Fringe St-Ambroise Montréal Festival 2018: my favorite shows 

by Luc Archambault

     This particular edition of the Fringe Festival has had its share of greatness. Themes that ran the gamut, some shows even edged their way in my heart in spite of false preconceptions, and others, sure bets like Kafka's Metamorphosis, byThe Shylock Project, a theater group that captures each year our imagination with their profound and structured investigations on the lives of know artists, while showing us that our knowledge of those they chose to portray is at best fragmentary... wow! What a splendid success! 

Tarot Live!

Photographer: Daniel Miguez De Luca

      AAA Tarot doesn't reinvent the wheel with this performance. A tarologist, Jesse Strong, who draws cards before an audience, whose members accept to play his game. Sounds simple? It isn't. Many amateurs, one could even say bad communicators, would have failed with such a concept. But Jesse sets himself apart with his empathy, his understanding and mastery of the Tarot. He knows how to read both his participants and the audience as a whole, revealing (or not?) what he perceives in the fumes of the future. Is he specially gifted for prophecy? In an interview prior to the Fringe, he admitted having long been attracted to this revelatory art. But, even more than just a well-performed reading, one has to master the art of communicating adequately with an audience. And on this last point, he excels. If I can play with the prophecy format, I see a growing success for this tarologist, well-payed private consultations and bigger and bigger audiences. In short, I perceive an ideal and total success for Jesse Strong. Congratulations!

 Is that how Clowns have Sex?

Photographer: Pascale Yensen

     Fiona Ross plays Beatrice Haven, a somewhat awkward sexpert, in this show which poses as a sex-ed class, a bit crazy and not at all thorough. I would have liked for her to go way farther, in her subject matter and in her demonstrations... but what can I say... This was a small gem of a show, even though it could've blown away any criticism if it had bet on provocation and outrageousness... it's almost a near-miss, because it comes very close to disappointment, despite the playfulness of this unforgettable performance!  

 b & M: the death of boKa and Mazy

Photographer: Louis Longpré 

     The Fringe's most-loved duo of clowns, boKa and Mazy, in what seems to be their swan song... again this year order and classification of material goods preoccupy them, but this time around the conclusion is somewhat darker. Are we witnessing the penultimate performance of this dynamic duo on our stage? Let,s hope not. Because their candor and their playfulness would be dearly missed, especially through all the darker shows haunting this Festival.

Photographer: Louis Longpré

     Moreover, what characterizes boKa and Mazy so happens to be their child-like temperament, their astonishment, and the true joy they share playing with one another. Here's hoping that they believe in bodily resurrection, so as to convince Kathleen Aubert and Simon Fleury to come back with another instalment in the adventures of boKa and Mazy. Hopefully they'll renew their concept and rekindle the flame which had fed them all those past years... because what will be the Fringe without their good-natures contribution?  

 Red Bastard: Lie with me

Photographer: Steve Ullathorne

     When I wrote earlier in my introduction about shows revealing themselves as total surprises, I was thinking about this Red Bastard, of which I saw the last representation. Fortunately, word of mouth had spread prior to this show, without any contribution from your humble journalist, and the audience was at its maximum. 
     Who is Red Bastard? An angel, a demon? Or, as per the categories he himself sets during this out-of-norm performance, a swan, a dirty poney, or a pervert? Whatever he is, he is played by Eric Davis, and demonstrate a quickness at repartee way beyond average. The subject matter? But which subject haunts us all more than love? And this Red Bastard puts his finger right there where it hurts, ready to push it as deep as possible, with contempt (no, through unavowed pleasure) for the inconfort his questions generate in the totally dumbfounded audience.

Photographer: Fringe 2018

     Because this little devil knows just how to add insult to this deep injury. When he questions the morality and the expression of lust within the sentiment of Love, when he calls into question the limits of truth and the transparency between each members of a loving couple, he does so with a lack of consideration and a boldness evoking ropewalker/jester and psychotherapist qualities. He proposes no other judgement than the fact that we are all liars, each and everyone of us without exception. 

Photographer: Bernard Letendre

     Truly, without this totally out of whack show, this edition of the Fringe would have felt incomplete, imperfect. Because Red Bastard confronts us to our own value system, especially to the conceptual blur on which these values are based. And he does it with a self-assumed relish and a joy. As this performance depends largely of the public's reactions, I cannot pass over the improvisational talents of Eric Davis, who never missed an occasion to push the audience out of its inertia, as they are captivated by his every word and oriented towards the direction he set beforehand. A great Artist, an immense show, a great pleasure and also an honour to have participated and witnessed this masterpiece.  

     So, these where my picks for the best of the best for this Fringe 2018. I would like to thank the staff of the Fringe, most notably Amy Blackmore, executive and artistic director, who caught me after a false start; Véronick Raymond, Spokesperson for the 2018 edition, who met me in spite of her complicated schedule and discussed the art of the theatre, Fringe history, and her views on preforming Arts, which should have been published but was unfortunately swept under the rug(I am truly sorry for that); Sarah G. LaForce, public relations director, for her patience and devotion; and finally Geneviève Plante, French communications director, for her competence and devotion, in psite of my impatience  (I deeply apologize!). 

Long live the Fringe!


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