Monday, 14 July 2014

Zoofest 2014, Reviews by Nancy Snipper

CLICK HERE for Sylvain Richard’s reviews / CLIQUER ICI pour les critiques de SylvainRichard 

Opening night performance at Café Cleopatra, July 10th, at 7:30
“Liar, Liar” 
Magical Comedic Talent 

It’s rare to find a comedian and magician rolled up into one, but Paul Dabek has mastered the art of both brilliantly. His British humour and fast paced sleight of hand that almost always involves a member of two from the gaping crowd is hilariously magical. High-energy and wonderful wit keeps you wanting more. From  scarves and ropes, to dollar bills, balloons and a banana that in front of our eyes was unpeeled to reveal a freshly signed $20-bill that a member of the audience had just written his name on at his seat – were all remarkably effective. I laughed so much while marvelling at his sensational stage persona. Paul is pretty amazing. His genius to combine the skill with his exuberant ability to think on his feet and play off the audience truly marks him as a wizard entertainer.

 Not a dull moment in the hour-long-plus performance. The end of the show featured his shadowgraphy as animals came to life on the white projection screen. This lasted four minutes, but it will remain forever in our minds as vivid shadow magic. “The Lion King” title song played along to the many exotic creatures he created using his hands, arms and the top part of his lithe body. Crisp, clean movements made him a graceful guy to watch who seems to possess god-like powers!

Shows on: July 13th, 15 to 24th at 7:30 pm.

July 11 at Agora Hydro-Québec de l’UQAM at 7pm
Slightly Fat Features “In Variety Soup”

Mayhem and madness with big belly laughter

Photo by Luke Joyce

Move over Monty Python! Here comes Slightly Fat Features! These seven British blokes perform the quirkiest, cleverest show ever – surpassing even the most imaginative of creative stage concoctions.  It’s a mini-circus, supremely skilful cabaret combo with bright shades of Buster Keaton, Jacques Tati, Python and Chaplin, (one member is a Harpo type character), this  anything-goes ensemble is refreshingly unique; each of the many acts spin fantastic spoofs and antics in such original ways, your mind soars into manic realms of hilarity.  These extreme circus/street performers also include two great music makers, so no stage element is amiss in the smorgasbord of smashingly funny scenes that include a jolly romp into juggling, sleight of hand, a tiger trainer who loses his touch, and like many acts - makes fun of the real McCoy performers in Las Vegas.
Ingenious characters dressed in ridiculous outfits completely add to the insane wildness of it all.
 Photo  by Jassy Earl

There’s even a take-off on Houdini where one guy is bodily wrapped from head (face included) to toe in a roll of cellophane, including his entire face. He is then slung up on a rope – his body suspended upside down, and like a magic serpent unrolls himself from the sticky stuff, thereby freeing himself.

Each of the members creates his own stamp of zaniness. The finale features a song that gets the audience singing, sighing and standing up, but la pièce de la résistance comes in the form of a silent tableau that harkens back to kitschy Belle Époque, neo-Greek glory.

What a show! Take a peek on YouTube.

Show plays every night at 7pm (except Mondays) until August 2nd, at Agora Hydro-Québec de l’UQAM (175 Avenue President Kennedy, Montreal, Quebec).

July 15th show at the Katacombes

“Pretty Semitic” delivers a cerebral, get-real romp

The two gals Jess Solomon and Eman El-Husseini form a femme-funny duo as each one cleverly addresses all topics related to stereotypes and inverse racism. Jess, a former lawyer is Jewish – her mom is Peruvian and Eman is Muslim.

Much of the  self-deprecating content was self-confessional (Jess is bi-sexual), but the notch was raised into poignancy punch when Eman addressed Quebec’s issues with non-pure lain matters along with the religious garb and symbols that hateful (my word) Pauline Marois tried to ban.
Their act’s humour showed bravery and wit while keeping it sharp-edged and original. The final dance scene though, was amateurish compared to the polished humour displayed prior to this silly song/dance number.
The two women are testing the waters in New York, as they told me they’ve reached their plateau here. I wish them luck.
There were sound problems that night, and though the crowd was keen and engaged, I found the tow comedian’s energy flat; the content merited a less cerebral approach, I would have preferred them shooting for high voltage-over-the-top stuff (as seen in the video below which in fact opened the show).
 Nazi content would be funnier if Jess had run onto stage hyper excitedly asking if any Nazis were in the audience while wearing a gas mask and then make her jokes that she had about this subject.
Likewise, Eman could have countered asking for Muslim haters to raise their hands, and then produce a rock to say it was free for the taking to throw at her, as she had just eloped with her boyfriend. That to me turns taboo, serious into comedy that becomes most hilarious.
Ironically, once they ditched that malfunctioning mike comedic impact resonated better. Katacombes’ stage is far too high to present casual comedy. Better they had made their delivery standing on the floor at the tables and in the round or semi-round.
                                       Last show takes place on July 17th 

July 17 July, 7 pm, Théâtre Ste-Catherine
“My First Time” should play many times
Darren Henwood

Hosted by Darren Henwood, a Scottish comic, now living in Montreal, he offered zip and pizzazz to introduce each comic. Darren is very funny, and it was generous of him not to hog stage time; instead, he invited five local comics. This line-up of stand-up funny men – and one woman – offered engaging variety in comic style and content delivery.
Special guest, Joey Elias, who also runs the comic show on CJAD radio was very funny – perhaps the strongest of all the “acts”. He was on only five minutes.
Entertaining jokes also came with Mike Meo and Jason Hatrick.
But there were two weak links. Scott Carter exploited his long locks for “too long” in his gig. Hair became the focus of his content which was milked a tad too much. CUT!  Still, it was a clever concept to take one topic and show how it would play out with different characters – signaled by hair change, but the humor didn’t work for me. Too “cerebral” for my taste.

Likewise, Kate Conner – mother of three kids seemed to falter, but she shows promise. She ought to lose the glam look with the sexy dress and worn high-heel shoes. It doesn’t “fit” with her jokes. Plus, saying “You guys” became a boring, non-stop repeated phrase before each joke change.
The place was packed, so it goes to show Montreal loves humor even if it’s at our own expense – not just for admission but in comic content material.
Comedy is so hard to pull off, and these young human conduits for laughter succeeded.
Last chance to see the show is July 27 at 7pm at Théâtre Ste-Catherine. 

Photos by Anne Fairhurst-Lozyk:
Two shows @ La Chapelle, 7pm & 8:30pm, July 26th
“Kings and Queens of Comedy”

Some Laughs, but Needed a Jester in the Court

In all fairness, the men and women who were brave enough to show their humour deserved bows for sure, but for the most part the shows for both the men and women were amateurish. Tim Rabnett is a Danny DeVito look alike, but really his King was meant for kiddie theatre. He’s a funny man, but material could improve. I enjoyed El-Huueini – she is the most polished of them all – great timing with confidently underplayed delivery. She is a born comedian.  Jess Solomon, her sometimes stage partner (Zoofest’s “Pretty Semitic” show) presented a quirky queen presence and her delivery is engaging for sure.
DeAnne Smith is a pint-sized firecracker of a comedian, but her obsession with the other “v” word went on far too long.  Still, she is funny and űber- weird.
Massimo is a great actor, but I’m not sure he is limiting himself by doing comedy 
I don’t have much to say about the two shows other than I think depending on the audience too much rather than coming in with smashingly funny jokes and delivery doesn’t always make for royal comedy.


Only two Zoofest shows remain: July 28 and August 1 at 10pm and 11:30pm