The fifth annual Fresh Meat festival of local, DIY theatre features ten, 20-minute shows by established and emerging artists. The emphasis is on testing new ideas in front of audiences. Some past Fresh Meat shows have gone on to bigger venues including the undercurrents festival and the fringe circuit. The following opening night shows comprised the festival’s first of two weekends.
Space Jameration (Greg Houston Comedy). Houston is a stand-up comic eager to transition into more theatre-based performance. He’s not there yet. His autobiographically based piece, quite witty at times, hovers in a no-man’s land between stand-up and storytelling. Houston seems to know he’s not yet where he wants to be artistically, and his discomfort intrudes on the performance.
S.S. Lightbulb (Second Step). Three bumbling electricians are tasked with repairing an out-of-commission lighthouse during a storm at sea. They demonstrate zero technical competence, cower in fear at nature’s fury, and are shaken when they realize the danger that those at sea face. It’s an inconsequential show by emerging performers who love physical theatre but S.S. Lightbulb manages to remain mostly amusing and well-timed.
Burger King Lear (Skeleton Key). Kate Smith turns William Shakespeare’s magnificent King Lear into a fleet-footed fast food frolic by using burgers as characters and wrapping as objects. The show, which is delightfully ridiculous and wholly engaging, has a serious intent: to make you see the gross and wasteful disregard of animal life that is the heart of the fast-food industry. One issue: all burgers, even when given little costumes, look the same, so it’s sometimes hard to remember just what is who.
Three (Plants) This trio delivers sparkling semi-improvisation. Over the course of five or so short pieces, we meet a Sad Sack who’s been waiting over 45 minutes for a server to bring him his sandwich, a guy who claims to be a world-class thief catcher but is more interested in prodding our perceptions of reality, a self-absorbed bass guitar player, a gullible waitress who’s coming apart at the seams, and a couple of short-order cooks. It’s funny, fast and damn near flawless.
Unzipping the Cat (Strange Visitations) Kevin Reid takes us inside his relationship with Winston, a cat he agreed to care for temporarily and wound up befriending and living with for five years. Reid, who we’ve seen act – not always successfully – at the Ottawa Fringe Festival and elsewhere, may have found his métier in storytelling. While sometimes self-conscious, he’s a compelling, sympathetic teller with a nice sense of his and life’s absurdities and vulnerabilities. The show suffers from dry stretches and a conclusion that veers too close to maudlin, but it’s still a genuinely sweet and moving piece.
Fresh Meat: DIY Theatre Fest continues until Oct. 22 in Arts Court Studio