Off to my third show of the day at the Montreal Fringe Festival…I had my choice of a few different shows for that time slot, and opted for a gang of out-of-towners whom I knew precious little about to gamble on. I mean, why the Hell not, they came here all the way from NewYork, for Flip’s sake, maybe they have something important to show us! And the Montreal Improv Theatre WAS right next door to the Second Cup where I was leeching wi-fi from…sold!
A quick trek up the stairs (and a rather unexpected meeting with Ottawa Fringe superfans Charlie and Bridget on a last-minute Fringe road trip, hurray!), and I settled in for Shelby Company’s world premiere production of Jonathon A.Goldberg’s REAL DEAD GHOSTS. Directed by Courtney Ulrich and starring Lara Hillier and Nathaniel Kent, this is one of the more classically theatrical pieces than you usually see at a Fringe festival…which seems counterintuitive for a theatre festival, I know, but there you have it. And it’s a drama to boot, which I’ve found are also in the minority on the Fringe circuit, so Shelby Co. (a gang that’s been producing original works out of the Empire state for more than 5 years now) are clearly pushing a work they believe in. Having now seen it, I believe too.
Starring Hillier and Kent as Amber and Graham, a couple taking a woody vacation to celebrate their 5th anniversary. Amber has their itinerary planned out to the last detail (bathroom breaks included), while recently jobless Graham would rather just rustle through the old cabin they’re staying in, using his bag of amateur ghost-hunting apparatus to commune with the spirits. Before they can even step foot out of the place, however, things start to go wrong, and worse than in the supernatural way…plain old marital distress is more than scary enough. Between Graham’s old flame, Ambers mysterious phone calls, and a lingering mystery or three lurking nearby, there are ghosts aplenty haunting our hapless, seemingly mismatched heroes.
You don’t see the kind of emotional investment on a stage that GHOSTS brings to the table too often at the Fringe, and these are two actors who are SO there. Hillier especially, with her tightly wound portrayal of the almost desperately controlling Amber, slowly unravelling as truths are finally shed, is amazing to watch. The script is a right corker, giving both actors plenty of great meat to tear into. Nathaniel Kent’s joking everyman Graham makes a lovely slow turn, as his feelings are revealed even to himself. It’s a dark, hard journey to watch, and taking it with these two actors is a real treat. They each get some fabulous moments of monologue, and interaction ranging from sweet and funny to utterly vicious. It’s a dandy, and no fooling. Very much worth checking out…and I won’t even tell you if there ARE ghosts or not. Find out for yourself. Peace, love and soul,