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Posts Tagged ‘mado boyes-manseau’

Ottawa FRINGE-COMA 2014 – TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 25, 2014 at 4:16 pm

The rain just kept on pouring down on a gray and cold Tuesday, but happily that didn’t seem to be dampening anyone’s Fringing spirit. A whole soggy mob of us made the dash out, and subsequent climb up to Studio 311 for what I believe is the latest premiere of the 2014 Ottawa Fringe. It was a show I had sort of seen before, but not exactly. Kind of a recurring theme at this year’s Fringe (along with shadow puppets, but more on that in the NEXT post).

A solo work by the wonderful Madeleine Boyes-Manseau, TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET premiered in shorter form at last year’s Fresh Meat Festival (the same festival where TALES SHE TELLS and WAKE saw their inception). Now reworked and expanded, with new direction by Brad Long, the show stars Mado as Joy, a hospital worker working on a strange experiment indeed…it involves hurling vicious insults at a jar of rice (STUPID RICE!!), and it’s actually really kind of important. It all has to do with her estranged sister Sarah, her oddball nephew, and Joy’s whole somewhat difficult task of empathizing with…well, anyone, really.

Madeleine Boyes-Manseau in TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET (pic by Cory Thibert)

Madeleine Boyes-Manseau in TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET (pic by Cory Thibert)

A performance you absolutely cannot ignore or take your eyes off of, Mado proves again why she’s an actor people should be taking serious note of. The bold choice to star in a one-woman show as a woman who is, essentially, not a very good person is terribly refreshing and she pulls it off spectacularly. Joy may be the most brilliantly flawed character I’ve seen on a stage in a long time. Staged almost excruciatingly intimately by Long, we’re quite literally bedside as Joy recalls the events that have led her to this bizarre place in Mado’s fantastic script. Featuring the best apology letter of all time, and one of THE standout performances at the Fringe, this is more than worth the long climb up the stairs to studio 311. It’s worth an extra ten stories. Get going. Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid

Fresh Meat 2013 – Preview part 1!

In Theatre on October 16, 2013 at 6:08 pm

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!

GRIMProv, contemplating the consequences of their actions.

GRIMProv, contemplating the consequences of their actions.

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.

Jake William Smith and Tony Adams in MANIMALES.

Jake William Smith and Tony Adams in MANIMALES.

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.

Victoria, Holly and Tess in WHO WILL SEPARATE US?

Victoria, Holly and Tess in WHO WILL SEPARATE US?

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.

Whimsimole1

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.

Madeleine Boyes-Manseau1

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.

FireFlood Theatre1

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.

Karen Balcome and Geoff McBride of THUNK!

Karen Balcome and Geoff McBride of THUNK!

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.

fmII

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)

CRUSHED! The Happiness of Wolves

In Improv, Theatre on August 17, 2013 at 7:14 pm

I was supposed to be writing this post in a Horror style, as suggested to me by the luvly Jenny David.  But it’s been kicking my ass for the last day, and I’m running out of time, so I’m just gonna charge ahead with it regular-like for the moment, and see if I can’t shoehorn Horror in there somewhere down the road.

Anyhow, the first Friday of MY SUMMER CRUSH, hosted by Crush Improv at Arts Court was upon us, and it was time for the first comedy/theatre offerings of the series to hit the stage.  And there was a packed house in there for good reason…we were in for a good old fashioned double bill courtesy of Cory Thibert and Tony Adams at May Can Theatre, who were rolling out their two most recent Fringe Festival smash-hits, HAPPINESStm and WOLVES>BOYS.  I snagged a sweet spot up front with the likes of Leslie Cserepy and Jonah Allingham (sidenote: I’m hearing seriously good things about his upcoming second edition of the FRESH MEAT festival. Get excited.), got myself a glass of wine (the beer wasn’t pouring right, don’t worry, I’m not going posh on y’all), and settled in for the fun to begin.

First up was HAPPINESStm, from this year’s Ottawa Fringe, but already with enough exciting twists and tweaks to make it almost a new show.  Streamlined, well-suited to the more conventional space, and most notably no longer featuring superstar Ray Besharah, except in a side-splitting promotional video.  There, we learn the story of ‘Mr.Carpenter’, founder of HPL, a company that boasts nothing less than the selling of Happiness itself (in handy product form). Enter James Lemon and Peter Barrel (Tony and Cory), two sometimes-antagonistic salesmen out to work the room and get us into the HPL spirit.  A hilarious first half features the pair acting out absurd onstage scenarios to demonstrate the effectiveness of their dubious wares, stuff like the ‘happy hook-up’, which amounts to trying a painful-looking elastic around your head to force a smile.  It’s a seriously effective sendup of corporate sales seminars, and would make for a great show in itself.  But a mysterious call from Carpenter takes young Lemon out of the room for a minute, and when he returns…the mood turns, and the game is on.

Tony Adams and Cory Thibert in HAPPINESS (tm) .  Photo by Dsmitry Klathkou.

Tony Adams and Cory Thibert in HAPPINESS ™ . Photo by Dsmitry Klathkou.

Happiness takes it’s beautifully simple and twisted premise and uses it very, very well to tear open the dark heart of brainwashing scam-schemes and corporate doublespeak, and is a mighty fine showcase for the May Can lads to show what they can do (the dance number is a pretty goddamn amazing high point).  This show, like the next one up was directed by the always amazing Mado Boyes-Manseau, who is great person to have showing you the way.  Loved, LOVED how well the show worked in Arts Court studio.  This was a great show, made greater.

Second up was WOLVES>BOYS, winner of last years ‘name most people screwed up’ award at Fringe.  Mostly the same, tho I think they tweaked it a little off the top just to fit the space, W>B follows Lawrence (Cory Thibert) and pal Isaac (Tony Adams), two longtime friends meeting up for the first time in months…at a graveyard.

Wolves Boys 1
Okay, NOW I’m feeling the horror vibe.  Let’s roll with that for a few paragraphs…

*******

The graveyard was dark.  Not far from where the boys met, a funeral was in progress.  And one of them knew who it was being buried.  Oh yes.  He knew all too well.

But the body would wait.  First…first came the Wolves.  Wolves from an ancient time, spirit animals with a neverending taste for flesh.

Ghost wolves.  Howling in the moonlight.  For reals.

Their terrible story of blood and hunger, wolf versus wolf, played out before our terror-stricken eyes and pun-filled ears, mirroring the journey of the boys themselves, alone in the graveyard but for mourners, and the ghosts that may or not lay disturbed around them.  We all lay on the razor’s edge.

A baby screamed.  A glass shattered.  And from out of one of the tombstones itself…music.  Like the bones themselves were playing their sweet song of death.

Seriously.  Right out of the fucking TOMBSTONE.  Scary, right?

*******

Okay, that’s enough horror…don’t want ot scare you all TOO much.   W>B was just as fun this time as when I saw it the first time, even if the lads have found it plays much better in the great outdoors, where I hope to see them perform it one of these days.  They’re off on the road with this one to the Fundy Fringe soon, and I got a feeling they’re gonna like it out there.  The show is personal, heartfelt and damn funny even when it’s being tragic…LOVE the breakup scene.

Had a blast that night, hung with some good folk and saw two amazing shows in a supercool crowd.  My Summer Crush is off to a rocking good start, and I know I’m not alone in thinking so.  And the weekend isn’t over yet…Saturday is officially KIRSTEN RASMUSSEN day at MSC, and I’m planning on turning my blog over to a super-special guest writer to cover both Kirsten’s workshop and show…can’t wait for both.  If you’re in town and not at this series at some point, I seriously think you’re missing out huge.  This is the best thing to happen to August since I downloaded season three of The Flying Nun (which was last week, if you’re interested in a marathon…call me.)  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston).

Fringe-Coma 2013 – AROUND MISS JULIE and HAPPINESStm

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 28, 2013 at 2:13 pm

So it was back to the acting last night, as my show THE TRAGICALL HISTORIE OF NICK WADE (AND OTHER FUCK UPS) returned after a 4 day hiatus.  It was a great crowd and show, and this time I stuck around after wrapping to check out the other two shows in our venue, the lovely T.A.N.Coffee in Sandy Hill (about a 5 minute walk down Wilbrod from Academic Hall).  I grabbed a beer from the by-donation bar setup, a sandwich from Mandy at the café counter, and settled in for the night.

amjhp

First up after us was AROUND MISS JULIE from Montreal’s Hopegrown Productions and playwright Harry Standjofski.  Set around a local adaptation/production of August Strindberg’s classic Miss Julie, we meet a trio of young actors Donna (Lindsey Huebner), Lyle (Graham Berlin) and Ilona (Samantha Megarry) trying out for the show.  Things start to go pear-shaped straightaway when they meet their director Julie (Miriam Cummings), whose only qualification FOR being director is that she loves theatre and couldn’t act, so why not?

Tensions quickly rise on the set (which they don’t actually have) as romantic eyes begin wandering, Donna is sick of being typecast as ‘the loud one’, and the director doesn’t even know what a stage manager IS.  Add in a disturbingly amusing dead bird and you’ve got a pretty fantastic and fast paced show.  Director Norah Paton does great work with a very talented cast, who deliver some hilarious and occasionally bittersweet performances.  It’s a must-see for anyone interested in the behind-the-scenes insanity of the theatre…which I’m guessing is a lot of people at the Fringe.  Charming and clever from beginning to end.  One of the later shows to start here at Ottawa Fringe, but SO worth the wait.

Tony Adams and Cory Thibert in HAPPINESS (tm) .  Photo by Dsmitry Klathkou.

Tony Adams and Cory Thibert in HAPPINESS ™ . Photo by Dsmitry Klathkou.

A short switcheroo of the seating arrangement (lot of that at the TAN) later, and it was time for the latest from local heroes May Can Theatre.  Featuring my Nick Wade co-stars Cory Thibert and Tony Adams, and director Mado Manseau, their new show HAPPINESStm stars the lads as Peer Barrel (Cory) and James Lemon (Tony), a pair of sales reps for HPL, a power company that sells, well…Happiness.  Set up as a sort of sales convention, seasoned pro Peter Barrel leads the shpiel, coaching newbie Lemon in the buzzwords and scenarios necessary, he feels, to successfully lead the consumer towards a better future.  A short video spot introduces us to HPL founder and CEO Mr.Carpenter (special guest Ray Besharah), who began the company after battling sadness on a desert isle years earlier.  To this end, Barrel and Lemon trot out insane products like the happy hook-up, and a spray bottle that promises better moods in minutes, among others.

The rather hilarious skewering of corporate sales pitches takes a splendidly dark turn when Carpenter shows up in the flesh, and turns Lemon and Barrel against one another.  The result is an escalating battle of one-upmanship, a dance-off, and disturbingly dark secrets brought to light.  The cultlike structure of pyramid scheme-style businesses becomes rich fodder for May Can to play with, and they spare nothing.  Still full of the whimsy of their previous work, but there’s a new maturity on display with this one that’s great to see.  Unmissable for May Can fans, and for anyone who wants a great show at this year’s Fringe.

Tan Coffee is two for two as far as I’m concerned (see Nick Wade yourself and avoid my own obviously biased opinion) with MISS JULIE and HAPPINESS, and the crowds seem to agree with me.  Three more chances for all of’em!  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

SubDevision 2013!

In Magnetic North, Theatre on June 13, 2013 at 10:43 am

It’s back!  Oh thank Batman and everything that’s good in the world, SUBDEVISION is back!  And this time around, it’s part of the Magnetic North Theatre Festival.  Or as I like to think of it, this year Magnetic North is part of SubDevision.

If y’all missed this brilliant theatrical event last year, first of all, I’m so, so sorry.  Second of all, here’s my late-night rambling writeup of the event, that took place in St.Paul’s Eastern United church in Sandy Hill.  This year they’ve relocated to venerable Arts Court herself, but don’t imagine they’re cheating and actually using any of the theatre spaces for the shows, oh no.  SubDevision is a collective evening of microburst theatre, this year featuring ten different companies creating short, site-specific works in various nooks and crannies of the wonderful Arts Court, never used as effectively as it will be during the three days duration of this mini-festival-within-a-festival.  Shows start at 7 pm, with club SAW as the central meeting point where you shove and jostle your way through the throngs to sign up for the sometimes VERY limited-seating performances (Pro Tip #1: find out early which signups are where…check your program and match the numbers to the helpful volunteers with clipboards!).  Unlike last year, I didn’t manage to catch everything in one evening this time around, but what I did see made life worth living again.  Pardon if the following ‘reviews’ are somewhat light on content, but spoiling the experience is WAY too easy when talking about shows as short as this.  You’ll thank me later.

curatorsubdev2013

First up was one of the many returning companies, Skeleton Key Theatre and THE CURATOR (Pro Tip #2: sign up quick as you can for this, the smallest audience show of the evening!), featuring Kate Smith with Karen Balcome, and taking place in a stairwell.  Kate is just heartbreaking in this one, and it’s the first of many somewhat interactive shows of the night (nothing scary, I promise).  Ignore the ambient noise and any random people on the stairs…it does happen…and just enjoy a wonderful performance in a terribly sweet, slightly oddball show.

Next was a visit to the kitchen with May Can Theatre and IT’S ABOUT OUR GOLDFISH, a show that requires a little bit of blind faith in performers Madeleine Boyes-Manseau, Tony Adams and Cory Thibert, but that trust WILL be rewarded, I promise.  Maybe the best creative use of the space that I saw that night, and another heart-soaring show the likes of which you simply cannot experience sitting in a seat and watching from afar.  This one has a small audience too, folks, so plan wisely.

And keep your eye on the Goldfish.

And keep your eye on the Goldfish.

After that, one I’d been especially looking forward to…MORRO AND JASP: LOST AND FOUND.  Ottawa has desperately needed a visit from Toronto’s celebrated clown duo Morro and Jasp for some time now, and they don’t disappoint for a moment with their supply closet rendition of what they describe as the best play that ever was.  It just may be.

Jasp and Morro, of MORRO AND JASP.

Jasp and Morro, of MORRO AND JASP.

Next (I think…everything was moving so fast and furious my memories might be a little confuzzled on which show came when.  Nancy, am I getting this right??) we were guided along to Gruppo Rubato’s SEEDS.  Co-star Nick Alain leads you through Arts Court (Pro Tip #3: rest when you can, because there’s plenty of standing and walking involved in SubDevision, and Arts Court is bigger than you think..!) to a wee tucked-away room where Tania Levy awaits, telling lovely, but somewhat dark tales about apples, and spiders, and a few riddles for good measure.  Beautiful stuff, and an amazing souvenir.

Then came some new players for me, Fixt Point and Suitcase in Point with STOR(Y)AGE.  A show incorporating technology, nostalgia, and a good hearty climb up to the attic for a wonderful experience with a wonderful performer (I’m honestly not sure what her name is right now).  There should be more shows in attics.

Getting hungry and tired at this point, but still enough energy for a couple more shows. Which was good, because you’ll want a little energy for AGENDA by Cathy Gordon.  With some help from her hard-working assistants, Cathy runs the Boardroom at Arts Court in an emergency meeting that you’d better be prepared for, or else..! (Pro Tip #4: no, really.)  High octane interactive fun.

Do NOT waste this woman's time.

Do NOT waste this woman’s time.

My last show for the evening was an utter delight, MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE BOX from Deluxe Hot Sauce.  Taking place in the front kiosk, this jolly Christmas vignette from Kristina Watt, Doreen Taylor-Claxton, Annie Lefebvre and Sarah Finn has such a sneaky, subversive bent to it coupled with oodles of talent and ingenuity…impossible to describe, but unthinkable to miss (Pro Tip #5: jockey for position on this one…you WILL want as head-on a view as possible).

That was just about enough incredible, unmissable theatre for me for one night (well, not really, but I WAS pretty hungry).  Stick around the Festival bar after the show for a sweet afterparty, drinks and hot dogs until good’n’late.  SubDevision might have actually raised the bar from last year, which is impressive as HELL.  I’m already making plans to return tonight to visit the shows I missed.  Ottawa Stilt Union, Counterpoint Players, STO Union…I’m comin’ for ya!!  Until then…peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

The (not so fresh) Fresh Meat post!

In Uncategorized on October 10, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Okay, so it’s been a week, or maybe more, depending on when I actually get this thing done.  And I know, I saw the festival on its last day anyways, so a timely review wasn’t exactly crucial.  But I still feel silly for waiting so long, especially since let’s face it…this is the kind of thing I live for.  And I hope at least one or two of you have been waiting (perhaps even on the edge of your seat) for my take on Ottawa first-ever (and very hopefully not last) FRESH MEAT FESTIVAL!

Due to my increasingly insane work schedule, I was only able to make it out to the final day of this, Ottawa’s latest mini-festival of theatre, at the Pressed Cafe on Gladstone.  I was a little sad to be catching only the end of the three day fest, as I’d been pretty stoked when producer and good guy Jonah Allingham first told me about it, not long after this year’s Fringe wrapped up.  He had some pretty crafty kids lined up for it at that time, pitching the idea as a sort of DIY festival, at a brand new spot (licensed, of course) where some up’n’coming theatre types could host an evening of their own all-original material in short spurts (approx. 20 minutes apiece).  Not seeing a downside to this, and being a big fan of up’n’coming theatre gangsters, I was more than ready when my chance to head out to the fest finally came around.  It was last Sunday (my last day off in what looks to be a good long while) after my volunteer shift at the GCTC, making it a good theatre day all ’round.

The Pressed turned out to be a pretty squinky spot for some bare bones theatre, with tasty eats and local beers available all the while.  I nabbed a pint and a post on a comfy sofa up front, and settled in for the six-show lineup, emceed all night by local heroes GRIMprov (also one of the performing acts).

Up first was the producer himself, Jonah Allingham of Backpack Theatre with his one-manner SUMMER OF ’34.  Continuing in the tradition of his Fringe sleeper hit IN WAVES, ’34 was a slice out of Canadian history.  And, like Waves, it was unflinching, stripped-down storytelling style theatre that rather fearlessly leaves its performer and creator utterly exposed on stage.

Exposed, and just a little bit tipsy.

The story of a down and out drinker who stumbles on a dangerous opportunity to make some quick cash, Jonah switches from drunken revelry to sudden violence to a mad, sweaty intercity bike ride (complete with bike!) in furious flashes, spouting darkly lyrical dialogue all the while.  It’s a messy, gritty joy of a show that, along with his initiative in getting this festival underway in the first place, upgrades Jonah in my own estimation to ‘force to be reckoned with’ status.  He’s good, and only getting better.  A very, very good start.

Following this up were hit Fringe team Dead Unicorn Ink and their latest, CAUTION: DO NOT FEED THE MERMAIDS by Sylvie Recoskie.  Toning down their penchant for full-blown puppet-powered production values(seen in pat shows PLAYING DEAD and SPACE MYSTERY…FROM OUTERSPACE!), but still adding a pretty slick gloss to thee show with a few nifty props’n’costumes, the show follows a shy high-schooler (Patrice Ann-Forbes, impressive and loveable in the lead) born with tentacles for arms and getting a predictably rough time of it for her troubles.

She meets up with a vain and vicious mermaid (a fire-haired Sylvie Recoskie, making a pretty fetching sea creature indeed…yow!), as well as striking up an unlikely romance with a thick fellow student (Mike Doiron, getting good laffs out of his dimwitted character).  It’s a darkly funny bit of fantasy fluff, putting a nice classic mermaid twist on the trials of teenage living.  But I gotta give this one to Patrice, who really shines throughout.  Very nice stuff.

Show #3 for the evening were local fav’rits May Can Theatre and another brand new piece, DUSK AND DAWN by Tony Adams.  Starring fellow co-founder Cory Thibert, and the amazing Madeleine Boyes-Manseau as a deer and an owl, respectively, who form an unlikely pairing in the forest.  Aided by musical accompaniment from splendidly unitarded director Adams, the show continues May Can’s streak of fun, thoughtful shows…a lot of heart, a heaping helping of nature, and a dash of heartbreak.

Not to mention the performances…Mado Manseau is always a joy to watch on stage (didja see OPEN COUPLE?  Fucking stellar.) and this show is no different.  And Cory Thibert makes a shockingly sweet baby deer!  Who knew?  I’m forgetting right now the name of the gal who played the puppet-gopher (don’t have my program with me, sorry!) but she was mighty fine too.  The staging was just as moody and cool as it needed to be…I’d like to see this one fleshed out a bit.  Three for three!

The second half of the show began with the debut of Jake William Smith’s Rapscallion Diversion (excellent company name) and THE HENCHMAN’S SURVIVAL GUIDE (another good name…that’s good naming, Smith).  From the vantage point of a veteran flunky in a supervillainous army, Jake’s put-upon trooper guides his new recruits (in this case we, the audience) with handy tricks to making it through day to day existence when working for a criminal mastermind.

Remember, kids: NEVER get tricked into leaving your post!

It’s a funny, high energy show from the talented JWS, and it’s good to see him stretching with a little solo work (May Can’s Cory Thibert directed the show).  Hero/villain/flunky dynamics have plenty of material to mine, and while one or two moments in the show strayed too close to AUSTIN POWERS territory, there’s plenty enough manic fun to carry us through.  This is another show that could definitely be worked into a longer piece (actually, that applies to most all of Fresh Meat, a good sign).  Also, cool uniform.

Without a beat, we segued into the penultimate show of the evening, from the night’s hosts GRIMPROV (aka Mike Kosowan, Joel Garrow and Drew McFadyen).  I’d arrived on a very special night indeed, featuring the troupe’s legendary technique of Puppet-Prov.  And if you like improv, well, you ain’t seen nothin’ til you’ve seen it done with puppets.  And if you DO see GRIMprov’s puppet improv, and you’re sitting in the front row..?  Bring an umbrella.

I won’t tell who, but one of them spits something fierce.

The lads put on a splendid bit of ‘prov, with their trusty puppet assistants and musical accompaniment from the ever excellent DJ Helicase.  Plug time: GRIMprov have a regular gig at the Imperial Tavern on Bank Street, first and last wednesday of every month.  So if you missed Fresh Meat, you can at least catch THIS act again anytime you want.

And what to cap off this magical evening of theatrical whimsy?  Why, the uber-whimsical Tess McManus and her Little Green Hat, with her one-woman show TALES SHE TELLS (following up her successful Fringe run of the delightful DONKEY DERBY).  Now, lacking as I am an advanced theatre degree, I’m unable to properly review the finer artistic aspects of Tess’ show (sorry, little one, I could not resist), but from my own non-edjicated perspective, it was a beautiful show from start to finish.  The start being a classic Irish song(Tess has a positively gorgeous voice, folks) leading into a quick recap of a variety of love legends from the emerald isle, always told with a bright theatrical flourish and always engaging.  I think young McManus is on to something with her shows on Irish lore and legend, and I hope like heck she continues on in this vein.  And shame on ya if you missed her latest!

Spoiler alert: she never actually WEARS a little green hat in the show. I know, I was disappointed too.

And that was a wrap on the inaugural FRESH MEAT DIY Theatre Showcase.  It was a great night, with vibrant, exciting performers and a wide range of styles at a fun, quirky venue.  I can’t say I hope this becomes an annual event, though, only because I hope it happens way more frequently than that.  I’d be willing to bet there’s more than enough young talent in town chomping at the bit for the challenge of a micro-fest such as this (Glassiano, I’m looking at you).  Can we schedule the next one for, say, February?  Maybe a nice post-UNDERCURRENTS timeslot.  Just a thought.  Jonah?

…Well, maybe I’ll let them all catch their breath first.  But I promise, if they DO put another one of these festivals on in less than a year, I’ll actually have my review up DURING the run, not 10 days after.  How’s that for a deal?  Peace, love and soul, Ottawa,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Fringe-Coma 2012 – Postscript

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 27, 2012 at 11:05 pm

Another year, another Fringe…over?  Say it ain’t so!  But alas, the final set has been struck, the courtyard is just a yard again, and those pins on your shirt just make you look silly now.  But hang on…Fringe isn’t over ’til I SAY it’s over!  And as long as I’ve still got one more post to mine out of the 2012 festival, the show goes on.  So come on along and let’s look back at the tale of the 16th Ottawa Fringe Festival:

RANDOM THOUGHTS:  Loved the courtyard food from BOHEMIAN KITCHEN this year.  Nice variety, very affordable, and always served with a smile.  I hope this gang will be back in the future.  What I hope will NOT be back…?  Arts Court Library.  Not now that Tess Mc Manus (and she deserves a medal for this) introduced the easily superior Courthouse, right next door, as a venue this year.  Okay, there’s fewer seats, but you can actually SEE from all of them!  Let’s say goodbye to the worst sightlines in the fest (not to mention noise pollution from the courtyard), okay?  I see no down side here.  Although on the subject of venues, I hope we’ll be able to reacquire a fifth ‘main’ venue for next year…52 shows was great, but I could stand a little more, know what I’m saying?  Be it SAW Gallery, Alumni Auditorium, or maybe make one of the regular BYOV’s like Cafe Alt an official venue.  Five is a nice round number.  All I’m saying.

On another note, it was pretty grand seeing so many familiar faces from my road trip to the Victoria Fringe Festival last year, visiting our wee capital.  Chris Bange (from HOUDINI’S LAST ESCAPE) brought us THE FAT GUY SHOW, Howard Petrick was here with the great BREAKING RANK! (formerly titled RAMBO: THE MISSING YEARS), Katherine Glover of BURNING BROTHELS was here with DEAD WRONG, Melanie Gall had her latest MORE POWER TO YOUR KNITTING, NELL! and Ingrid Hansen took her LITTLE ORANGE MAN on the road.  It was great seeing them all again, and made me feel all cosmopolitan and shit.

THANKS!!!  Before I get going with the post proper, I want to thank a few folks who, well, I desperately need to drown with praise and gratitude.  I’ll start off with a HUGE shoutout to the Team Supreme, my flock of Angels at TEAM VISITORIUM – Fiona Currie, Amanda Klaman, Danielle Savoie, Grace Gordon, Kiersten Hanly and Nadine Thornhill.  Together, we got each and every show at the Fringe reviewed on this site with three days to spare…honestly, I wasn’t sure we were gonna make it, but the gals brought some serious reviewing game with them, and made the Visitorium look pretty damn good in the process.  I owe you all, ladies (Still working out the logistics of a dinner party, gals, stay tuned!)

Speaking of the blog, thank you to all the folks who stayed tuned in to see what we were up to.  Traffic on the blog easily hit an all time high during the festival, averaging more than 500 hits a DAY. I also have to say a big thanks to my boy
Jason Vaughan, who designed and printed up my super-sweet bizness cards that I occasionally littered the courtyard with.  More people making me look good!  I kinda love it.

And a special shoutout to volunteer, superfan and photog Jan, who gave me multiple rides home during the festival and saving me plenty of cab cash.  While I’m at it, thanks to the millionth power to ALL of the volunteers and staff who made things run smooth.  All love to Natalie Joy Quesnel, our beloved Fringe overlord…she works HARD to make Fringe this good.  Worship her accordingly.

You are not worthy!

MISSING IN ACTION:  Even with my final total of 45 show viewings, I still missed some shows…9, to be precise, and I apologize to all of ya.  I’m especially sad I missed Troupe de la Lune’s version of Lawrence Aronovitch’s EX CATHEDRA, and I heard cool things about TRASHMAN’S DILEMMA, too. And aside from not managing even one trip to the regular LATE NIGHT CABARET (shameful, I know), I even missed out on the SUPER-SECRET CABARET this year!  Gakk!  I’m still living that one down.  And of course, there were some Fringe superstars who you always hope will hit up your little town, but didn’t make it in this year…Jem Rolls, Jonno Katz, Amy Salloway, Jayson MacDonald…another time, sigh.  But the one thing I really missed at this year’s Fringe..?   Miss Nancy Kenny, now lost to the wilds of Toronto…this is my first Ottawa Fringe without her being around!  More on her later, tho (foreshadowing!).

But now, it’s time to get to what we came to get to…Fav’rits!

Jeff Leard in GAMETES AND GONADS

FAV’RIT SOLO PERFORMERS:  A tough call, because there were SO many, and so many were AWESOME.  Wee Tess Mc Manus was endearingly Irish in the wonderful DONKEY DERBY, and John Grady wove a beautiful spell with his storytelling in FEAR FACTOR: CANINE EDITION.  On the high-octane end of the spectrum, Martin Dockery’s hilarious and demonstrative WANDERLUST  kept me rivetted, and Jeff Leard gave one of the best physical comedy performances I’ve ever seen in GAMETES AND GONADS (*note: this show wins the award for most-commonly mispronounced title.  It’s ‘Gam-Eats’, folks, not ‘Gameeties’, or ‘Gamitties’.  Runner up: Wolves>Boys, aka ‘Wolves are Greater than Boys’, which I most commonly heard referred to as ‘Wolves versus Boys’, or ‘the Wolf-Boy Show’)

Katherine Glover was pitch-perfect in the unflinching drama DEAD WRONG, and Sean Sonier was just flat-out impressive as the ape Red Peter in A REPORT TO AN ACADEMY.  Mark Shyzer knocked multiple roles out of the park in FISHBOWL, and Kathi Langston was incredible in MABEL’S LAST PERFORMANCE.  And what to say about Dylan George in LOVEBUG LOUIE, Ken Godmere in VERNUS SAYS SURPRISE, Ingrid Hansen in LITTLE ORANGE MAN…Sorry, I’m going on and on a bit here, but SO MANY GOOD SOLO PERFORMANCES!!  It makes me a happy Visitor.  Final shoutout to Jonah Allingham for his dynamite piece IN WAVES…ya done good, lad.

Caithream Dance’s A MACSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM

FAV’RIT ENSEMBLES:   Big kudos to the two major dance ensembles, Caithream Celtic Dance Fusion for the delightful A MACSUMMER NIGHTS DREAM, and Pollux Dance for the sexy and fun HETEROLLECTUAL.  The comedy trio that is Lady Business rocked it with I’M NOT CRYING IN THE BATHROOM, I’M CRYING IN THE SUPPLY CLOSET, and the Glassiano mob gave their all in the mad comedy FALLEN: THE BOOK OF SAMAEL.  Cory and Tony of May Can Theatre were solid in WOLVES>BOYS, and Bear & Co. made a seriously fun debut with the incestuous classic ‘TIS PITY SHE’S A WHORE.  Much love also to the cast of the charming, sleeper hit 100 FIRST KISSES, and Mado Manseau and Sean Sonier in THE OPEN COUPLE.

 

FAV’RIT SHOWS: Holy shit, are we here already?  I’ve been kinda dreading this bit, as it’s gonna be really hard to choose and sort.  A lot of quality shows that measure up really well one against the other this year.  Take the ordering/numbering of this list with a grain of salt, folks, it’s all good stuff.  And just to get it out of the way, here’s a show that I’m taking out of the official running, only because I already named it my fav’rit show of the Victoria Fringe LAST year, and it seems weird to put the exact same show in again…but otherwise, it totally would have been right at the top again:

Ingrid Hansen in LITTLE ORANGE MAN

LITTLE ORANGE MAN from Snafu Dance Theatre.  Ingrid Hansen’s Kitt is an impossible character to forget, and the quaint theatre space in the basement of St.Paul’s is just as perfect a venue for her manic, brilliant tale as I imagined it would be.  The classic hero’s quest told through the eyes of a hyperactive child seeking to contact a loved one via dreams, Little Orange Man is theatre that will resonate, affect, and change you forever.  Endlessly inventive, perfectly endearing, magical as all get out.  Pure joy.

RUNNERS-UP :

WHITE NOISE from Twisted by Design Theatre.  From out of nowhere, this expressive and powerful meditation on the controversial suicide of Nadia Kajouji rocked everyone who saw it, and rightfully so.

THE OPEN COUPLE from Theatre Sasa.  Mado Manseau in one of the best performances of the Fringe, and amazing direction from Jodi Sprung-Boyd made for one helluva show, based on the script Dario Fo never wanted you to see.

A MACSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM by Caithream Celtic Dance Fusion.  Tremendous fun from a talented team of dancers, this all-girl celtic retelling of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was entertaining as Hell, and I’m glad I was there to see it.

100 FIRST KISSES from Slattery Theatre.  Mark MacDonald’s ode to first love was sugary sweet Fringe fun, simple and perfectly staged, and pretty impossible to dislike.  Would have liked to see this one again.

LOVEBUG LOUIE IN A BLESSING FROM THE CURSED by Theatre Sasa.  Dylan George and Jodi Sprung-Boyd created maybe the most memorable of all Fringe characters with the height-challenged Louie, not to mention a set that boggled the mind.

SPACE MYSTERY…FROM OUTERSPACE! From Dead Unicorn Ink.  Stepping up their game from last year’s PLAYING DEAD, DUI rocked the joint with their rollicking film noir/50’s sci-fi mashup.

DEAD WRONG from Katherine Glover.  Tough subject matter, stark staging, one great performance and exactly zero easy ways out made this one of the must-see shows at this year’s Fringe.  The fact that so few did is, quite frankly, a mystery.

WOLVES>BOYS from May Can Theatre.  Another company on the rise, Tony and Cory improved on their fan favourite SOUNDS FROM THE TURTLE SHELL last year with this nifty , layered story about two friends (or are they a wolf pack?) in a graveyard.  PEI is gonna LOVE this shit.

– TOP THREE!

DONKEY DERBY by Tess Mc Manus.  I’m a sucker for a one-woman show, and Tess’ sweet and smart tale of a painfully fearful Irish girl had me from the opening Feck and Shite.  Charming, honest, and with a memorable performer at its heart, this is a beauty of a debut rooted in personal history and culture.

HETEROLLECTUAL: LOVE AND OTHER DUMB IDEAS by Pollux Dance.  An insanely entertaining dance ensemble piece from the wickedly talented Pollux gang, taking us from first flutter to aching breakup with increasingly amazing moves and choreography.  This is the dance show to make you a fan of dance shows. And finally…

VERNUS SAYS SURPRISE by Emanate Productions.  With one magic word, Ken Godmere makes Fringe history with this brilliantly simple story of a doting Grandfather trying to buy the perfect present for his granddaughter, and the incredible trials he goes through to do it.  Set to a painfully orchestrated soundtrack, which I’m immensely proud to be a part of (bias alert), and featuring the kind of to-the-second timing Nasa only WISHES it had, VERNUS is absolute theatrical magic, bringing the best of mime and storytelling to the stage.  He’s touring the country with this show…listen for the sounds of jaws dropping province by province as he goes along.  Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

Okay, now that the preliminaries are out of the way…time to get on to the REAL stuff.  Which means *shudder*…

– FRINGE CRUSHES 2012!!

Keeping in line with the solidly established Thornhill rules of Fringe-Crushing, here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

1st mate Patty Stream in SPACE MYSTERY…FROM OUTERSPACE!  Sure, Marissa Caldwell was the femme fatale, but it was Sylvie Recoskie’s P.Stream who kept things running smoothly, with a smile on her face…and quite frankly that’s my kinda gal.

Kathi Langston in MABEL’S LAST PERFORMANCE.  What, a performance like that ISN’T going to get my attention?

Jess Preece. I’ve known Jess for a while now, but she’s never served me beer before.  And by golly, I like that in a woman.

The girls of FALLEN: THE BOOK OF SAMAEL. Because there ain’t no girl like a Glassiano girl.  Jen, Rebecca, Rana, Sophia,  and Jacki?  You’re the goods. And don’t take any shit from Martin or James, okay?

Pollux Dance.  At first I was just going to hold myself to the girls, but who am I kidding?  Theyr’e ALL hot as fuck, and they know it. Though I DO lean towards Ana, who danced with me one on one at the closing night party. Hope to see this gang again, and soon.

– FAV’RIT MOMENTS:  You don’t Fuck with Titus.  I’m afraid of the boys!  It’ll get you used to the dirt.  Paddy McCullagh bought me a beer. The Yoga sketch.  Put your clothes on, boys!  Ingrid used my quotes, squee!  Incest makeout.  Can we see the dessert menu?  The bear is fucking MOVING.  Dancing to the bagpipes.  Little Lady kissed her toe at me!  Good cunting, Captain.  Hi, George. 1..2..3..1…2…    Odin!  Science, and lasers.  Rideau and Sussex.  He’s Ash.  You are a good donkey.  I was Cat’s Crush.  I think you’ve done enough.  Hamish…sit.  Surprise!

And NOW it’s over…Fringe 2012.  Although I suppose, if you REALLY want more, you could always go to the Sam Mullins/Peter’n’Chris double bill at Academic Hall tomorrow night (TINFOIL DINOSAUR and MYSTERY OF THE HUNGRY HEART MOTEL for a measly 20 bucks).  And if THAT isn’t enough, I SUPPOSE you could go check out Nancy Kenny as she remounts ROLLER DERBY SAVED MY SOUL for one night only on Monday the 2nd of July at the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama.  Also, she’s totally taking that show on tour next year..?  And if you’re not a jerk, you can help her out with that via her amazing new website at NancyKenny.ca.  Donate, and maybe God will forgive you for that thing you did last year.  Maybe.

That’s it for me tonite…thanks again to my Team Visitorium 2012, you did SUCH a good job I can’t tell ya.  I’ll be back next Fringe…and, well, a lot sooner than that when the next shows start playing around town.  Sometime later this week, really.  Now I’m off, to finally watch those FRINGE MINUTES I’ve been ignoring for weeks, and find out who Octavious Fringe really is.  Until next Fringe, Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

FRINGE-COMA 2012 – Day ONE

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 15, 2012 at 12:39 pm

— DON’T MAKE ME ZEALOUS –IN WAVES — FNL: FRINGE NIGHT LIVE — DONKEY DERBY — THE OPEN COUPLE —

Day One of Fringe 2012 has finally, FINALLY arrived…it started off with an opening party the previous night, which I merrily went to, and just sobered up from about 20 minutes ago.  It then continued with a bit of terrible news I received, personal-style, which will sadly impact part of my planned coverage for the fest.  But it’s the kind of bad news that supercedes even things Fringe, and if you know me, you know that’s saying a lot.  So, bad news.  Sigh.

But, FRINGE!  I headed out today right after work, and bought my first ticket of the year over at Arts Court, and BOY but it felt good.  And tho it was a little weird seeing the iron fence around the Court so bereft of Fringe-posters (some silly new rule this year, which I do not care for one bit, no sir), picking up that first ticket made up for it all.  I ended up seeing a solid 5 shows on day one, and even managed some down time in between a few of them, and a few drinks afterwards.  I saw lots of familiar faces, met the visiting Celeste Sansregret, who if you don’t know is bloody goddamn wonderful, hugged some pretty girls, and happily saw several members of TEAM VISITORIUM out and about, strutting their stuff and doing their bit.  It was inspiring stuff, kids, and I suppose I had just as well get to it.   Fabulous Fringe shows aren’t gonna write themSELVES up, which is the only reason anyone’s here!  And those first five shows..?

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–  DON’T MAKE ME ZEALOUS by Matt Minter.  From Fringe veterans ERUDITE THEATE (they were last in the fest with 2010’s ‘DENTITY CRISIS, and recently teamed with Sock’n’Buskin for a wicked cool version of MACBETH at Carleton U.)), ZEALOUS tells a weirdly dark, but pretty damn funny tale of a clash of religious beliefs.  Intellectual agnostic Tom (Brennan Richardson) is more than a little uneasy about his planned church wedding with Catholic girlfriend Jackie (Emily Bradley).  A few angry speeches and soulful confessions lead to Tom having a religious epiphany in the street…but maybe not the one his fiance could have hoped for.

The best part of having a religious vision is you get to drink mead RIGHT out of the horn.

Richardson and Bradley are both very strong as Tom and Jackie, and third cast member David Rowan does good triple duty as a friendly priest, wedding planner, and Mark the…but no, I won’t give away his full title here.  ZEALOUS is Edudite’s first go at an original play, and has a lot going for it.  It takes a marvelously skewed look at belief and faith, flirting with being too heavy-handed at times but always staying on the fun side of satire.  And it probably features the best Zeppelin cover you’re going to see at Fringe this year.  I do wish we’d gotten some scenes featuring the young couple at the heart of it all actually, you know, getting along…they mostly just argue the entire time, and I thought Emily Bradley could have been involved in the plot more.  But a good show, and Matt Minter’s direction was spot-on.   A good time.

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–  IN WAVES by Jonah Allingham.  I actually was going to see this show a little later on in the fest, but I missed my planned connection, and ya gotta be flexible in this game of Fringe, folks.  So a quick dart to the basement of the Laurier Oak later, and I was snug and ready for a little one-man theatre.  I’d already chatted with good guy Jonah about this piece, and was stoked to actually see it (I wasn’t the only one, as he packed the little space downstairs on opening night).  With zero set and some jury-rigged lighting and sound (courtesy of BACKPACK THEATRE friends Jack Terrion and Louis Caunter), Jonah’s sweet (and occasionally naughty) show told the tale of a lonely sailor, conscripted into Henry Hudson’s 1610 expedition to find the Northwest passage.  Amidst the brutal labour and harsh conditions, our hero dreams of his wife back in Canada…and has strange visions of another woman, somewhere in the water…

IN WAVES is a beautiful little theatrical gem, clearly a labour of love for Allingham.  The language is classic and poetical and, more often than not, raw.  There are some almost uncomfortably frank moments in the script, capturing the numbing solitude of a harsh life at sea.  And our hero’s visions of beauty in the deep blue sea are just understated enough to lend the show a magical quality.  When things take a dark turn, Jonah is more than up to the task and makes his character’s trials all too believable.  The show is short at around half an hour, but it’ll stay with you for much longer than that. Shoutout also to director Cat Leger, who helped Jonah bring this piece to fruition.  Great job all around!

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–  FNL: FRINGE NIGHT LIVE from Fish Schtick Productions.  Set up at Cafe Alt (yay, couches!), I was very much looking forward to FNL…I’d seen some of this gang previously at Sock’n’Buskin’s One-Act Comedy Festival a while back, and had a freakin’ great time.  And I loved the idea of the show, which I’ll let the lads explain to you:

The cast stars Jon and Jaime Champagne, David Rowan (yes, the same guy I just saw in DON’ MAKE ME ZEALOUS…so many people are doing double-duty in the Fringe it’s ridiculous. And AWESOME.), Adam Smith and Hisham Kelati, in a rapid-fire series of comedy sketches, interspersed with some digital shorts played on  a vacant wall.    Inspired by SNL, Kids in the Hall and the like, the FNL boys are fairly fearless with their comedy choices, and are pretty goddam fucking funny guys to boot.  Like any sketch show, some bits hit better than others…but that’s also the beauty of it.  If there’s a clunker, nevermind…a new one will be along in just a few minutes!  The boys have some pretty hilarious takes on cats and wedding singers, I can tell you that, and the Yoga sketch should have EVERYONE cracking up.   If there’s a show this year to catch after you’ve had a few drinks at the courtyard, well Hell, this is it.

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–  DONKEY DERBY by Tess Mc Manus (Little Green Hat/Black Sheep Theatre).  Hey, someone ELSE I chatted with, huzzah!  Now, I’ve dug the onstage styling of wee lady Mc Manus since I first saw her in Youth Infringement a couple years back, and was super-stoked to see her new, and first ever, one-woman show (aka my fav’rit kind of entertainment).  Set in Letterkenny, Ireland, the show listens in as our reluctant heroine Mary, hiding in a barn, relates her woes after she’s been drafted into a mad local tourney known as a ‘donkey derby’…participant are forced to try and race donkeys, contrary animals to say the least, for the amusement of everyone but themselves.  If you’re lucky, you win a turnip.  If you’re UNlucky you get hurled into shite.

Are you starting to get the ‘reluctant’ part yet?

Mc Manus’ Mary is an instantly endearing character, slowly spilling the truth of her lifetime of living out of the spotlight and away from possible harm, even as the tries to talk herself either into or out of participating in the quite insane derby.    When it all ties into the ongoing strife in her beloved Ireland, it makes perfect sense.  With directorial assistance from Dave Dawson of Black Sheep Theatre, DONKEY DERBY is a rapid-fire, highly entertaining tale about a young girl trying hard to come out of her shell.   Tess’ performance is wonderful, and I think will only get better as the show goes on (she only finished building the set, like, yesterday).  DERBY is completely charming and so foolishly likeable I already wanna go back.  And if you know me, I just might.

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–  THE OPEN COUPLE by Dario Fo.  My last show of the night was courtesy of Theatre Sasa, and director Jodi Sprung-Boyd (I talked to her too!  I never realized I was so chatty!), and this remount of a show she put on a year or so ago in Studio Leonard-Beaulne.  I missed it then, so I was thrilled to hear it was returning in the Fringe.  A play with a curious origin indeed (Fo wrote it as an apology to his wife for his many infidelities, and never intended it to be mounted as a play), the show stars Sean Sonier and Mado Boyes-Manseau as the couple in question.    After his wife threatens suicide more than once as a response to his unfaithful ways, the man in question  proposes she dimply do the same…ie, they become an open couple.  Which works in theory, but…

Yeah, sometimes these things don’t go as smoothly as they sounded in your head.

Jodi’s direction (which I’ve enjoyed in past productions EURYDICE and MAMAMOUCHI) shines here, and THE OPEN COUPLE is constantly engaging, exciting and fun.  Sean Sonier, subbing in for Ken Godmere who played the part in the original, is perfectly smug as the self-satisfied Man, so sure of his charm that he can hardly believe it when things start to crumble.  But it’s Mado Boyes-Manseau who shines the brightest as the Woman, giving probably one of the best performances you’ll see at this year’s Fringe.  I’m starting to get that she’s one of the best actors we’ve got in this town, and let’s all hope more people figure it out too.   This show is more than worth the epic upstairs trek to Studio 311…a big thanks to the Sasa gang for bringing this show back.  I owe ya one.

Right, that’s it for me for day one…I’ll be back tomorrow with five MORE reviews (and stay tuned for some more coverage, as the writeups start coming in from my Angels on TEAM VISITORIUM!), and I’ll have’em up quicker next time, I promise .  I’ll have to, I’m seeing shows starting at 12:30 tomorrow!  Yikes!  Stay  frosty, Fringers…peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)