Now in its sixth year, Ottawa’s Fresh Meat festival brings 12 short shows over two weekends to invariably enthusiastic Arts Court audiences. The following were reviewed during the first weekend.
Le Crip Bleu
Featuring brave, generous and very funny performances by Alan Shain and Frank Hull – both wheelchair-using actors who celebrate the “able” in disabled – Le Crip Bleu is a wordless burlesque show that reminds us that humour and the glory of the human body in all its guises matter far more than shallow, contemporary conventions of beauty. The two perform a mating dance using their chairs, taunt and tease the audience with stripteases (the show does count on hooting, cooperative viewers), and generally carry on in cheeky, envelope-pushing fashion. One suspects the show could touch the heart of even a die-hard Republican.
Marc-André Charette and Anie Richer blend words, movement and song with deep love and compassion in this textured tale of a mother sliding into fragility. Performed with English surtitles on a bare stage with hundreds of sheets of paper as props, La disparition (She’s Gone) is authentic, satisfyingly choreographed and – whether you’ve ever watched your mother slip away into the unknowable world of dementia or not – both powerfully resonant and oddly hopeful.
Earnest to a fault, Beer Buddies is a solo show by Michaela Steven about a young, vulnerable woman who becomes entangled with a worldly older man when the two meet working on a theatre production. Alcohol, emotion and bad decisions all play their part in this lopsided relationship, and things ultimately go badly (no surprise there or, for that matter, anywhere else in the show). The performance does address the uneven power dynamic inherent in this kind of relationship – he’s in the driver’s seat from the word go – but Steven is too self-conscious, too aware of the message she’s delivering to us, to be convincing.
Honey Dew Me
Apparently not having enough real work to do, in the mid-1960s the RCMP waged a war on gays. That climate of persecution is the backdrop for this well-intentioned if frequently ungainly piece featuring Luke Brown and Kyle Cameron in multiple roles centred around a gay-friendly Honey Dew restaurant in Ottawa. Those roles – a drag queen who performs at the Honey Dew, RCMP officers, gays looking for companionship in a hostile world – aren’t always as sharply defined as they need to be, resulting in confusion about who is who. Call it a promising script in search of some ruthless editing.
Fear of growing up in a world where women are devalued underpins this three-hander featuring Lauren Cauchy, Alli Harris and Amanda Logann as 30-year-old Girl Guides who have not yet passed one of the three crucial badges (Love, Friendship or Career) that will mark their passage to full female adulthood. There are spooky campfires, disturbing tales of violence, and some sharply funny moments as the three well-defined characters explore what it means to be fully mature in a society that fears self-sufficient woman. Both the script and performances need tightening to bring this engaging and thoughtful show to its own maturity.
Reviewed by Patrick Langston for Artsfile.ca
Fresh Meat week two runs Oct. 19-21. Information: freshmeatfest.com