Montreal Fringe 2015

From the Montreal Fringe 2015. An unlikely hero emerges in The Inventor of all Things by Jem Rolls

Reviewed by Kat Fournier

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Photo: Big Word Performance Poetry

Leo Szilard is one of those impressive historical figures who you probably have never heard of. That is, unless you are performer Jem Rolls who seems to be a walking encyclopedia dedicated to Szilard. Rolls’ one man show is biographical storytelling and delivers a fantastic amount of information at an impressive pace.

And so, who was Szilard?  A Hungarian, Jewish physicist, and what many might call a genius.  He was a bombastic personality, oftimes loathsome and hidden in the footnotes of the works of more famous scientists,  philosophers and politicians. He inspired the science that led to the first theories of the Atomic Bomb, and then kept the key that would unlock the science to himself to keep it out of the hands of the Nazis in the late 1930’s.

Jem Rolls delivers a truly impressive history with zeal and inflections that call to mind a British Steve Irwin. The performance is more along the lines of performative lecture than theatre. The story is fascinating and immaculately researched, and Rolls inserts humour by reminding us of his performance’s own structure, and his intentions to convince us that Szilard was as much a hero as he was a physicist.

Though Rolls’ passion for the subject matter is palpable, the density of information ended up being a barrier. Ultimately, despite some issues with pacing, the story leaves you wondering why you’ve never heard of Szilard before. If you asked Rolls, I imagine that he would say, “Mission accomplished “.

From the Montreal Fringe. Triptych and Felix: Self-indulgent plots and lack of strong directing lead to two very bad shows

Reviewed by Kat Fournier

Photo: Luciani's Absolute Theater

Photo: Luciani’s Absolute Theater

Triptych

Two performers have imagined a show that lays bare the relationship between art and artist, represented through the metaphor of a blossoming relationship between a young man, who represents the soul of a work of art, and the artist. The play attempts to portray, in three sequences, the stages of relationship with one’s art: first love, then artistic obsession, and then death by way of overindulgence.

Guido Luciani and Dash Barber employ ritualistic elements to, perhaps, signify some element of devotion or sanctity relating to art. There is a palpable homoerotic tension throughout, as Luciano sinks into obsession with his nymph. They lean into established, often cliché “art theatre” imagery; undressing on stage to stand behind warped panels that mask their bodies (though actually not quite). The performance attempts to be densely symbolic, deeply meaningful, and exploratory in nature. (more…)

From the Montreal fringe. Intersecting plots and immersive storytelling in “Displaced” by Ground Cover Theatre

Reviewed by Kat Fournier

Photo: Ground Cover Theatre

Photo: Ground Cover Theatre

Three women from three seperate histories–different countries and eras entirely–intersect in Ground Cover Theater’s Displaced. Each has reached a moment where leaving their homes for the greener pastures of Canada has become essential to their survival. And though their stories are independent from one another, here, they have been woven together in a story that portrays the trials faced by lone women who arrive to Canada as refugees.

Mary (Katie Moore) flees the Irish Famine in the 1840s, Sofia (Anna Mazurik) arrives from Germany in the 1940s after her Jewish husband dies in a camp, and Dara (Emma Laishram) must leave Afghanistan to avoid persecution after refusing an arranged marriage. And though their stories are disparate, playwrights Natasha Martina and Sue Mythen use overlayed monologues and corporeal sequences to indicate a shared theme amongst the three women. Each leaves terrible tragedy behind, and struggles in a new life as a persecuted outsider. (more…)

Montreal Fringe 2015 2056: A Dystopian Black Comedy, and Laureen: Queen of the Tundra.

Reviewed by Kat Fournier

Photo: vi.Va?VOOM!

Photo: Kinga Michalska

This year, the St. Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival is celebrating its 25th anniversary by putting the “fringe” in fringefest. Featuring over 100 performances in venues that pepper Montreal’s downtown, the Montreal Fringe Fest is boundary-pushing, multi-disciplinary, multi-lingual, and fearless. With shows running until June 21, the two-hour trip from Ottawa is well worth it.

2056: A Dystopian Black Comedy

In the aftershock of a religious-based war, society has organized itself into hard-gotten peace. In 2056, unilingualism and atheism are more than simply a choice: They are mandated, and there is a harsh penalty for disobedience. Two characters, Knut (Sebastien Rajotte) and Madalyn (Humberly Gonzalez), have been sterilized (both in body and in belief) and forced to cohabitate in a derelict apartment on the outskirts of a contaminated city. Both characters repress their mother-tongues for fear of being found deviant even in their own home. But a small slip and the audience soon finds out just how far the puppet strings go. (more…)