FringeBlog

What’s your scene? Lit, food, arts, music, theatre, find out what’s happening in the city of churches.

  • You Can Count On an Unhappy Ending

    • Screenshot courtesy Imago Theatre

    Women are constantly going missing and being murdered across Canada. In attending their upcoming show, Pig Girl, Imago Theatre wants the audience to become aware of this occurrence and openly discuss it.

    The play is loosely based on the ongoing British Columbia Missing Women Investigation, wherein six women were confirmed murdered along with twenty-seven other women’s bodies found on the killer’s property. It was discovered later that a third of these women were indigenous.

    “The playwright, Colleen Murphy, wanted to make the dead speak,” explained Micheline Chevrier, director of Pig Girl. “Part of it is to address the prejudice that we have as a society against the value of those lives.”

    A Q&A will follow each performance, featuring a variety of speakers including artists, activists, and government representatives.

    “That’s what we do here at Imago, part of our objective is to have a conversation about a particular issue that we feel is urgent,” said Chevrier. “I think violence against women is a pressing issue. Particularly marginalized women, meaning drug addicts, sex workers, homeless women, and, especially in this case, indigenous women.”

    Point-blank, spreading awareness of this situation is the most important goal that Imago wants to achieve here. The hope is to inspire we as a society to take action rather than look to someone else to eventually do something.

    The story of Pig Girl follows the narrative of ‘Dying Woman’ who has been kidnapped by ‘Killer’. Based on the names of the characters, the audience gets a good idea of how the play will end.

    The play’s focus is on Dying Woman’s struggle. She fights for her life while her captor tortures and abuses her, before finally hanging her on a meat hook to die. While that part of the story is unfolding, Dying Woman’s sister is trying her best to get help from the sluggish authorities.

    Needless to say, Pig Girl will have some explicit and intensely dark scenes onstage.

    While putting the play together, Chevrier didn’t consult with Colleen Murphy.

    “Colleen and I have worked together before,” says Chevrier. “She fully trusts me to be able to do this.”

    Chevrier made no alterations to the script either, everything is word for word as written by Murphy.

    Admission for Pig Girl is ‘pay what you decide’. This is the first time that Imago has employed this payment policy.

    “We feel that this play is very important,” said Chevrier. “We want to make it accessible for as many people as possible. Whether they have fifty dollars, five dollars, or nothing at all.”

    Pig Girl // Centaur Theatre (453 St. François-Xavier St.) // Until Feb. 6 // PWYC

  • The Country’s Alright

    • Screenshot courtesy Dawson College

    Historical fiction, whether in the form of literature, film or theatre, is a criminally underrated genre. Taking place in a different time frame, people, especially young adults, have a hard time relating and do not always understand the important themes that are brought forth.

    The graduating class of the Dawson College Professional Theatre program went back in time themselves starting Jan. 25 with the debut of Our Country’s Good, a 1988 award-winning play by Timberlake Wertenbaker.

    Set in 1780s Australia, the play outlines the lives of a group of newly arrived English convicts, their struggle to find meaning in lives of captivity, and the efforts of an English general to put on a play in an effort to breathe life back into convicts and officers alike.

    Barb Kelly, the director, explained that the variety of characters was one of the reasons she was drawn to the play.

    “The characters are from England, Ireland and Scotland, so there’s good dialect work for the actors,” Kelly said.

    One of the challenges of the production was the scene changes. “It’s a very different style of play, almost film-like,” Kelly explained.

    “My first impressions were that this was going to be a lot of work,” said Kayla Henry, one of the actors in the play. “There are many scenes and it focuses on so many different issue and the characters are very complex.”

    Fellow actor Anthony Wilson added that, because the convicts are actors themselves in a play, it was important “to differentiate your acting from your character’s acting.”

    The actors were able to find themselves relating to the their characters. Henry, who plays Mary Brenham, says that she related to Mary’s improvement in the world of theatre. “She’s very shy and pulled back, but when she finds her way through the theatre, she finds more confidence,” she said.

    Wilson related to his character, convict escapee John Arscott, who is himself acting. “He uses his character as a means of escape and he enjoys not being himself.”

    But could a modern audience relate?

    “There is not much hope for the convicts in terms of finding a better life, but it offers hope that they’re in a new land and what it means for them after they serve their sentences,” Kelly said, describing the themes of hope and despair as prevalent throughout.

    Wilson brought up a specific incident where a Major defends one of his drunken soldiers in the play. “It’s like police brutality and the protection of the officers,” he said. “It shows how the officers are really above the convicts.”

    “The lower class are swept under the rug and not seen as human,” Henry added. “We are pretty much putting the entire colony together and [we’re] treated like garbage.”

    Our Country’s Good // Dawson’s Theatre (2000 Atwater St.) // Feb. 3 to 6 at 8 p.m. // $15 regular, $10 students and seniors

  • The Absurdity of Conspiracy

    Conspiracy is a play so strange and absurd that audience members can be heard gasping in disbelief, but still leave the theatre bearing grins from ear to ear.

    Conspiracy’s plot centres around two siblings, Jane and Richard Bull, played by Alexandra Petrachuck and Dakota Wellman. The pair are sent on a mission by the eccentric Queen of England, played by Rebecca Pearl, to fake Christopher Marlow’s death and transport him to Scotland for reasons unknown.

    The comedy was produced by Chocolate Moose and written by Martin Law, who originally gained press for his incredibly weird play Felix at the Montreal Fringe Festival this past summer.

    Of course, plans go awry and the siblings, along with the audience, are left wondering who they can trust and why Marlow, played by Kenny Streule, is of such importance. The play moves forward and these questions only escalate as more and more theories are proposed, each trumping the last in their complexity and oddness, delving into realms of royal succession, the meaning of life and death, and the reincarnation of christ.

    For the last quarter of the play, audience members are left intentionally lost and confused as they try to grasp some sort of understanding and resolve at the same time as the two main characters. The pay off is a grand spectacle guaranteed to be completely unexpected but grossly suited.

    The script is packed to the brim with witticisms. Jokes come so fast that one barely has time to register the first pun before two more are thrown in rapid-fire succession and some jokes get lost. The writing is sometimes funnier than what manifests on stage and line deliveries could be improved to capitalize on the bounds of humour within the text.

    Law’s script works best with many characters on stage, each interacting with high energy and commotion. He employs a Tarantino technique of long dialogue-driven scenes, continuously raising the stakes and piling on the tension, ultimately culminating in relief: ten seconds of rewarding bloody action.

    The cast worked well as an ensemble, feeding off each others frantic energy and twitchy mannerisms. Most actors played multiple Monty Python-esque caricatures with convincing British and Scottish accents. One highlight: Rebecca Pearl’s Queen Elizabeth, laid back and mocking regal ceremony. With one mention of certain taboo topics, she transforms into a tyrannical ruler eager to impose cruel and unusual punishments such as death by spoon.

    Petrachuk, on the other hand, commands the stage with a more serious performance as Jane. Definitely the most naturalistic of the bunch, she delivers a chilling Shakespearian monologue in the darkest, somber moment of the play. Wellman, Petrachuk’s on-stage brother, is more comically animated, and while he is funny, would tend to use his voice’s upper register whenever shocked or surprise, which became a tiring trait.

    The minimal set used only black blocks and sometimes a standard table and chairs when needed, but was effective considering the many diverse location settings. The crew clearly spent great effort blocking the play and there’s never a still moment, though this usually worked well, the combination of the Mainline Theatre’s thrust stage and a full-house left some of the audience staring at the backs of actors for entire scenes.

    Costumes were fantastic, filled with pomposity or humbleness, suited to the characters dawning them. For example, the Queen, placed in full royal garb, donned a corset and farthingale that made her hips jut wide so it seemed like two young children could comfortably sit on either side. The men, on the other hand, were decked in comically large codpieces, serving the over-the-top nature of the play. One note about sound design and lighting: If they go unnoticed, they’ve been well crafted. In Conspiracy, the two elements blended seamlessly into the background.

    Overall, Conspiracy is wild and fun. Though there are still a few kinks that could be worked out, this journey into absurdity is thrilling the whole way through.

  • Headspace: Tame the Void Inside You

    • Screenshot courtesy Headspace

    Feeling stressed up? Overwhelmed? Restless? There’s an app for that! Well, actually, there are many – the self-help industry is a lucrative one, after all. But one, specifically, has lately hooked me hard: Headspace.

    No way around it, this is a meditation introduction app. I know most meditation apps out there are made with the hip ‘burbs yoga mom in mind, all purple swirly trees, ‘Namastes’ and Buddha quotes. But this one will make you feel the feels, and think the thoughts.

    Mea culpa, I know this ain’t some freshly released app, but since it certainly deserves a place on my top 5 from 2015, I thought I’d share it, hoping this app can help some fellow students find grounding through the hectic emotional roller coaster that is university. I see you, fam, and I care. Dizzying anxiety and blurring sense of impostor syndrome? Come thru.

    To me, Headspace is the paramount of user experience design. It’s approachable, fun, entertaining, social, and it serves a purpose: finding stillness, aka calming you the fuck down. Is it paradoxical, an app existing on a device that’s always tugging at your attention and disrupting your focus? Or are we tempted to vilify technology as ADD fuel, in the same vein that the baby boomers and techno-pessimists criticize millenial technology as antisocial, meaningless, and vain! So let’s throw that out of the window, shall we, and legitimize the smartphone as a wellness stepping stone.

    First off, the app is beautiful. Flat design through and through, vibrant yet soothing colour palette, quirky animations and character design effectively create emotional attachment and a sense of comfort. Then, gameplay features give that reward-system quality: connect with friends, a ravenous-for-meditation community, win medals for streaks of consecutive days (completionists, I see you) – reaping free trials to pass along.

    It comes with a 10 sessions trial, which introduces you to the method, and features some cute animated allegories to probe thought. Meditation is a refuge, a technique, and a habit – although seemingly repetitive, Headspace anchors a practice, roots a point from which expand, and to which come back, when you feel things are starting to get out of hand.

    While buying the app opens up many focused meditation paths, bringing mindfulness and a serenity to different aspects of your multifaceted existence, the trial still has proved to be formative and valuable in and of itself. I admittedly was surprised of this, since it only requires 10 minutes of my time daily.

    This app, above all, is nice. It’s continuously reminding you that there is no such thing as perfect – up to the logo, a slightly imperfect orange circle, rising like a sun on the opening screen. It forgives you as your mind wanders, but reminds you to reign it back. It gently nudges you as you face the terrifying emptiness of focusing on nothing, what seems like the impending doom of boredom. It takes you by the hand, and pats you on the back, assures that meditating is hard, so why not have an infinitely patient mentor? I’m digging it.

    Manage chilling out by choosing which fuck you want to give; find your blue sky suddenly returned.

  • A 30th Un-Birthday at the Wiggle Room

    • Photo courtesy Viva Diverse Productions

    An invitation to attend a mad tea party has been graciously extended to the city of Montreal, as the Wiggle Room bar is once again getting ready to premiere an explosive burlesque show. A 30th birthday party for Viva Diverse Production’s producer and songstress, Mikki Michelle, will be celebrated in style with an Alice in Wonderland themed burlesque show, Through the Looking Glass.

    The Link sat down with Mikki herself, who was more than happy to tell all about the upcoming event and the company. Viva Diverse, big on cabaret and burlesque, promotes artists as they are. “We’re giving them a chance to showcase what they’ve got,” Michelle explained. “I feel like a lot of artists are looked down upon and undervalued.” Michelle, originally from Australia, had only been living in Montreal for about 18 months before deciding to create a name for herself, thus beginning Viva Diverse.

    Upon asking what kind of show viewers can expect from Through the Looking Glass, as Alice in Wonderland isn’t exactly a musical to begin with, Michelle explained that it would be a mix of things. “It’s primarily burlesque, but it’s also a variety show of sorts,” she said. “There will be a circus performer, a pianist and singing bit, a bit of drag as well, and a few other acts.”

    Along with all of these performances, the birthday girl herself will be a part of the show with a singing piece of her own.

    “Everyone’s very much in charge of their own act,” Michelle answered when asked about producing the show. “I’ve worked with some of these artists before, and I love them all; I know that they’re very professional and we can work well together, so rehearsals aren’t really necessary so long as they know what they’re doing. I’ll be structuring it, though, and we will have a run-through the day of.”

    Michelle pointed out that there’s no particular audience group aimed for this show, it’s really just for anyone who enjoys a good time. “Pretty much anyone who’s interested in cabaret and the like.” With a hint of humor in her voice, she added, “But people should come, you know, because it’s also my birthday! If the show runs well and good, then that’s enough for me. If there are any birthday bonuses, then hey, even better!”

    Having originally planned to make the show solely Mad Hatter themed, Michelle decided it was too limited and changed it to a full on Alice in Wonderland theme, including the rest of the colourful characters we know and love. “Alice is a childhood favourite, so I guess it’s a bit nostalgic,“ Michelle explained. “It will be a mix of the original Disney animation and the Tim Burton version.”

    Through the Looking Glass will take place at the Wiggle Room bar on Friday, November 27. Doors will open at 7:30 p.m. and the show will officially begin at 9 p.m. You can order your tickets in advance for $20 or buy them at the door for $25. The event has its own Facebook page, or take a look online at www.wiggleroom.ca for more information on reservations and the like.