Last year this town got a much needed infusion of cool when theatrical whippersnapper and Ottawa Theatre School alum Jonah Allingham inaugurated the first ever FRESH MEAT FESTIVAL in Ottawa, a micro-Fringe spotlighting a handful of local young theatre companies over a weekend at the Pressed Cafe. Each group premiered an original short creation in a funky, intimate atmosphere…the bar was open, the mood was playful, and Ottawa’s theatre community was raring to go. This year it’s back, more than doubling in size and scope and moving to new digs at the Lunenburg Pub. All the original companies are back, and being joined by a swell gaggle of new blood, necessitating a whole extra weekend to squeeze everything in. Which is fantastic, because Ottawa’s young theatre community is clearly just bursting at the seams with new stories to tell, and Jonah and crew deserve huge kudos for creating a place for them to tell them. Let’s take a look at what’s happening for week one, because yay!
Local improv scamps and Fresh Meat originals GRIMPROV will be hosting the opening weekend from the 17th to 19th, and if memory serves from their performance last year, you may want to bring an umbrella. They’ll be presiding over the debuts of six new pieces of theatre, which you can catch for $15 a night,$25 for the weekend, or $40 for the whole festival. And which shows, you ask?
Well, first up there’s returning company RAPSCALLION DIVERSION, aka Jake William Smith, who debuted last year with the solo HENCHMAN’S SURVIVAL GUIDE. With his latest, MANIMALES, Jake teams up with local hero Tony Adams of May Can theatre (more on them next week) to bring us a tale of bromance and discovery in the great outdoors.
Also returning is the wonderful LITTLE GREEN HAT, a hat worn very well by company founder Tess McManus. Miss Tess, understanding how awwesome my new alma mater at the Ottawa Theatre School really is, has drafted a couple of powerhouse OTS ladygrads to up the girl power of her latest, WHO WILL SEPARATE US? featuring McManus herself, Victoria Luloff and Holly Griffith as three women locked in a Belfast prison (and before you start flashing back to your favourite Women in Prison movie moments, I suspect they have something a little different up their sleeves for this one). That’s talent aplenty, folks, and the writeup promises a cool blend of music, movement, politics and drama.
The rest of opening weekend is comprised of all newcomer companies to Fresh Meat, starting one completely new company, WHIMSIMOLE from Emily Soussana and Lewis Caunter. I know and luv Lewis the sound guy from my Fringe experience this past June and cannot wait for his company’s inaugural offering, TEMP. After getting their feet wet at Lumiere festival and Nuit Blanch, Whimsimole is ready for their first helping of Fresh Meat, and it should be good stuff indeed.
Up next (and holy shit, are you guys in for a treat), the amazing Madeleine Boyes-Manseau is up to bat with her new solo creation TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET. One of the most talented gals in town, and with the awards to prove it , Mado never disappoints and her latest looks like it’s gonna be fantastic. Featuring curious items in jars and described as a play about ‘Old people’s skin, curious moral codes and (ultimately) hope’. I fail to see what more you could ask for.
And god damn, fresh off THE FIGHT at Fringe, and mere weeks before the remount of their very first show MERCUTIO AND OPHELIA at the Avalon, Nick Amott’s FIREFLOOD steps into the Fresh Meat fray with WAKE, the solo story of an insomniac who believes himself to be the next stage of human evolution. Continuing Fireflood’s mandate of epic storylines and intimate characters, Founder Amott himself takes to the stage for this, the first solo piece for the company.
Last but you better believe not least,, THUNK! theatre returns to Ottawa audiences after a very special experience baking BREAD at the Undercurrents Festival in February. Geoff McBride and Karen Balcome are both back with their new bit FAR & NEAR & HERE, presenting the story of Ted and Ned and how they manage to meet in the middle of the ocean, bridging the gap from their homes in Far, and Near. Expect some magic from Thunk!, kids, and you probably won’t be disappointed.
So much good stuff!! Honestly folks, if you’re not coming out for this you need to seriously ask yourself if humanity really even needs you around. Here’s the night-by-night lineup for opening weekend, with GRIMProv hosting all three nights:
Thursday the 17th: Rapscallion Diversion, Madeleine Boyes-Manseau, Whimsimole and Little Green Hat.
Friday the 18th: Little Green Hat, Whimsimole, Thunk and Fieflood.
Saturday the 19th: Rapscallion Diversion, Thunk, Madeleine Boyes-Manseau and Fireflood.
Note that the order of shows for each night will be drawn by lot that evening and NOT posted online, so expect some variation from the lists I just wrote. Doors open at 6:30 and shows start at 7 every night, and yes, the bar is OPEN. I’ll be back with a preview of Week 2 in, well, about a week, featuring more all-new shows from May Can, Egodeth, Dead unicorn Ink, Backpack, Here be Dragons, Obviously a Theatre Company and 2 ½ Women! And in the meantime, dig into some delicious Fresh Meat. Even if you’re a vegetarian (don’t worry, it’s only metaphorical meat). See you there! Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)