Lesbian Speed Date from Hell is a true horror comedy. Following a successful run at the Mainline Theatre as part of Off- JFL/Zoofest, it’s back as part of Montreal Pride’s official programming. Presented by Pride along with Christina Saliba, the show is funny and scary, and for abuse survivors, it can be triggering.

The play revolves around Jackie (Katharine King So), a young lesbian who is grudgingly attending a speed dating event hosted by her friend and neighbor Regina (Kathy Slamen). Regina is your typical lesbian cougar. In case you had any doubts, Slamen’s costumes consist of mostly of leopard print, and her portrayal is a hilarious mix of sassy, maternal, and raunchy.

At the event, Jackie meets Amy (Martha Graham), an awkward blonde, Natalie (Alexandra Laferriere), a beautiful black lesbian jonesing for Regina, Kyle (Jeroem Lindeman), a stereotypical dudebro and Ashley (Kate Hammer), a former one-night stand of Jackie’s with a big grudge.

What follows is a display of awkward conversations, hilarious facial expressions, and uncomfortable torture scenes.

Hammer’s portrayal of Ashley is at once horrific and riveting. All the time she’s on stage you never doubt her anger, her malice, or her psychosis. Her madness is believable yet just over the top enough to keep the play from being too real.

King So’s Jackie is a perfect foil for Ashley’s crazy. Her screams are bone-chillingly realistic and her fear and outrage appropriate.

Survivors of abuse will likely find the interaction between Jackie and Ashley uncomfortably triggering as there is blood and violence and accurate portrayals of pain. But there is enough humour in the play to balance it out.

The fight choreography is hilariously done in slow motion and with more courtesy than one would expect in a struggle between a psychotic murderer and a desperate victim. There are murder mystery clichés like the strategic use of on and off lighting, and Jeroen Lindeman’s Kyle is amusingly obnoxious and a reminder of why our culture needs more feminist entertainment like this.

That said, if you’re an abuse survivor go in prepared to be a little uncomfortable and reassure yourself that with the horror comes plenty to laugh about. For everyone else, be prepared to laugh, cry, and gasp in horror.

It’s an emotional rollercoaster of a show, but it’s worth it.

Lesbian Speed Date From Hell runs until August 16, tickets available through Montreal Pride

Fredua Boakye

“Growing up, people were always telling me that I was the ‘whitest Black kid’ they knew because I loved ‘white rock music’ like Radiohead and Dead Kennedys,” says Fredua of Bad Rabbits. He laughs, and quickly responds to them: “But you can’t ‘act a colour,’ and Rock & Roll culture isn’t reserved for X race. But I will say this until my dying day: Rock & Roll was created by a Black Queer woman named Rosetta Tharpe.”

Fredua is the frontman of Bad Rabbits, and I had the honour to speak with him about race, rock, and his thoughts on being a Black American in 2016.

Fredua tells me that conversations of race and belonging within his scene have always been a part of his consciousness, explaining the common lamentation among young men of colour that he was never “Black enough” for the Black kids, and “too Black” for the white kids.

“I considered myself a hybrid from the jump because nobody on either side liked me… The only kids who accepted me in school were the punk rock kids.” For Fredua, this embrace of the punk scene of the late 80s led to an early and profound appreciation for bands like Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys, and Public Enemy.

The moment of clarity that gave Fredua a real understanding of how he could fit into the Rock scene came when he saw Fishbone and Living Colour music videos, with Black musicians like Kendall Jones and Vernon Reid “not rapping, not singing, just jamming with guitars. When people said I was the ‘whitest Black guy’… There was nothing ‘white’ about what I was doing. Period. I was doing what I saw, and that was a Black person playing this music.”

When I asked Fredua about conversations of race in his current role as the frontman of a multi-ethnic band in a scene dominated by white dudes, he emphatically affirmed that there has never been racial tension at a Bad Rabbits show, as people are too busy having a good time. It’s when he stops making music for people to dance to, and starts talking about things that make him angry and upset – like the ability for police to routinely kill Black people with impunity – that tempers begin to flare.

Fredua explains, “There are probably a bunch of my fans that are inherently racist, and I know this because I’ve argued with them. They’re the types that grew up thinking Black people are supposed to only be entertainers or basketball players. When they see me speaking my mind it’s suddenly ‘Fredua, you’re an entertainer, you shouldn’t be talking like that!’ People are angry at the fact that I have the nerve to talk about things going on instead of making a song for them to dance to.”

In response to the recent spate of highly-publicized killings of Black people by police, Fredua posted a video to his personal Facebook page in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Fredua tells me that the response from most friends and fans was positive, but one fan came out of the woodwork to leave the following comment: “I follow you because I think your old band was awesome, but let’s be honest, this militant black guy thing isn’t working out for anyone.”

Fredua explains it’s no skin off his nose – people who see him not as a Black human being, but strictly an entertainer aren’t real fans anyway. The reluctance of white peers and fans to see him as anything but a stage presence has bothered Fredua since he first started singing: “I look back at school, and I mean, I did chorus for the girls. Don’t get me wrong,” he says with a laugh, “The girls loved my voice. But they didn’t love me. Because I didn’t look like them.”

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 7.54.37 PM

I asked Fredua if these reactions to his showmanship bother him when he looks back on them, and he is quick to point out that he’s one of the lucky ones. “I lived out my dream. That dream was to make music and act like a damn fool for the rest of my natural life, and I don’t have to worry about aging because I found the fountain of youth through music. I have a beautiful house and a beautiful wife and a beautiful dog and I get to do something I love all the time.”

Fredua mentioned that Bad Rabbits has a new album one year in the making that will have more anger in it than previous records. He describes some of the album’s lyrical content as “two year’s worth of anger,” much of it directed toward the issues that we spoke about.

The new album, American Nightmare, is planned to drop in September, but will likely end up coming sooner. When I naively asked if the early release was due to the urgency of the message, Fredua’s voice dropped to that sacred place where the spirit meets the bone:

“This is the thing that kills me about this issue of police brutality,” Fredua says calmly, but with palpable fury. Cops are always gonna kill people. As long as there’s a justice system that lets these people kill someone and go about their day, there is never gonna be any type of change. This country is hell bent on keeping things the way it is – to keep the haves and the have-nots, the white and the Black, the Us and the Them, separate.”

The footage of the recent shootings and lack of legal action against the officers involved has made it abundantly clear to the public that it is possible to kill a Black person with little to no consequence. Black activists like Fredua, understandably furious that their lives are proven to be worth less than white victims of similar violence, are routinely portrayed by mainstream media as “armed-and-dangerous Black Power rebels,” seconds away from violence.

Fredua (Second from left) with Bad Rabbits
Fredua (Second from left) with Bad Rabbits

In an interview with The New Yorker, Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza explained that this image is “a battle that we are consistently having to fight. Standing up for the rights of black people as human beings and standing against police violence and police brutality makes you get characterized as being anti-police or it has you being characterized as cop killers, neither of which we are.”

Fredua expressed a similar frustration, explaining that “it’s easier for news channels like CNN, MSNBC, and FOX to show footage of angry Black people on TV than it is for them to show smart Black people with an idea. Nobody is listening to the solutions we’re trying to offer. And the picture they put up of the shooter in Dallas? A pissed-off black man with a dashiki and a fist up? That puts a target on my fucking back!”

Despite all of the difficult topics that came up in our conversation, Fredua’s determination to keep performing and thriving as a Black man in America in 2016 shines through. His concluding statement was one of hope:

“I was raised by two West African immigrants that came to this country on an American dream…I’m gonna make sure that I achieve it through them with my voice. That dream was to have a prosperous, peaceful, God-fearing life. I will die for that. I’m not afraid for a shooter coming to my show, I’ll jump in front of any bullet to protect a fan. I’m gonna do what I do until I die. I will literally die for this.”

I admit it. I am prejudiced. Not against any religion, ethnic origin, gender or even political leaning. I am prejudiced against assholes.

They come in all colours and socio-economic statuses and run the gamut of beliefs, lifestyle habits and places of origin. There are a few things they all have in common: a desire for power, a willingness to do harm to any random person to either preserve or attain that power and a lust for physical violence.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some situations where violence is okay and, in fact, the only option. I’m talking about self-defense, defense of a loved one or retribution, but only when it is warranted retribution for physical violence and applied directly (please note that I am at best a glorified blogger and am in no way a court of law, me being okay with something does not mean you won’t go to jail).

Physical violence is also fine in UFC, boxing, pro wrestling and BDSM. Why? Because there is consent from both or all parties involved. More on that later.

Violence committed against random, unwilling targets is never acceptable and if you’re doing it, you’re either an asshole or anbeing led and duped by an asshole. Yes, I’m talking about you, terrorists who carried out the attacks in Brussels, Ankara, Paris, yesterday in Pakistan and other places.

While I’m not exactly stepping out on a limb by calling ISIS (or Daesh) members, supporters or leaders assholes, it feels good doing it nonetheless. If you can think blowing up random travelers in an airport or spectators in a concert hall that you don’t know will in any way stop the oppression wrought by the world’s imperial powers, you have been drastically misinformed and probably don’t care.

In fact, terror attacks only embolden other assholes: the privileged few running the show and those who very much want to be. While the Obamas of this world quietly drone strike anyone they can, the Trumps and Le Pens stir the cauldron of ethnic and religious hatred and preach that the way to fight terror is to label all Muslims as terrorists.

Some assholes blow random things and people up because they associate them with the violence another group of assholes has inflicted on the part of the world they are tied to through ethnicity and religion. Then the other assholes use that as an excuse to blow more things and people up in that same part of the world and blame the religion that the first group of assholes claims to follow.

It seems to me that the problem here isn’t religion, it’s assholes. If we need to be watching out for some group, profiling a group and discriminating against them, then the assholes in the world should be the prime candidates.

If we were all prejudiced against assholes, someone like Jian Ghomeshi would have been identified as one a long time ago. And if, by some artful trickery on his part, he still managed to get to where he got and do what he did, then the stories of his multiple survivors would have been enough to convince us.

Plus, the fact that he tried to plead that he was engaging in BDSM, something which requires clear consent (I told you I would come back to that), when the fact that clearly there was no consent would further make it clear that he was, in fact, an asshole. And don’t get me started on assholes like Roosh V and Bill Cosby.

Now, let’s be clear. I am aware that Ghomeshi’s sexual assault, the bombers’ murders and ethnic or religious scapegoating by politicians are all much more serious and specific charges than simply being an asshole and that is how these serious and specific cases should be treated. But this is about prejudice and profiling.

If we need to profile and be prejudiced against any particular group, let that group be assholes.

In this past week Beirut, Bagdad, Paris and most of Syria were the epicentres of yet another gruesome chapter of the war on terror. The images of a blood-stained Paris echoed the images of the Lebanese bloodbath that had followed the day before, but as one served as an echo chamber for the whole struggle against terrorism and radicalism the other was almost practically omitted: “after all,” some said, “it happens over there all the time!”

This gap in solidarity became much more than merely your routine ethnocentricity. Some have put forward the argument that it’s “normal” to feel more proximity to France, and this argument and the debate in general is in many ways the highest manifestation of how the war on terror is fuelled and perpetuated.

One of the best examples of this occurred in the wreckage of the Paris attacks on the On n’est pas couchés (ONPC) set–a renowned French talk-show rebranding itself On est solidaires for the occasion. During the televised debate where several politicians, artists and philosophers were invited, the discourse was the same–except for the notable exception of Jean-Luc Mélanchon (leader of the French left Parti de Gauche) and the philosopher Raphaël Glucksmann.

The drums of war were the same. The actors and the scenery had changed but the script was the same, the same one handed out in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks in the United States.

pray for paris french flag

The journalists in charge of orchestrating the whole affair reminded the audience time after time that the message the show was promoting was one of solidarity and peace but there was a cognitive dissonance, it seems, between the message of peace they were promoting and the “clash of civilizations” speech that came out of their mouths. The “us” against “them” was reformulated time after time, “they hate us because we love life,” “they hate what we love, music, art, gastronomy”… with every passing sentence the arguments became ever more void.

In the conversation that lasted more than two hours, the fact that the totality of the eight assailants who ravaged Paris last Friday were all Europeans, born and raised, was never brought up. So much for the racists and xenophobes among us for whom the prospect of one of them being a refugee birthed in them a pleasure of orgasmic proportions.

Yet the conclusion François Hollande and the majority of the panelists reached, which now seems a Cannon Law, was that these young men weren’t French, they were Daesh. Once Hollande uttered those words in his speech to the French people, real debate and reflection upon how to put an end to all of this nonsensical bloodshed was silenced.

Once Hollande uttered those words, France’s foreign policy and interventionism, its interior policy with regards to the Muslim minority, and the utter failure of France’s “integration” policies and the state’s relationship with its invisible and silenced minorities were exempt from any criticism.

And thus in the days that followed, just like every time a Western city or capital is the target of a major terrorist attack, the mystification of the terrorist, of terrorism becomes  the phantasmagoric object of all our hidden and deeply buried fears, a sort of blank sheet used as a deflection, to absolve us of all our sins.

This has become a routine affair in the past decade. Regardless of what country the attack might happen in, the drill is the same. It was same here after the attacks in Ottawa last year. Thus the real debate never really surfaces, the real question never really comes up: with all the anti-terrorism measures –le plan vigipirate in France, C-51 in Canada, the Patriot Act in the United States–  do we feel safer?

Today Syria is engulfed in a brutal and gruesome conflict that has millions of refugees fleeing for their lives and, if anything, the attacks in Paris should be the wake-up call for Europeans to understand why. Iraq has been torn apart for the past decade and apart from Kabul in Afghanistan the Taliban pretty much control  the stretches of territory that were in their possession before the invasion of 2001.

So instead of bombing Raaqa and swearing for more retaliation and pinning everything on the cosmic evil that is terrorism, it is our duty, while upholding the memory of the hundreds of thousands that perished in the past fifteen years, in this war on terror, to ask ourselves – hasn’t all of this become a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Scores of innocent civilians laid lifeless in back to back attacks in Beirut and Paris and today, as I write this article, scores more will perish in Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya because of wars that were not of their doing, caught in the crossfire of a war without end, that strengthens its grip with every attack, with every bombing, with every passing of “anti-terrorist” legislation.

We must ask ourselves the questions: “Who profits from this? What companies gained points on the stock market? Who has an interest in perpetuating the constant state of fear and hate?”

To use the terminology that Podemos has employed in Spain there is a caste, a transnational caste that has every interest not only propagating such terror but also in stabilizing and maintaining perpetual terror. This is the same caste that rails about refugees and yet on the other hand rants and criticizes “Western values.” It’s the same caste that authorizes airstrikes in the guise of retaliation and yet on the other hand guns down innocent civilians in the streets of Beirut and Paris.

On the chess board that is presented to us by the media, all of these different bloodthirsty actors are portrayed as enemies, Islamists versus Western forces, the bad guys versus the good guys, us versus them, when in fact their resolve and objective is the same, when in fact what links them all together is that they are fuelled by grief, destruction and death. From this vantage point, the us and them is a fake dichotomy, a rhetoric that only finds some sort of grounding in the clash of civilizations doctrine that is their lifeline. 

In reality it has never been about us and them, Arabs and Westerns. It’s about a military-financial-complex. The vicious tempo of its ever expansionary cycle has pushed more areas to be colonized by terror and in the wake of its passage deadlier and more gruesome attacks will be symptomatic. For as long as some profit off of war, others will have to die.

In the aftermath of the terrible events of the past week, in the memory of all of the victims of this never-ending war on terror, the victims of Kabul, of Baghdad, of Damascus, of Beirut, of Mosul, of Kenya and Yemen, of Bali, of New York and Washington, of Paris, of London, of Madrid, of all of the victims of this horrible war, it is our duty to honour them, to put an end to the false dichotomy and thus an end to this war!

Vos Guerres, Nos Morts!

This is horrible. A video has been circulating on the internet of a group of masked individuals vandalising the Université de Québec à Montréal (UQAM) last night. While my colleague Niall may have written about the upside of demonstrations, there is nothing pretty in this video. This is the other side of things that people don’t get to see that often.

They’re wearing masks, so it’s difficult to identify the perpetrators, but they’re all dressed the same, some serious Black Bloc tactics, there. They were all sporting red squares, too, so you know they’re anti-austerity protesters. They’re an embarrassment to the movement!

Damn ruffians if you ask me. They don’t even know what they’re fighting for. Their peers told them to break something, so they break it. And the worst part is, my tax dollars, all of our tax dollars, are paying for it!

Have a look at this video an tell me that the first word that pops into your head isn’t SHAMEFUL:

* Satire inspired by/lifted from Shayne Gryn’s Facebook feed with permission. Broken window courtesy of the SPVM and Denis Coderre, without permission.