Your Guide to FRINGE Fest

Reviewing what the Montreal Fringe has to Offer

Zombie Apocalypse: A Love Song at Venue 5- Cabaret du Mile End
Body Slam at Venue 11 - Studio Multimédia Photo by Benjamin Von Wong

The 22nd St-Ambroise Montreal FRINGE Festival has hosted one-off shows and events throughout the month and is now in full swing. Dance, music, comedy and theatre might be the building blocks of the fest, but the never-ending party is the glue.

This is not the kind of festival that is attended by going to see certain shows and then eating in some park. For ten days people are “fringing.” They are walking up and down St. Laurent Blvd.—rain or shine—heading from obscure venues and back to the ticket booth trailer for their latest admissions.

They are in the line at Patati Patata for a basket of fries to bring back to the beer tent. They are cursing the pillar in the Voir Stage. They’ve been waiting for the Drag Races all year. To Fringers, Park des Ameriques finally looks normal again – covered in posters, flyers and banners.

During the day, newbies should take the opportunity to mingle with performers in the Fringe Park (but call it the beer tent), and at night, dance into the wee hours at the 13th Hour cabaret at least once.

Here our writers give their take on the shows making up this year’s fringe, and the reviews are listed alphabetically with a 5-star rating system. This list will continue to be added to throughout the fest.

Happy Fringing!

Video Pierre Chauvin

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13th Hour FringeMTL (Montreal)

This free event showcases Fringe artists and is an after-hours hub for performers, volunteers, staff and enthusiastic Fringers each night of the festival. This year, Uncalled For passes the baton to Kiki Razzle, Filip Fairbanks and Cat Lemiaow (Kirsten Rasmussen, Carl P. Werleman and Catherine Lemieux). The new hosts charm the crowd and get the ball rolling right away with a solid showcase of Fringe acts. The show gets rounded out with a couple of classic 11-second dance parties, a staple in the 13th Hour in which music is played and the entire house dances with abandon for 11 seconds. The 13th Hour is a foundational Montreal Fringe event that is not to be missed. Free (M.C.)


Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Astra Theatre (Montreal)

Although the folks at Astra Theatre deserve points for creativity, ultimately this retelling of the old Lewis Carroll classic is lacking in lustre. The Cheshire Cat grins in black light, Tweedledum and Tweedledee have a Tarantino-esque battle and audience members are called upon to do the Lobster Quadrille…but in the end, this adaptation of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass fails to bring anything truly new to the cannon of Alice-adaptations. Alice in Wonderland is a fairly plotless book and Astra Theatre has been so faithful in their adaptations of Alice’s adventures that one is left wishing Alice would meet the Red Queen so she – and the rest of us – can start heading home. (O.K.)


Callaghan Sex T-Rex (Toronto, ON.)

A smart, Indiana Jones-style comedy with a fantastic ensemble. The members of Sex T-Rex pass the ball seamlessly back and forth allowing each character his or her moment to shine. Exceptional choreography (by Montrealer Robin Henderson) serves the story by clearly defining place, relationship and situation. The precise physical comedy and great script makes for an exciting, accessible adventure story. Overall, the show is crisp, while remaining spontaneous and silly. See this show for a satisfying, easy to digest hour well spent. (M.C.)


Ethereal Tribal Ethereal Tribal (Montreal)

Ethereal Tribal is an entertaining palate-cleanser that doesn’t aspire to do more than put on a great show. The ten women with long hair and hourglass figures smile and perform belly dance fusion during the 60-minute performance at the Cabaret du Mile End. They’re having fun and the audience is too. Among the women are two sets of identical twins and a So You Think You Can Dance Canada finalist. The group performs together, in solos and duos, and to different musical styles. Each dance is unique and the hour flies by. (E.D.G.E)


F*cking Stephen Harper: How I Sexually Assaulted the 22nd Prime Minister of Canada and Saved Democracy Ten Foot Pole Theatre (Toronto, ON)

Sex and politics make for fitting bedfellows in this political comedy from funny-man Rob Salerno. F*cking Stephen Harper follows a loose, tangent-ridden, personal narrative, that culminates in a ball-busting (literally) encounter with the nation’s leader. This show is everything from an anecdotal recount of undercover journalism to a sexually explicit lesson in electoral politics. Find out what your position on the political spectrum says about your performance in the bedroom. While some of Salerno’s humour comes across as manufactured, there are plenty of points of laugh-aloud cleverness. If politics isn’t your schtick then you may have trouble following every joke, but for bona fide Canadian political junkies this show is a must-see — especially if you happen to be the MP from Papineau. (G.O)


God is a Scottish Drag Queen Delcon Entertainment (Victoria, B.C.)

Our Father is not arting in heaven during this year’s FRINGE Festival. Instead, She is right here in Montreal–irreverent, sweaty and knee-slappingly funny. If you’ve ever wanted to know about evolution, the Mayans or the real reason God kicked Adam & Eve out of Eden, then this show is for you. From hipsters to the Irish, cadbury cream eggs to whales, no one is spared from the fury of the Lord in this laugh-out-loud, stand-up comedy. Fresh and fun in a floral frock, Mike Delamont stars as the deity Herself. Thou shalt be thoroughly entertained by this divine performance. But don’t take it on faith–for God’s sake, just see the show! (G.O.)


If Looks Can Kill… They Will! Glam Gam Productions (Montreal)

A smutty blend of sex and humour keeps the cast moaning and the audience groaning in this burlesque murder mystery from Glam Gam Productions. A murderer is loose at the Glam Manor, and it’s up to Sherlock Homo and Dr. Hotson to expose the culprit. Despite its high school production quality, this physical (read: very physical) comedy is sure to entertain with everything from drag to a wheelchair tap dance number. It’s Clue meets Rocky Horror Picture Show. Not even Conan Doyle could have disapproved of this sexy satire and perverse portrayal of his beloved classic.(G.O.)


Kissed by a Butterfly POP! Productions (Montreal)

Playwright-performer Shiong En-Chan delivers an electric performances as she narrates her struggle with lupus, an illness represented by the symbol of the butterfly. Together with director Jeremy Taylor, En-Chan creates the claustrophobic world of hospital corridors, examination rooms and infirmary beds. While the performance is wrenching, the show becomes so emotionally exhausting that one leaves the theatre completely drained. Still, there’s something arresting about the show’s central conceit: Shiong-En Chan uses beautiful physicality to tell a story about being trapped in your own body. (O.K.)


Let’s Start a Country That’s Enough Drama (London, U.K. and Montreal)

If you started a country with a hundred other people, what would your national fighting style be? The title Let’s Start a Country is more the beginning of a 45 minute conversation between performers and audience than a label. The Bain St-Michel is our new country. Walking into the theatre we have already succeeded from Canada (no messy referendum required). With the guidance of two talented comedians our country decides on a name together, our defining characteristics, and our flag (which is designed and put on a projector at the end of the show). A loose narrative involving a backlash from Canada crescendos towards the end. With complete faith in the performers, the audience revels in being a key part of this fun and unique show. (E.D.G.E)


Miner Inconvenience Uncanny Theatre Company (Montreal)

This play is proof that a good idea, the ideal venue and creative set design are sometimes just not enough. Jonathan Fournier’s new play, premiering at this year’s Fringe, draws its inspiration from the headlining 2010 story of the trapped Chilean miners. Miner Inconvenience encourages us to explore the metaphorical caves in our own lives. The closed and claustrophobic venue–normally cause for frustration–in this case actually serves to break down the barriers between audience and actors, drawing everyone into the simulated subterranean scenes. But glaring omissions, stilted dialogue and lacklustre acting prevent viewers from properly investing themselves in the story. All in all, the show itself is a bit of a cave-in. (G.O.)


Nothing Never Happens in Norway Processed Theatre (Montreal)

Nothing Never Happens in Norway is a delight, providing you’re a theatre scholar or drama student. Two plays by Henrik Ibsen – The Master Builder and Rosmersholm – receive the musical treatment and run concurrently, allowing for some clever insights into thematic similarities of 19th century Norwegian drama. Clever, that is, if you’re already a fan of 19th century Norwegian drama. Exactly why the creators chose to musicalize both plays is a bit of a mystery and we care very little about the characters, mostly because none of them are on stage long enough to illicit our sympathies. All the singers can carry a tune and the show whizzes by so fast that you miss it if you blink. In the end, Norway feels like the sort of thing that happens when a lot of talented people have too much time on their hands. (O.K.)


One Week with the Shaman Elizabeth Blue (Brooklyn, USA)

Her obnoxious neighbour cooks bacon and smokes cigarettes with his apartment door open at 3 a.m. and it throws Elizabeth Blue over the edge. Soon the New Yorker is seeking out psychics and flying to Northern California to consult a straight-talking shaman. It’s an endearing and candid true story told in segments of time that are broken up with the use of blackouts. By the time the final blackout descends on Blue’s opening night, the audience is too absorbed to clap and a long pause in the darkness eventually convinced them that One Week is unfortunately over. Blue is engaging and her story resonates with anyone who struggles between who they are, what they project, and what they want to be. (E.D.G.E)


Peter ‘n Chris and the Mystery of the Hungry Heart Motel Peter ‘n Chris (Vancouver, B.C.)

Its misnomer of a title loses this zany, off-fringe comedy show no points at all. As mystery-less as it is uproariously funny, The Mystery of the Hungry Heart Motel is 60 minutes of guaranteed entertainment. With a healthy sprinkling of genre references—from Scooby Doo to Nancy Drew—Peter n’ Chris combine clever humour, impressive stage production, and natural onstage synergy into a winning combo. The Vancouver-based physical comedy duo are pure magic together. What’s more, the actors clearly have fun. And if laughs and applause are anything to judge by, the audience does too. It’s elementary – see this show! (G.O.)


The Good, the Bad, and the Stupid Pi: The Physical Comedy Troupe (San Francisco, U.S.A.)

Opening on Monday night, The Good, the Bad, and the Stupid comes to Montreal from San Francisco with an eccentric physical-comedy clown show. One oversexed clown is difficult to keep in her box, another performs feats of butt-clenching, and they all can definitely juggle. The show is clever and upbeat and a must for fans of physical comedy. One of the performers joked before the show that since they had just gotten into town it was “going to suck” – it definitely did not, but spending the day traveling from the London, Ont. fringe fostered a few glitches. Presumably everything will be back in tune for later performances. (E.D.G.E.) The Harvester Rabbit in a Hat Productions (Montreal)

Sci-fi theatre is rarely done and a big part of the reason why is just how difficult it is to create an alternate world with a new set of rules and tell a story too. The show revolves around a man who harvests time itself. Time is the fountain of youth and is used by people to live forever. The acting in Harvester is excellent and the production value is exceptional for Fringe. The script itself offers some very interesting moments and twists, and overall the show comes together to be engaging. However, the rules this fictional world holds over the characters aren’t clearly defined enough to fully appreciate the narrative that relies on them, leaving the audience a little confused. (E.D.G.E) The Ukrainian Dentist’s Daughter Yana Kesala (Seattle, U.S.A)

Yana Kesala is an exciting performer whose engaging presence makes for a wonderful hour of theatre. Kesala tells a story that is close to her heart and takes the risk of telling it out of chronological order. The audience is drawn in and held by Kesala’s clear storytelling and joyful exuberance. The simplicity of the staging highlights her performance. In the boiler room known as Scene VOIR Stage, a quiet was present during this show that said, “Everyone is listening.” See this show for a fantastic performance and a rich family story. (M.C.) Tinfoil Dinosaur Sam S. Mullins (Vancouver, B.C.)

Telling by the amount of “Aha moments” being enthusiastically enjoyed around me, Sam Mullins’ Tinfoil Dinosaur could alternately be called Oprah for Actors. From getting a key role in a disastrous university play, to being a misfit waiter in Vancouver, Mullins takes the audience through a thespian’s messy beginnings. Funny and honest, the show which starts with a seven-foot piece of tinfoil being masterfully sculpted into a T-Rex and handed to an audience member never loses its charm. (E.D.G.E.) Tough! Kirsten Rasmussen Productions (Montreal)

In Tough! Kristen Rasmussen, one of Montreal’s star improv comedy performers, delivers a high-energy story about a club singer who ventures into boxing. Some of the best scenes are the highly choreographed fight sequences where Rasmussen plays both opponents as the live band punctuates the punches. Occasionally Rasmussen seems to be performing for performing’s sake rather than fitting her scenes into the show’s narrative, but her energy and charisma carry it well. Tough! is unique among one-person shows for its 60 minutes of high energy delivery, and a confident silliness that few people could pull off as effortlessly as Rasmussen does. (E.D.G.E)


Un Parfum de Montgolfière Nelfanto (Montreal)

Une version moderne de la rencontre maître valet où la parole de la femme et la figure de la mère prennent le dessus. Les deux acteurs de ce marivaudage en règle, Fanny Fennec et Manuel Sinor, nous offrent une joute verbale sans merci, drôle et pathétique à la fois. Le texte d’Alberto Lombardo est musical et rythmé, terriblement teinté de son histoire personnel. L’interprétation sublime le texte par sa fluidité et l’harmonie parfaite des acteurs. On est tenu en haleine du début à la fin. On regrette cependant la mauvaise insonorisation du lieu qui laisse entendre le concert de l’autre côté de la rue. (F.A.)


ZACK ADAMS: A Complete History of Zack Adams Weeping Spoon Productions (Perth, Australia)

A classic Fringe-stock confessional show in which the endearingly and intensely quirky Zack Adams tells us his story – from the beginning. Through song, storytelling and movement, Adams takes the audience on a journey from his rocky start as a young performer, to this somewhat misguided quest for love, to his disillusioned flight to the city to “make it big”. Adams is a great entertainer who delivers a polished show charged with personality and levity. See this show for Zack’s wacky offbeat humour, great songs a la “Flight of the Conchords” and sweet dance moves. (M.C.) Zombie Apocalypse: A Love Song Broken Banjo (Montreal)

The end is nigh and zombies are… dancing? Zombie Apocalypse – which makes its debut at this year’s FRINGE Festival — is the story of four friends on a rooftop, high above a world gone mad. Follow their talk of regrets and unrequited love as they witness below the world wither under the walking dead. Despite creative song-writing and impressive natural voices, the staggers and groans of this brain-eating musical-comedy-tragedy fall short of making it stand out from the crowd. Amateur execution means there are times when the actors are competing to be heard over the music, leading to a jarring overall viewer experience. Zombies are all the pop culture rage this FRINGE season, judging by this and three other undead-themed performances. But if you only have it in you for one zombie show this year, I’d perhaps give this one a miss in favour of another, livelier production. (G.O.)