Montreal Fringe is one of those events that truly has something for every theatre go-er. You like burlesque? They have shows for that. You love drag queens and drag kings? There are shows for that too. You want drama? Comedy? Something different? Fringe has got you covered. If you’re willing to look, you’re bound to find many diamonds in the rough.
The Montreal Fringe Festival prides itself on creativity, diversity, and accessibility so even the shows that producers consider unsellable get a shot at stardom by having a chance to take the festival stage. One of the best ways to sample local talent is to take in the Fringe for All event that happens the first night of every festival.
For up to two minutes, all the local performers get a shot at enticing attendees to come to their plays. It’s a slog, but for your stamina you see a lot of gems hidden among snippets that confirm people’s worst prejudices about independent theatre – that it’s pretentious, artsy, and consisting of symbolism lost on even the university educated.
I’m not going to bore you with those. Having witnessed bits of shows that look REALLY good, I’m going tell you MY picks for Montreal Fringe 2018:
Apocalipsync : Humanity Is a Drag
I should admit right off that bat that I LOVE drag, so the show intrigued me before I saw their bit. When they took the stage I was not disappointed. Their lip sync and choreography was immaculate as was the glam the genre requires.
The premise of the show is that – “CONSERVATIVES REJOICE!” – the left ended the world and the “Social Justice Road Warriors” played by drag queens Uma Gahd, Dot Dot Dot, and Anaconda are searching for humanity’s salvation. If you’re a fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race, you NEED to see this show.
Greasy: A Lesbian Love Story
True to the title, the show is riff on the classic musical play Grease but with a much naughtier touch. There isn’t just dancing, there’s riveting burlesque performances proving that you don’t need to be a busty toothpick to be sexy.
Mid Knight is a modern fairy tale about what would happen to Little (Prince) Charming if his parents got divorced. The snippet I saw featured a piñata with the word “childhood” on it getting smashed to bits by the show’s prince with a blunt sword. The audience got any candy that came out. It’s an interesting approach to the classic fairy tale that’s timely given the renewed public interest in medieval themes due to shows like Game of Thrones and Once Upon a Time.
CLIO: Puppets, Not Patriarchy
If you’re a heterosexual male who doesn’t believe in making sure your sex partners are satisfied in bed, this isn’t the show for you. It’s a puppet show about Clio, a clitoris on a journey of self discovery to find out what she is capable of, thus becoming “cliterate”.
The snippet I saw was funny and sweet so while I don’t typically go for shows about one body part, this looks intriguing, if only to marvel at how the puppeteer keeps a straight face through the performance.
What the Hell Happened to My Patio Furniture?!
I’m not normally a fan of one-man shows, but Joshua Budman’s two-minute performance in which he wonders how his patio chairs disappeared from his sixteenth-floor balcony to the song Dust in the Wind had me laughing so hard it looks like a sure thing.
This is an interactive show in which audience members are invited to participate using their cell-phones. It’s a format I’ve never seen before in theatre and it featured a male and female actor with perfectly synchronised dialogue. It’s worth checking out if you like high tech audience participation
Mme Brulé starring Evelyne Laniel is a French language play that embodies the frustrations of formerly idealist teachers everywhere. The snippet I saw was hilarious and heartwarming, making me want to laugh and cheer. If you have any teachers in your life, bring them to this show.
Drunk Live Reading: Bridesmaids
If you were a fan of the film, you need to check this out. Featuring Montreal’s own Cat Lemieux who co-hosted the Fringe for All with Kenny Streule and Dayane Nbaritukure, all proceeds of the event go to the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. Not only is that an amazing cause, but Lemieux’s snippet channeled Melissa McCarthy and the late Chris Farley in way that was hilarious and riveting, making this show a sure bet.
Les Aventures d’Humphrey Beauregret
Philippe Gobeille’s one-man puppet show surprised me. His puppet “Humphrey Beauregret” is a 1940s style P.I. reminiscent of Humphrey Bogart’s classic roles. Not only does the character tell stories, he sings songs such as Unbreak My Heart and All By Myself channeling the trope’s loneliness and taking it to amusing extremes. It was riveting and funny and a good sample of what’s to come in his show.
Montreal Fringe is on from May 28th to June 17th. As festival spokesperson and Fringe veteran Véronique Raymond declared in her opening speech: “It’s the only time when Francophone and Anglophone artists share the same stage.”
Check it out. It’s worth it.
The full schedule is at MontrealFringe.ca and look for our reviews over the next few weeks