Ottawa Fringe 2016

Ottawa Fringe Festival 2016: Fugee well directed, acted, and well worth your time

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

Production: Third Wall Academy
Created by Abi Morgan
Directed by James Richardson

Kojo is a refugee fron Ivory Cost. He is only 14, but has already lived a very adult life. When he was only 11, soldiers kidnapped him, took to a training camp and made a solder out of him. He watched soldiers kill his parents and younger brother, suffered unkindness of all kinds and was made to kill. Finely, he escaped, and with a fake visa, came to England, where he was put in a safe place for unaccompanied minors. There he lives with other children, none of whom speaks English. The only thing common to all is the horror they once lived through and managed to escape.

Kojo’s styory is not told  in chronological order. On the contrary, Fugee starts with the last scene of the story – the moment when Kojo kills a young man on the street. From that first scene untill the last one, the play is constructed through a numbe of snapshots: children bonding, falling in love, telling their war experience, Kojo remembering his parents, and finally, the moment when, due to miscommunication, the system in England accuses him of a false identity and kicks him out of the safe place. Scene by scene, Kojo’s story unfolds, and by the end, all snapshots fall in place and make a perfect unity. (more…)

Ottawa Fringe Festival 2016: Magic Unicorn Island furious, entertaining and imaginative

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

Black Sheep Theatre (Ottawa), The Courtroom
It sounds like an idyllic spot, but Magic Unicorn Island is in fact a refuge about to confront its nemesis: The United Empire. How did the island, a Pacific Ocean home to one million children, get into this position? To answer that, writer/performer Jayson McDonald starts at the beginning — literally. His exceedingly dark-humoured solo show opens with a dude-like God fashioning the galaxy, cycles through millennia of human conflict, and winds up in some distant and ravaged future where the children of the world, led by a precocious and earnest 14-year-old named Shane, establish their own colony on a previously undiscovered island. McDonald’s cautionary tale includes a bunch of other characters including the Empire’s conniving leader, a front-porch philosopher, and a father who spews hatred toward every human including himself. Furious, entertaining and imaginative in accepted McDonald fashion, Magic Unicorn Island is named for a mythic creature, but its lesson is disquietingly realistic. (more…)

Ottawa Fringe Festival 2016: Gold, Glamour and Glory lacks structure

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

(Ottawa), Arts Court Theatre
War turns the world upside down, causing language to lose its meaning, relationships to be fraught, the grotesque to become the normal. Simon L. Lalande and Danielle LeSaux-Farmer, this cabaret-style show’s writers and principal performers, explore such outcomes of armed conflict in a production that’s long on concept but short on clarity, tension and other elements essential to maintaining our interest. LeSaux-Farmer plays a war correspondent whose encounter with destruction drives her into her own head where memories of remembered happier times play in near-constant performance. Lalande is an angel from Hell (whatever that is), a cabaret performer and other characters. There’s lots of physicality, two on-stage musical accompanists, and frequently baffling leaps in time, place and rationale as the playwrights pile one thing on top of another. That the show lacks structure was cringingly apparent when it concluded in such uncertain fashion that Lalande felt compelled to say to the audience: “The end.” It was indeed. (more…)

Ottawa Fringe Festival 2016: Cardinal is compassionate, insightful and funny

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

Aplombusrhombus (Ottawa), Academic Hall
An early contender for one of the best shows at this year’s Fringe, Cardinal is a powerfully affecting, clown-based journey into Alzheimer’s disease. Mitchel Rose and Madeleine Hall, dressed in red and white respectively, use just six chairs, a couple of flats and their own bodies to depict an intimate battle between memory and disease. Alzheimer’s being a vicious disrupter of communication, the two speak not a word as they track the confusion, fear and sometimes brief, liberating joy that mark memory’s confrontation with a sly, self-satisfied disease that cunningly builds a kind of symbiosis with its victim. At one point, the two opponents use the chairs as pieces in a game of checkers. You keep hoping that memory will win even though you know how this one is going to go. The show is compassionate, insightful and sometimes very funny as it tries to laugh valiantly at the disease. Most importantly, it’s true.


Ottawa Fringe Festival 2016: As Rome Burns brings best of theatre to the Fringe

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

Nicholas Dave Amott is very young but already accomplished artist, admired for his acting and writing ability. In his latest endeavour “As Rome Burns”, he reaches new highs in both.

The story about an emperor who fiddles while Rome burns might not be a historical fact (historians are still divided on that topic), but it is known that Nero came from a long line of Julio-Claudian dynasty, known for its numerous murders, subnormal behaviour, orgies, and incest. Nero, who was the latest in the line, according the ancient sources, was know for his extraordinary tyranny and his love for theatrical art.

Amott uses historical facts in order to paint a picture of a hated emperor who committed suicide when he was condemned as a traitor and a public enemy. He enters Nero’s mind skilfully, revealing the emperor’s inability to face reality and his constant hiding behind the imagined world. Power over Rome was not enough for him – he had to have power over people close to him, over friends and relatives and all those faithful. He craves validation, absolute surrender and unquestioning support. In the wake of his narcissistic nature, completely devoid of reality, he destroys everybody and everything that he touches- even stripping people of their humanity and identity.   (more…)

Ottawa Fringe Festival 2016: Love is a Battlefield gripping production

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

Concrete Drops (Brooklyn, N.Y.), The Courtroom

Credulity meets manipulation in this gripping, twist-and-turn of a two-hander by fringe favourite Martin Dockery. He plays a lost, naïve soul attempting to record a demo CD by a beautiful, rich songstress played by Vanessa Quesnelle. They squabble, drink, draw closer together, move apart as it slowly becomes clear that there’s more of a back story here than first appeared. To say much more would be to say too much, but the back story soon becomes front and centre as events grow darker and the characters – finely drawn by Dockery and compellingly embodied by both actors – slowly open up before us. That Dockery and Quesnelle are married in real life adds another dimension to the drama and heightens its intimate, almost voyeuristic air. This production marks the Canadian premiere of Love is a Battlefield, which is a welcome addition to Dockery’s canon. (more…)

Ottawa Fringe Festival 2016: Fugee’s excellent script and mostly well-oiled performances speak to the heart

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

TWA (Third Wall Academy, Ottawa), Academic Hall

Kill someone when you’re 14 years old, and your own life – likely now one of crippling self-hatred, anger and isolation — is in many ways over. Back up a bit to see why you committed the act and you’ll probably find it was almost predestined by events over which you had no control. That’s pretty much the case of Ivory Coast-born Kojo (Patrick Bugby), a child soldier and orphan who becomes a refugee among other abandoned child refugees (eight other student actors playing multiple roles) and who sees his own life, once a joyful thing of family and tall trees and potential, shrink to almost nothing. The script by British playwright and screenwriter Abi Morgan is powerful, its execution by this ensemble of under-20 performers mostly well-oiled and passionate. There are problems – characters are not always developed; the high-pitched screams of one actor are painful overkill – but under director James Richardson, Fugee speaks to the heart. (more…)

Fringe Festival 2016: Fugee a timely play with some excellent performances.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Fugee : Directed by James Richardson, written by Abi Morgan. A production of the Third Wall Academy

Third Wall Academy has made enormous strides in its theatre training this year, especially related to its actor training, with its production of this moving, and very timely play by Abi Morgan. It brings us into the world of child refugees from around the world, while emphasizing the horrors of Child Soldiers that have been discussed in much African literature recently, including the award winning novel by writer Ahmadou Kourouma (Allah Is Not Obliged 2007) from the Côte D’ivoire, also the country of origin of 14 year-old Kojo, the young French-speaking character at the centre of this performance. Kojo is submerged in the unfathomable noises of an English speaking refugee centre, as a narrative filled with flashbacks, confused memories of his family, gives us the background of this youth who is the focus of this play.


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