Wildside Festival: Self Exile and A Perfect Picture

Nisha Coleman in Self Exile. Nisha Coleman in Self Exile.

Montreal may feel sheathed in ice but that’s no excuse to stay in. In the theatre community, January in this town can mean only one thing: the Wildside Festival is upon us again. For the uninitiated, the Wildside festival is a little breath of fresh air in the depths of winter, a chance to see a bunch of good short shows over a 10-day period in the winter wonderland that is Old Montreal in the winter. So get your cleats on and scurry from Place d’Armes metro and come see some gems that you may have missed earlier on in the year.

I say missed earlier in the year, because Montreal Fringe productions are usually well represented in the line-up and this year is no exception. So far, I have seen the opening productions of Self-Exile by Nisha Coleman and A Perfect Picture by Laurent McCuaig-Pitre and they were just great.

Self-Exile is a storytelling style show that lets you into the world of a deeply introverted young woman finding her place in a world that has not necessarily rewarded her for expressing herself. Growing up poor and abused by a mentally-ill father, she was ill-prepared to deal with the casual social interactions that come with basic existence in society. Through music, she finds a voice in the world, a voice that is confident and allows her to carve out some sort of space. However, she also comes to understand that bare existence is not enough to sustain a life, and that more will be required to experience real joy, to find the richness of experience that comes from self-expression. I would qualify this piece as delicate, and fragile, and beautiful. If you missed it at the Montreal Fringe Festival, don’t miss your opportunity this time around.

A Perfect Picture by Laurent McCuaig-Pitre s a whole other kettle of fish. This show is a surrealistic exploration of Kevin Carter, Pulitzer Prize winner and deeply flawed human being’s life. It is hard to describe this show, as it just kind of happens to you. There is a lot going on here, as we discuss the messenger versus the message, the relationship between image, subject and photographer, the disconnect between picture and soul, the adrenaline junkie and other addiction issues, all set in the backdrop of hyper-violent Apartheid South Africa. The passion in this show is palpable, and while some linguistic aspects might not serve the show as well as can be, its a very, very worthwhile watch. It feels a little dangerous. The performance is solid and the show is entirely original, and I am really glad that I was finally able to see this show, which I had heard so many good things about at Fringe as well.

While Backdoor Queens is also representing, the festival is not only about Fringe remounts. Empire of the Son is in from Vancouver, Hootenanny comes at us from Ottawa, Outta Here and The Village are also both local productions. The shows were selected based on the themes of inclusion and understanding of the other, with the thoughts towards diversity. Roy Surette, Centaur’s Artistic and Executive Director, who co-curates the festival with Artist Johanna Nutter were mindful of the US Presidential election and wanted to focus on what brings us together. The answer is good theatre on a cold night. See you there.

The Wildside Festival is presented at the Centaur Theatre (453 St. Francois Xavier), from Jan 5-15, 2017, tickets are 16$/13$ subscribers, students, seniors, under 30 AND you can also get a 4-show pass for 50$/40$ subscribers, students, seniors, under 30. Tickets HERE.