Now in its fifth year, Fresh Meat Festival is all about letting artists do what ever the thing is that they want to do. As evidenced by this set of five shows on Thursday, October 12, what artists in Ottawa want to do adds up to a heady mix of theatrical innovation and talent.
La disparition : Opening the evening with La disparation (She’s gone) created & performed by Marc-André Charette and Anie Richer, en Français with English surtitles, the packed Arts Court studio was treated to a poetic meditation on a mother gone, or swiftly fading. Unsentimental, as they wield their spare, poetic text with keen precision, Anie and Marc-André tell us, “It’s with my mother I spent the most hours of truth.” Here we have a loving family suddenly conscious of a mother’s “budding fragility”. The stage is bare but the picture that emerges of the woman they are losing is beautifully vivid. She’s Gone is a well paced and tightly choreographed presentation that is both homage to love, and to the theatre as a medium in which the audience is pulled into the all consuming embrace of a shared experience. In both the writing and performances, She’s Gone is magical.
Honey Dew Me, devised & performed by Luke Brown and Kyle Cameron, and presented by theatre decentred, delivers a startling historical reminder about discrimination and offers a peek through the 1960s lens at a society grappling with hysterically foolish and harmful efforts to flush out men loving men. The number of characters we are introduced to tends to get a bit confusing. Depicting a plot and characters that highlight the personal impact of backward societal attitudes, one wishes the creators had honed in with just a little more precision on the main point of the piece. A little tough love on the script would have sharpened the satire and ramped up the empathy for characters caught in this nightmare landscape of necessary deceptions. Strong performances from both Brown and Cameron.
Le Crip Bleu created & performed by Frank Hull and Alan Shain, original concept by Michele Decottignies. Nothing – not even the repeated reference to burlesque in the promotional blurb – could prepare the audience for Le Crip Bleu. From perfectly campy music, to clever choreography and dance, this piece is a non-text, hilarious sexual romp. The body, especially in a wheel chair, is no barrier to a sexy encounter as Hull and Shain execute surprising moves that had the audience enthusiastically hooting encouragement. This short show is – in the best sense of the warning – for mature audiences only. A funny, compassionate, and daring theatrical treat with only one nagging question: did the wheelchairs consent to this!?
Badges is created & performed by Lauren Cauchy, Alli Harris & Amanda Logan and presented by Toasted Theatre Company. A fraught passage into adulthood awaits these three quirky – and well-performed – characters of Badges as they prepare for the test that must yield their final award designating maturity. But are they ready? The mysterious answer to that question only becomes more illusive when each woman tells us a spooky campfire fairy tale, featuring strong images of violence – which drew laughter from the audience. But this strange connection between the real world and fairy tales (truly Grimm-inspired), needs to be strengthened. Badges hasn’t quite found the link between its fascinating underworld, and the primal fear of adulthood. A little more time on the script, and in rehearsal, will make a promising show into something quite special. This rough magic is in mid-flower.
Beer Buddies is written & performed by Michaela Steven. “Pour me another, and I will spill my secrets at your feet”, which is exactly what this talented writer/actor does. There is a little shocker to this love story, which may fascinate as you lean in, yet also leave you wondering at the folly, and subtle manipulations of power, in the game of love. Steven’s writing is a double-edged sword; Beer Buddies emerges as a complex and well-imagined assault on the conventions of storytelling that skips and jumps across the waters of a dark pond like the perfect tossing stone. Stevens tests and proves the versatility and constant evolution of the one-person play, which in her capable hands is still able to surprise. Smart writing and an excellent performance makes Beer Buddies one extremely engaging short show. You’ll be sad when she’s done; but not that she drove away.
The Fresh Meat Festival Week One runs now until Saturday, October 14. Fresh Meat Week Two kicks off Thursday, October 19 with a whole new set of shows. Go to: www.freshmeatfest.com
Reviewed by Laurie Fyffe