What a long two years it’s been without a full Fringe Festival. Fortunately the St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival is back in town like the return of a favourite aunt. She’s aways super inclusive and radically hospitable, but never quite the same person twice. This year, the live spectacles are robust and music and events in Parc des Amériques are full on, but some of the secondary programming remains in hybrid format.
The annual festival is the gateway into summer, bringing together a community of artists from well-established Fringe faves to newbies. There are over 77 companies featured in 11 venues coming from diverse disciplines such as spoken word, comedy, burlesque, dance, theatre, music, even astronomy lessons. At a cost of no more than $15 a ticket, and most shows clocking in at under an hour, it’s a great night out and draws enthusiastic audiences. St Laurent thrums with the hundreds of performers, crew, and volunteers that power the Fringe braiding their way through packs of students released from the labours of academic exams, curious looky-loo travellers, and hip locals soaking up terrace culture.
On May 30th, the kick-off event, the Fringe-for-All, showcased two-minute clips from each company at Club Soda. In a packed room, Kenny Streule and Maryline Chery gave a little love to every company with their on-fire repartee. Fringe staff and volunteers announced upcoming events like live music in Parc des Amériques, Mado’s annual Drag Races, an eco carnival, and a Fringe podcast (The Fringebuzz Lab).
While it’s hard to say what will make for the best shows, here are a few that caught our attention.
Tango, to the Pointe
Wow. Just wow. Tango and ballet soar together by dancers Erin Scott Kafadar and Alexander Richardson. Think you can handle the formal sensuality of tango, the precision of ballet? These two talented dancers with a great sense of timing and fun and art will make sure of it. There’s only four performances, so snag that ticket asap. At Le Studio Hudro-Québec du Monument-National (1182 Saint Laurent) on June 10, 12, 14, and 15.
An Evening with Leighland Beckman
Montreal’s resident comedian with the soul of a viking, Leighland Beckman is quite well established in Montreal for playing dirty songs and hosting comedy nights. The song he performed about the terror of Quebec’s bonhomme de carnival, the carnival snowman mascot had me in tears. At Petit Campus, June 10, 12, 13, 16, 18, and 19.
Another favorite from Montreal’s comedy scene, Andrew Cameron, delivered an in-character monologue of a man who inexplicably manages to pass a breathalyzer test. Cameron’s deadpan delivery is hypnotic and I was completely charmed by the fact that sunglasses were required for him to get into character. At Théâtre La Comédie de Montréal (1113 de Maisonneuve E) on June 10, 11, 12, 15, 17, and 19.
The premise — dancing to the album, “Music Inspired by the Group of Seven” by the Rheostatics — is so very, very Canadian I wanted to yell, “Sorry!” instead of applauding. I was transfixed by the performance put on by this company. Their ensemble movement was already solid, but they ended by forcing the face of one of the dancers into a smile. The subtle green and ecru costumes spoke to attention to detail that makes any performance rewarding. Enchanting. At La Chapelle (3700 Saint Dominique) on June 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, and 19.
Fans of theatre should be delighted by Saltzman’s Antiques, a piece about having to run the family business following a death. Sandy and son will delve into the idea of shaping one’s own destiny versus expectations. This piece features a beloved Dawson theatre prof, so pretty much the acting’s gonna have that special sumthin-sumthin. At Théâtre La Comédie de Montréal (1113 de Maisonneuve E) on June 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, and 18.
The Murder Next Door
Familicide happens here. Rosemary Reilly uses transcripts based on real interviews in towns that have faced these types of gruesome murders. Part research, part theatre, this piece invites audience participation in creating a trauma preparedness plan. At Studio Jean-Valcourt du Conservatoire (4750 Henri-Julien) on June 9, 11, 12, 17, 18, and 19.
The Family Crow: A Murder Mystery
Adam Francis Proulx doesn’t need his muppet-esque puppets to get my attention. He could probably use a paper bag and a sock and I’d still come to his show. This tour-de-force solo puppeteer’s previous Fringe shows, 12 Angry Puppets and Baker’s Dozen, were wonderful. Although he only offered a video of his crow puppet at the Fringe-for-All, the real performance is sure to go by too fast. At Le Ministère (4521 St Laurent) on June 10, 12, 16, 17, 18, and 19.
If putting together a video that’s more like a movie trailer spoofing Tarantino, my heart is hooked. An ex-cup-police officer takes on a case about contraceptive trafficking. There are menstrual cup puppets. I don’t want to know where the promised “blood” comes from. At the MainLine Theatre (3997 St Laurent) on June 11, 12, 14, 16, and 18.
This short list barely scratches the surface of what promises to be an exciting few weeks of the St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival. We’re so glad you’re back!
St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival is on now, with shows beginning on June 9 and continuing until June 19. For information about tickets and shows, click HERE.