Did we do it? Did the Otter and I actually made it to the much balllyhooed Winnipeg Fringe Festival, despite the ‘scissors’ incident at the airport (don’t ask)? Yes we did! Did we check into our sweet Airbnb in Osborne Village? Yes we did! Did I get crazily lost on my very first attempt to walk the Fringe venues? YES I DID. Plus side, I now know right where the Winnipeg Health Sciences centre is, which I almost needed for the sunburn I was courting on my hour+ idiot detour. Don’t worry, gang, I do this every time I visit a new city. It’s not you, Winnipeg, it’s me.
So once we got settled and I got un-lost, it was time to start my first ever Winnipeg Fringe-Coma, which is easier said than done because Holy Blue Freaking Moses are there ever a lot of shows to choose from! A delightful dilemma, friends, but we eventually settled on starting our adventure with White Rabbit Productions’ FREESTYLE FANTASTIQUE at the Rachel Brown Theatre, and only partially because we were having a snack break at the board game cafe on the same block just prior to showtime. But no, it was on both of our radars coming to town, and it was kind of nice to start the festival with a local artist that neither of us had been exposed to before. And it turned out to be a dandy decision indeed, and a fantastic kickoff to our Fringe. A fantastique one, even.
Created and performed by the unassuming but wildly talented Simon Miron, this multi-media work (with sound by Davis Plett and video mixing by the mightily named Thor Aitkenhead) follows a trio of storylines that all spring from the same well, sort of. One is the story of infamous French romantic composer Hector Berlioz and his almost unhinged unrequited love for a young actress: then there’s the tale emerging from Miron’s actual commission to adapt Berlioz’ Symphonie fantastique to the stage; and finally there’s Miron’s own story, of being an artist struggling with maintaining a balance of family life and creative pursuits. All these storytelling elements are aided and abetted by some live video editing and mixing, a bit of spoken-word hip-hop style live looping, sweet dance moves, and Simon Miron’s commitment to exposing all his foibles no matter how painful. Berlioz the composer doesn’t exactly come out of this one smelling like a rose, and Miron paints himself with the same brush, likening his own sacrifices in the name of artistic pursuit to those of the doomed hero of the titular symphony. There aren’t many punches pulled, and no easy answers are found
Simon Miron is clearly an artistic force to be reckoned with, and his considerable talent is on full display here. The musical and dance elements work beautifully to accentuate and elevate his story, and his more straightforward storytelling is every bit as painfully honest as it needs to be. I’m not sure if I got as much out of the video-screen mixing as I wanted to, but it was still a very cool addition and certainly took nothing away from the heartache at the centre of all three stories, which is one that certainly most artists (and likely many others) will find all too much to relate to. It was a treat to watch Simon in action, baring a scarred soul and wounded heart to the world in spectacular fashion. See you around the Fringe, gang! Peace, love and soul,
Kevin R (and Baby G)