Posts Tagged ‘punchbag playhouse’


In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 26, 2014 at 8:48 am

Still trucking along at the Ottawa Fringe Festival, and managing to keep up. I’m somewhere in the 20’s as far as show viewings go, which is respectable I feel. But there’s always room for one more, and having just come from a pretty dark drama, it was time to lighten things up with some laffs. And I had a pretty good idea where the best place was to go an find me some of those.

Off to Academic Hall, then, for Punchbag Playhouse’s WUNDERJAMMER, a brand new sketch comedy show written by Richard Hemphill, who also penned last years ultra-mega-boffo hit DIE ZOMBIE DIE. Dragging that show’s director Stewart Matthews kicking and screaming along, they’ve assembled the ace comedy squad of Richard Gelinas, Victoria Luloff, Jordan Hancey and Allison Harris to knock about the stage as 60 characters in 20 odd back-to-back sketches. Featuring bits ranging from the very silly (ask Mr.Science!) to the very, very silly (Flatulent Cat Farm!), this is clearly a show with something for everyone. Well, everyone who thinks farting cats are funny. That’s everyone, right?


Matthews eye for physical theatre is put to excellent effect here, and this whole wacky show runs like a well-lubed machine, from the imaginative opening glow-in-the-dark sequence through every goofy moment to follow. The cast is brilliant, and have multiple standout moments. From Jordan Hancey’s first skit as an increasingly flustered shopkeep, he gets effortless laughs with just some perfectly timed glares. Richard Gelinas as a grumpy flower pretty much made my year. Alli Harris is a clowning comic goldmine, delightfully hamming it up as a dubious scientist, oddball duchess, and once operating in seamless tandem with Victoria Luloff as little girls unwisely interrupting a Monster at work. Luloff scores huge as a brilliantly dim supermodel (of the world!), working to eradicate children’s literability, in a sketch that highlights Hemphill’s clever comedic wordsmithery, something at work throughout. This is smartly silly and very hilarious show, and I was grinning like a little kid on his first trip to Bunny Town the whole time. See it and make with the laughing, already. Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid

2014 Ottawa Fringe – 5 Questions with RICHARD HEMPHILL

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 18, 2014 at 5:22 pm

Richard Hemphill is probably the only guy I know who’s even more nuts about Fringe theatre than I am. Aside from being a continuing contributor to the long-running radio sketch comedy show REMOTE PLANET, he’s an avid playwright who has been in Fringe multiple times, most recently with the boffo hit comedy DID ZOMBIE DIE in 2013.  He and his company Punchbag Playhouse are back again this year with their latest, WUNDERJAMMER, and I’m just excited enough about it that I had to ask Richard a few questions about what’s coming.

– How many times is this for you in the Fringe Festival?

Wunderjammer will be our seventh play in the Ottawa Fringe Festival. We started with Murder Most Stinky – a play originally written for the radio show, Remote Planet – in 2002, and put on Die, Zombie! Die! in 2013. Both shows were Best in Fest winners. Every eleven years, we win a prize.

One of the 3 sweet posters for WUNDERJAMMER, from designer Jared Barter.

– Last year, it was zombies.  What has Punchbag Playhouse got for us this time around?

Wunderjammer is a sketch comedy show. I’ve been writing sketch comedy for Remote Planet since 2000, and wanted to showcase some of that material on stage. Director Stewart Matthews was on the exact same page. I sent him 90 scripts to read, and he narrowed those down to 45 he wanted to work with. The cast read the 45 sketches, and we selected the ones that made the actors laugh the most.
The subject material is all over the place – no zombies – but that’s the nature of sketch. The humour is what you’d expect from a Punchbag Playhouse show: silly, saucy stuff with brains. Brains! Brains!!

Who’s in the cast, and how silly are they?

The show stars Richard Gélinas, Jordan Hancey, Allison Harris, and Victoria Luloff. Yes, we only have the four actors this year, plus Gabbie Lazarovitz doing voices. How silly are they? These are very serious actors. They are dedicated to their craft, and bringing their best to this material. That means they are exceptionally silly. They are also being directed by Stewart Matthews, who values silliness as highly as I do.
– You seem pretty prolific, between Fringe shows and REMOTE PLANET. What’s your advice to aspiring writers?

Hummus is really easy to make. It just takes time. A few ounces of bean paste shouldn’t cost that much.
My writing advice is to read. Read as much as possible. Also eavesdrop.
– Two of your stars from last year, Ray Besharah and Dave Benedict Brown, are going head to head with you this year with a sketch comedy show of their own, DICKY DICKY.  Do you welcome the healthy sketch competition, or swear revenge?
Swear revenge.
We love those guys. Dave and Ray have brilliant chemistry, and they’ve been wanting to do a duo show for years. Plus, Mel is directing! I’m going to be there on opening night, Thursday, June 19 at 10:30. I’ll be in the front row, throwing tacks on the stage. Mwahaha. Sweet revenge.
It’s great seeing sketch comedy taking greater root in Ottawa. Bring it on. The more the merrier. This is not a competition; it is a movement.
If you want a real treat, on Friday, June 20, you can see the premiere of Wunderjammer at 9:00 at Academic Hall, and then take in a performance of Dicky Dicky at 10:30 in the Arts Court Courtroom. Sketch comedy double-header. That’s the only night you can do that, so you owe it to yourself to do that.
– Bonus Question: What does WUNDERJAMMER mean?
The show was originally called Wunderkammer, a legitimate German word that means a cabinet of curiosities or room of wonders. Stewart thought Wunderjammer was sillier, and sillier always trumps. We all thought it was a gibberish word until I realized that Jammer was also a legitimate German word meaning a pitiful complaint. Wunderjammer literally translates to “wonder wail”. Wunderbar!
WUNDERJAMMER plays at Academic Hall as part of the 2014 Ottawa Fringe Festival, from June 19th to 29th.  All showtimes and ticket info can be found HERE.

Coming Up in September 2013

In Theatre on September 3, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Okay, I may have had my head up My Summer Crush for the last few weeks, but theatre marches on!  And even if I’m gonna start going a bit AWOL on this blog as a result of HOLY SHIT I’M GOING TO THEATRE SCHOOL IN A WEEK, but there’s still plenty for you all to see out there (and of course, I’ll still try and catch as much as I can).  Here’s the lowdown:

the Hal and Falstaff mob, courtesy of Justin van Leeuwen.

the Hal and Falstaff mob, courtesy of Justin van Leeuwen.

HAL AND FALSTAFF at the Gladstone Theatre, Centrepointe Studio and Shenkman Centre Theatre, from A Company of Fools.  The fools kick off their Torchlight Too series with Margo MacDonald’s adaptation of all the henry and Falstaff-y bits from Shakespeare, lovingly crammed into a punk-rock aesthetic, because Margo is freaking awesome.  3rd to the 8th at the Gladstone, 10th to the 15th at Centrepointe Studio, and 17th to 22nd at Shenkman Studio.  All shows pay what you can (suggested donation – $15)!

CARMEN at the NAC Southam Hall, from Opera Lyra.  Opera is back and bustin’ out at the NAC, and this time they’re going Gypsy.  Plays the 7th, 9th, 11th and 14th.

PROUD at the Great Canadian Theatre Company.  The era of Eric Coates begins at the GCTC with this political satire by Michael Heatley!  From the 10th to the 29th.

SKIN FLICK at the Ottawa Little Theatre.  101st season, anyone?  Kicking off with some saucy Norm Foster goodness. The 10th to the 28th.

PRIVATE LIVES at the Gladstone Theatre, from Plosive Productions.  A funny show, so they say, from the man himself Noel Coward.  From the 20th thru to October 12th.

THE 39 STEPS at the Ron Maslin Playhouse, from Kanata Theatre.  Hitchcock goes Kanata!  From the 17th to 28th.

THE LARAMIE PROJECT: TEN YEARS LATER at Studio Leonard-Beaulne, from Red.Collective.  A return tot he hard-hitting verbatim hit, from the Reddies.  26th and 27th.


DIE ZOMBIE DIE and CHESTERFIELD at Arts Court Theatre, from Punchbag Playhouse and Dead unicorn Ink.  Horror/comedy double-bill straight from this year’s Ottawa Fringe, that you dare not miss out on.  From the 26th to 28th.


QUAND LA MER…  Nac Studio the 9th and 10th. Part of the 2013 Zones Théâtrales Biennial.

L’HONETTE HOMME – UN ONE WOMAN SHOW at Academic Hall, from Poesie Electrique, Theate la Catapulte, and Centre Culturel Frontenac.  The 9th and 10th.

A TU ET A MOI at Studio Leonard Beulne, from Compagnie L’Atelier.  From the 12th to 13th, then the 18th to 21st.

JE N’Y SUIS PLUS at Salle Jean-Desprez, by Theatre Francais CNA and Zone Theatrales. From the 11th to 14th.

II (Deux) at Arts Court, the from Theatre de la Vielle 17 and Theatre de Nouvel-Ontario.  The 10th and 11th.

LE iSHOW at the NAC Studio, the 13th and 14th.  Part of  the 2013 Zones Théâtrales Biennial

LE CHATTE ET LE HIBOU at Theatre de L’Ile.  From the 11th to October 12th.

MOI, DANS LES RUINES ROUGES DU SIECLE from Theatre Francais CNA, in the NAC Theatre.  From the 25th to 28th.


Crush Improv is back with their regularly scheduled ‘BOUT TIME at the Heart and Crown (Mother McGintey’s, to be precise) in the market on the 9th.  And GRIMProv will be playing at the Cock and Lion with their BEST OF BOTH WORLDS show this Wednesday the 4th!  More info on other shows as it comes in!

That’s it for now…I’m off for dinner and a show, and you should be too.  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

Fringe-Coma 2013 – DIE ZOMBIE DIE

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 28, 2013 at 1:09 pm

This is the fourth year in a row of Zombie shows at the Fringe, by my count, after previous years’ NIGHT OF THE LIVING IMPAIRED, PLAYING DEAD and LEFTOVERS.  This time around, Fringe legend Punchbag Playhouse takes a swing at the undead with their hilarious return to the Fringe, DIE ZOMBIE DIE.

Written by Richard Hemphill, the ambitious show takes a fast and funny look at an alternate reality of sorts, where humans and zombies live together in a tenuously peaceful coexistence.  The undead in this tale won some civil rights after eating more nazis than allies in WWII, and now exist as a sort of politely tolerated cheap labour force.

This doesn’t sit well with some, like hard-boiled Zane Slade (Ray Besharah), who loathes zombies with open disdain (understandable, after what they do to his office).  Likewise legendary zombie slayer Zelda (Diana Franz), who is forced to take out-of-country jaunts to get her undead murderlust filled.  But when a killer starts taking out zombies in similar fashion to Zelda’s old adventures, her daughter Zoey (Allison Harris) comes to Slade to help clear her Mother’s name.


…and that’s the plot, which is pretty cool but kind of secondary to the hourlong assault of one-liners, clever wordplay, terrible puns and wonderfully hammy acting from the gang (and especially Dave Benedict Brown, filling a variety of roles).  Assisting ably on stage is a veritable army of the living dead, shuffling about and becoming the walls, countertops, tables, and somehow wringing huge laughs out of selling popcorn.  Director Stewart Matthews makes a merry romp of this show, juggling over a dozen performers at a time into a smoothly-moving unit of kitchsy comedy goodness.  Several zombie-themed advertisements play out in front of us, a very funny touch and making for a nice scene changing gimmick.  And the Who’s-on-first-inspired bit between Ray and Dave has to be seen to be believed.  It’s a terrifically entertaining show, and I can understand why it’s getting the buzz it has.  Catch it while you can…zombies don’t come much funnier.  And yes, there is a dachsund.  You’ll love it.  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)