The Fresh Meat Festival returns to Arts Court theatre for its fifth instalment. Were an unsuspecting audience member to stumble upon this event, it’d be one for the books. Fresh Meat is for fearless audience members who are looking for a taste of the experimental, unhinged and up-and-coming. The festival distinguishes itself as one that presents unbridled artistry from local theatre makers in the early stages of their careers. That these works are unpolished and presented with minimal set or costuming only adds to the atmosphere; the DIY aesthetic is met by truly experimental performances by Ottawa’s next generation of creators.
The Fresh Meat Festival runs two weekends, the second of which kicked off on Thursday October 20. During the second weekend of Fresh Meat 5, five shows run the gamut of theatrical styles, from self-reflective storytelling, to scripted sketch comedy, physical comedy and more. Across the board, the performances are comedic in nature. That’s where the comparison ends.
The evening opens with a performance by the winners of the 2016 Prix Rideau Awards for Outstanding New Creation for their 2016 Ottawa Fringe offering, Rideshares and Ropeswings. Catch Matt Hertendy and Matthew Venne’s succeeding show, Boy vs. Chair at Fresh Meat 5. The show is a disorienting stand-off between a man in a propeller hat and a not-so-inanimate, black chair. It’s a kind of parody of the common narrative convention that “things are not what they seem,” delivering to its audience a silly, peculiar and awkward story that is more rooted in the physical comedy of the two performers than it is in making itself understandable. What starts as a power struggle soon becomes a Bop-It! duel, then a reconciliation, then a choreographed pas-de-deux. Just kidding, they obviously aren’t dancers. Hertendy and Venne are advantaged by their awkward physical presences on stage, and this show will undoubtedly give you the giggles. (Continue reading » )
Photo. Andrew Alexander. Brad Long and Gabrielle Lazarovitz (Ex Libris by Yohanan Kaldi)
Ten short plays directed by John Koensgen, presented in rapid sequence but set in spaces that are similarly designed so that there is almost no visual distinction among the works. Also the same four actors return in various roles so the performances are not as highlighted as the texts themselves. That is no doubt the reasoning behind this form of staging: It draws our attention to the writing and less to the staging. An important experiment that gives younger playwrights, as well as some seasoned ones, a chance to have their work shown in public.
I liked Pierre Brault’s Quartet because it was a playful meeting of four voices that appeared to be written as a musical score, rather than a dialogue. Very good. He used extra linguistic means (rhythm, pauses, and quality of sound, accent, rhyme, intonation and all such things) as the four voices wove their way around each other and eventually ended in a duo that matched beautifully. Michel Tremblay did this a lot in Les Belles –Soeurs and in other works…it’s a technique that highlights language and Brault with Koensgen directing captured the flow very well.
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This play comes to the conclusion that maybe there isn’t “Someone for Everyone”, something we discover after a series of sketches that carry us though the “case” of Steven Greenberg. This nice Jewish boy from Montreal is desperately trying to find a nice girl who is willing to have sex with him because she finds him physically attractive, and not because she wants to be “nice’ to him. But, girls only want to be his friend, and he is fed up, frustrated and even quite desperate. Narrated by his alter ego, who speaks to audience members as though we were the omniscient house shrink, in pure Woody Allan style, the story of Steven has moments of clever humour, (like the meeting in the confressional with Steven caught between a Priest and a Rabbi. or that encounter in the Jewish Dating service, or some of the scenes in first year university where Steven meets Girls! ). Some of the scenes do becomes repetitive, some even drag out the pathos a bit too much .
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The quality of the direction and performances make the sad/amusing tale of Steven, apparently doomed to be everyone’s friend and nobody’s dream lover, as effective as possible.
The sharp corners that one of the characters turns are a reflection of the sharpness of the direction and the energy of the presentation. The visuals add a layer of interest to the content.
But. while Someone for Everyone begins well, the material in this fringe-style show is not strong enough for the 80-plus minutes that it lasts. Neither are such crudities as the graphic Portnoy’s Complaint segment warranted.
Reviewed by Iris Winston. Ottawa, September 20, 2010
Someone for Everyone
by GATD Caplan
Friends Not Lovers Productions in association with NightHowl Productions (September 15 to 25)
Director: Patrick Gauthier
Lighting design: Jon Alexander
Video material: Kris Joseph
Costume design: Jody Haucke
Production crew: Gwen Davie
Beth et al:Sarah Finn
Irma et al:Catriona Leger
Narrator and alter ego:Jordan Hancey
Reviewed by Iris Winston