries,” Cartmel says. “Fairytales exist because people keep telling them and retelling them. They get altered as they get passed down.”
“They can be comedic or a bit darker, or more romanticized,” she adds. “I like so many different types and keep rediscovering the same story. They don’t get old. There’s always fresh takes.”
The cast of Once Upon a Time and Never Again… An Improvised Fairytale have all worked with Cartmel in the past, and some for many years. Like Cartmel who hails from England, the cast comes from all over — Toronto, Newfoundland, Montreal, and therefore brings their own take on familiar fairytales to the mix.
Cartmel’s journey into improv is itself a bit of a fairytale story. Initially, she came to Canada after studying French and Spanish in the UK, and took advantage of a program offered to English nationals to live in Quebec teaching in Rivière-du-Loup, up at the Quebec-New Brunswick border. After two years, she moved to Montreal, where she knew almost no one except a few people from the program. She went to an improv show without knowing a lot about it. She was taken by the experience and wanted to take a class, but took nearly four months before she did. “I was nervous about it,” she says. “But, I signed up and haven’t looked back since. The community is so supportive and welcoming. I got integrated and produced my own shows with friends and in groups.” After participating in Make it a Musical at the 2019 Fringe Festival, she decided to take the plunge as a producer herself. With a year of producing shows at the Montreal Improv Theatre, it was time to hit the Fringe Festival.
“Discovering improv opened a lot of opportunity for me. I met a lot of people and made some really, really good friends. It’s my community in Canada and it’s a big part of what makes Montreal home.”
Once Upon a Time and Never Again… An Improvised Fairytale is at Le Ministère (4521 St Laurent Boulevard) from June 8 – 18, 2023. For tickets, click HERE. For information about other shows at the Montreal Fringe Festival, click HERE.