Ottawa Fringe 2015

The Elephant Girls….Critics’ pick for the Ottawa Fringe Festival 2015

News from Capital Critics Circle

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Best show:      The Elephant Girls: this original show was the result of  historical research which could possibly become an important text in the Canadian repertoire. Margo Macdonald’s excellent interpretation took the actor into an area of solo performance that was uncharted  for her and could be the beginning of a new orientation of her own stage work.

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The Secret Life of Emily / Frances

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Laurie Fyffe and Michelle Leblanc. Photo: Annette Hegel.

The Bytown Museum, with its historical atmosphere, physical references to the founding of Ottawa and the life of the early settlers in the area, provides the most perfect set one could imagine for this performance. It takes place between 1764 and 1769 between London England and Quebec City, several years after the battle of the Plains of Abraham (1759) when France lost its most important colony in North America. Laurie Fyffe incarnates the British playwright/novelist/essayist and translator, Frances Brooke (1724-89) annoyed by the male dominated theatre milieu in London, after her last play, Victoria was rejected by the reading committee. Her husbad is pastor in the the new British Colony in Quebec, “ that orphaned colony of French peasants” and she is rushing out to join him where she hopes to discover a new land, and revive her work as a writer. She arrives accompanied by her French maid Manon (Michelle LeBlanc) and the story explains how they pass those three years in Quebec City, discovering the history of the country, the elegant social and cultural life of the new British colony with all its military personal, and trying to adapt to Canadian winters which are unbearable.

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EFT-up: Just Like You

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

Photo courtesy of the Ottawa Fringe

Photo courtesy of the Ottawa Fringe

Experimental Farm Theatre is a comedy collective who base their work on interesting contemporary stories. Given the fact that Ottawa improv-comedy is still small, they decided to jump in and enrich it by their endeavour. They produce funny sketches, and, as they say, “We’re trying to get people to just be present and be really perceptive listeners and to advance the story rather than just sacrifice it for the sake of jokes.” Very sound and admirable attitude!

Their first Fringe appearance, EFT-up: Just Like You, proves mean what they say. They find material for the script in the contemporary world: running for mayor, falling in love with the phone, having to spend a night in a disastrous hotel. Another point in their favour is that they don’t only rely on jokes, but rather try to develop strong characters. The audience’s reaction confirms that they are funny. Well, yes, they are energetic, fun to watch, and, sure, the potential is there. Some of material is hilarious, some not so much. Execution is engaging from time from time, though sometimes it is less successful. It is evident that there’s still a lot of learning and polishing to do, but I believe that Experimental Farm Theatre is on the right track. Hopefully, we will see them next year with even better material and acting skills. Still, EFT-up: Just Like You is an enjoyable show to watch.

EFT-up: Just Like You plays in Academic Hall.

Lara Loves Leonard

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

After seeing Lara MacMillan’s exquisite show, Lara Loves Leonard, one understands that it is not just a title of yet another performance at the 2015 Ottawa Fringe Festival. It’s the simple truth:  Lara MacMillan loves Leonard Cohen! That love is embedded in every song she sings and in every verse she says.

This show is a tribute to Cohen. MacMillan’s interpretation of his work oozes emotion – passion, desire, and affection. Her voice and her silence speak volumes equally and keep the audience under their spell. By her precise pace and tone, she electrifies every corner of the venue, from the simple stage where she stands alone, to the visitors in the last row. Increasingly, one moment after another, she builds a magic atmosphere of love and tranquility. By the end, one feels that a whole new world living in Cohen’s poetry and music opens up to those willing to listen. With her honesty, expressiveness and deep understanding of art, Lara MacMillan proves to be a perfect transmitter.

Lara Loves Leonard is an absolute must for those who love Leonard Cohen, music, poetry, or simply for those who are in search for an extraordinary 60 minutes.

Lara Loves Leonard plays at Studio Léonard Beaulne

“Three Men in a Boat”: A delightful and thoroughly professional show that carries the audience away on a hillarious theatrical adventure!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo. Courtesy Ottawa Fringe.

Such a delightful , refreshing, witty, beautifully performed, impeccably choreographed show was truly an astonishing discovery at this Fringe. Scott Garland, Matt Pilipiak, and Victor Pokinko   breezed through this Jerome K Jerome adaptation as  though they really belonged in that world of middle class English snobbery (with accents and all) seeking a rousing experience in contact with true, unadulterated nature. Mark Borwnell’s adaptation respects the spirit of the story to the letter but it’s these three young men, deftly directed by Sue Miner, who  create magic in the Leonard Beaulne Studio.

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The Elephant Girls

Reviewed by Kat Fournier

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Gritty, powerful and excellently crafted, The Elephant Girls is an astounding story that transports its audience to a bar in historic, inter-war London, England. Here at the Ottawa Fringe, we are fortunate to have seen the world premiere of a show that will undoubtedly become a great success.

We meet Maggie Hale (Margo MacDonald), a member of the infamous girl-gang, the Elephant Girls, in a bar where she spins a tale about her years at the right-hand of ruthless gang leader Alice Diamonds. Pint after pint, Hale’s dark humour starts to reveal the truth beyond the stories we might think we know….

This is an excellent example of historic playwriting – one that is not only well-researched and dramaturgically sound, but one that feels intentional. The story is framed such that the audience is treated as if we’ve stumbled into a bar, and into the arms of the notorious Hale who is half in the bag and ready to talk. This endows the story with a sense of realism, which is further actualized through Mary Ellis’ clever direction.

But the story is also purposed. MacDonald weaves Hale’s sexuality into the plot—a lesbian in London in the early 1900s would be quite subversive —and what begins as a bit of an elbow-nudge slowly morphs into something much more meaningful. A repressed shame surfaces throughout Hale’s story, and the audience learns that she is an outcast who has found shelter in the arms of the Elephant Girls.

The story is one that will slowly draw you in as fiction gives way to fact. Though she has a gritty exterior, Hale’s sense of humour masks violence, sadness, and periods of deep isolation. MacDonald is a powerful actor, and now, it seems, a powerful writer as well.

THE ELEPHANT GIRLS

by Margo MacDonald / Parry Riposte Productions

Venue Léonard Beaulne studio.

Hootenanny

Reviewed by Kat Fournier

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Photo: Cory Thibert.

A brief note: I happened to see HOOTENANNY! during a performance during which their tech broke down, leaving them with huge gaps in the plot due to missing video sequences that help to advance the plot. And so I will just say a couple words, as I think Kate Smith and Will Somers’ brave work onstage, despite these difficulties, merits some attention!

Meet Hoot and Annie–two Australian children’s entertainers—on their world tour! They will play you some of their most beloved tunes, including one that reminds children to “do your chores or you’ll get a spank,” and another about a hopping possum that meets a not-so-friendly fox. This show is a parody of children’s entertainers that calls to mind the irreverent humour of Will Farrell. Hoot and Annie are contractually obligated to tell you that they are best friends, even since Hoot’s most recent stint at rehab.

Kate Smith & Will Somers have a natural penchant for humour that helped them to pull together a really funny performance. They referenced their own broken video sequences, and tried to make up for the gaps in the plot through some crafty improv. This was a solid performance, and I have no doubt that, once the tech issues are resolved, it will be even better.

Performed and conceived by Kate Smith & Will Somers / Smith & Somers

Keith Brown: Exchange

Reviewed by Kat Fournier

Performed by Keith Brown.

I don’t usually go to magic shows because, frankly, they hurt my brain. Keith Brown’s show, Exchange, does just that. It is a conundrum. A complete question mark. In other words: A great magic show.

Brown is charming and sincere in his performance, while he delivers a set of tricks that defy logic. From impressive feats of memory, to prestidigitation (that I still can’t figure out), and unbelievable guess-work, Exchange is a great performance. What’s more, Brown’s framework is all about creating a bridge between he and the audience, which leads to a very entertaining evening. He has the audience’s rapt attention as he delivers a series of unbelievable tricks that will keep you up late searching the internet for answers.

During the Ottawa Fringe, the climax of Brown’s performance is a feat that supposedly landed him in the hospital, and he has photos to prove it. Whether you are a skeptic or a believer, Brown has the format of his show down to an art and delivers a performance that will stick to your brain like glue, whether you like it or not.

Two Girls, One Corpse.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo, Monique Elliot

Two friends, have gone to a wedding, they wake up the next day and discover a corpse in their apartment. Two legs sticking out from the wings could be the beginning of a sit-com version of Antonioni’s Blow Up which might have lead to a more non-traditional investigation of the presence of the corpse. However, still in TV mode, the writers have chosen Murder She Wrote as their mystery solving model which transforms the corpse into a bit of a sterotype , especially at the end.  Instead there are hysterics, jumpy nervous flippant tv-style dialogue, a perfectly good sit-com style relationship between the two friends who insert Jessica Fletcher into the mix as part of their playing at being sleuths. 

The show is rather well layered as far as the characters and their situation are concerned, Good directing by Dave Dawson whose work is always very competent and fitting performances by the two young women concerned who really seem to be having a great time on stage.  This is a perfect example of the way TV is having a deep deep influence on the  style and narratives of a certain kind of popular theatre these days. Its not a bad thing. It is just very revealing and no doubt inevitable.

Two Girls, One Corpse at Academic Hall. .

Two Girls One Corpse

Created and performed by Marissa Caldwell and Michelle Blanchard

Directed by Dave Dawson

Production of Lazy Sunday Theatre

Critics’ Short List for Critics’ Picks award for the Ottawa Fringe, 2015.

News from Capital Critics Circle

Best  show                                                  Bursting  into Flames  
                                                                      Inescapable
                                                                      The Elephant Girls
                                                                      Three Men in a Boat
                                                                     Weird: Witches of Macbeth

Best performers in  Fringe                     Martin Dockery (Inescapable/Bursting into  Flames                                
                                                                John D. Huston  (Screwtape)
                                                              Margo Macdonald  (The Elephant Girls)
                                                             Daniel Tobias (The Orchid and the Crow)
                                                           Gemma Wilcox (Magical Mystery Detour)

 

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Past Reviews