Theatre Review: “Mid Knight” Debuts at the Montreal Fringe Festival
A Boy Delves Into a Fantastical Realm to Cope With His Parents’ Divorce
On June 6 at the Théâtre Sainte-Catherine, the play Mid Knight by Laurent McCuaig-Pitre, an emerging playwright and actor, saw its debut at the Montreal Fringe Festival. The play features himself as Laurent, actors Gabriel Schultz, Lucas DiTecco, playing his parents, and director Alain Mercieca who also lends his voice to narration. The room was half full, but the cast knew how to capture the audience’s rapture.
The show flirts with storytelling, and we are privy to the ups and downs of a marriage through the eyes of the main character Laurent, played by McCuaig-Pitre, both as a child and as an adult.
The play began as McCuaig-Pitre entered the room from behind the audience, dressed in armour while brandishing a sword. Celebrating his self-claimed victory against dragons, he shook every hand in the audience. The character of Laurent is a child, and he learns that his parents are divorcing.
To cope and make sense of the changes in his life, Laurent recounts the events as happening in a fantastical realm. His parents, Queen Charming and King Charming, rule over Imaginationland. Laurent then embarks upon a quest to save his parent’s marriage from divorce, and must do so before midnight.
The play takes place in the present and the past, and travels between the real world and Imaginationland. Yet, the show is coherent and the timeline is clear and easy to follow. Partly improvised, partly scripted, Mid Knight is a unique and engaging theatrical experience.
“Improvisation is about staying in the moment, and staying with the audience, too,” said McCuaig-Pitre. “Some nights, a joke might work really, really well, so we might as well ride that wave with the audience. (…) It allows us to always be surprised with the audience, and allows a liveness to our piece.”
Audience participation was organically woven into the play, both in comedic and heavy moments. A teary-eyed Laurent turned to us and asked: Who should he choose to live with after the divorce? His mom or his dad? A personal connection with the audience was created as we were asked to sit with Laurent’s discomfort and sadness.
“The vulnerability of this piece, being strong, and being open, and being honest, is one of the things I’m most proud about this [show],” said McCuaig-Pitre. “I think it connects to a lot people because I open up a part of myself to the audience, as do the other performers. They open up a vulnerable part of themselves to the audience, so that they can show that it’s okay to do that on stage, and it’s okay to do that in life.”
“The vulnerability of this piece, being strong, and being open, and being honest, is one of the things I’m most proud about this [show].” ⎯ Laurent McCuaig-Pitre.
While the show certainly had intense emotional scenes, I laughed all the way through. My favorite moments were when the fourth wall broke or was bent, and those scenes often garnered the most response from the audience. The improvisation aspect of the play kept it playful.
McCuaig-Pitre explained that he tends not to write pieces with a fourth wall because it “cuts us off from a real experience that’s shared between audience and actors.”
The actors stretched funny moments to make them last. They rode on jokes that worked, and were aware of the public’s reaction, so they never pushed their comedy into uncomfortable repetition.
“I thought it was very entertaining, that it was clever, and very personal,” said member of the audience Dayane Ntibarikure. “I thought that the performers are obviously great improvisers and really comfortable with each other. I had a good time, I think it’s a great Fringe show.”
Mid Knight stood out to me at the Fringe-For-All, for Schultz and DiTecco, who play Laurent’s father and mother, and McCuaig-Pitre, had a wonderful energy on the Club Soda stage. On June 6, their synergy was the highlight of the show.
The actors equally occupied the stage and shared a tight complicity. Their interactions were seamless, and the dialogue went back and forth without losing a beat.
The actors were in control of their bodies and fully occupied their space. Yet, physical comedy was not used as a crutch to garner a cheap laugh, but as an extension of whatever funny moment or joke was already going on.
“It’s for all ages,” said DiTecco. “Adults can really connect with what’s going on and find it really fun, and kids can love it too, because there’s a lot of characters and a lot of fun stuff to kinda roll with, and I think that’s what makes Mid Knight a little special.”
Mid Knight is personal to McCuaig-Pitre, whose experiences with divorce were written into the play. He explained that he hopes that the show can encourage the audience to feel a little more brave in tackling their pasts.
“This world does need a lot of hope,” said McCuaig-Pitre, “and I think often the best way to create hope, is to create both happiness [and] laughter, with sadness and tears, that free up a lot of space in our minds.”
For more information about Mid Knight and the performances, go to https://montrealfringe.ca/organizer/mid-knight/.