Friday, 5 June 2015

Fringe 2015: Nancy Snipper’s reviews

Fringe 2015: critiques de Nancy Snipper



June 4th @ Off venue D (Rialto Studio)

In Search of Mrs. Pirandello

Feminist slant packs punch into play

I was fascinated by the theme and polished theatrical production of this highly imaginative script. Written by Michaela Di Cesare, and marvellously directed by Cristina Cugliandro, the play put the subject of Mrs. Antonietta Pirandello centre stage; it was beautifully explored as certain mysteries about her life were revealed and unravelled. What became evident was the abject disconnect the marriage suffered between Luigi Pirandello and his wife Antonietta Portulano (her maiden name). Cleverly, the Searcher (really a researcher here) who also doubles as his wife tried to uncover their relationship through a series of letters. Michaela herself doubled in these roles. 

We also see a collision of the past with the future, as Antonietta ends up in an asylum for insanity; the play opened with her at this stage in her lonely life – the one tangible solace being the limes she picked off the tree in Sicily as a young woman.
The long-suffering Antonietta was intensely performed by Nadia Verrucci, and she was great. However, it was the writer, Ms. Di Cesare who must be loudly applauded for crafting such an intriguing play and taking on the lead role. She played Antonietta with great liveliness and pathos. The double theme of schizophrenia and the wide abyss between husband and wife blended ironically into thematic conflicts. The beginning was a tad confusing, but we sorted it all out as soon as all the characters began to unroll their dialogue. Furthermore, the theme of searching was cleverly played upon. One must remember that the playwright himself was best known for his play, “Six Characters in Search of an Author, Henry IV”.
The set was deliciously cream white with all kinds of clever cardboard and paper pieces strewn in piles on the floor. The beige lightness to it all added the right kind of ethereal magic.
The cast was terrific. Bravo to Chip Cuipka who pulled off an exquisite multi-roled performance dawning distinct characters. As well, Mike Payette added entertaining lightness to the roles he played.
I was thoroughly impressed by this Off-Fringe production – one that showed intelligence, a high calibre of acting and play craft.


June 11th @ Off Venue W (The Wiggle Room)
Les Bunheads and Friends 

Les Bunheads butt it out in a hilarious headlock

The two dancers compete in a show but their male partners have been poisoned. What ensues is a hilarious hit and punch match to gain points and win. Another dance has the two gals in ballet tutus and these girls are great dancers, and comedians. They both purposely have a go at trying to kill the other – a statement for sure on ballet competitiveness. Later on, we see them again, barely able to stand up as they are in the eighties, and they seem to have reconciled as they stoop over and dance. This part of the show was so clever. The striptease by Bibi Lolo Bang Bang was bubbly feisty fun, and the bee bop sounds and  taped vocal harmonies heard when Carvonica (A.K.A. Jan Dutler) activated his microphone were  really odd but  fascinating. The MC, Marvellous Marvin was energetically delivered with some comedic tinges. The shtick of the dancers was great and they stole the show. Their names are Vanessa Kneale and Janie Pinard. A cute clownish cabaret show that was entertaining and full of talented performers.

June 12th @ Venue 9 (MAI)
The Inventor of all Things

A Brilliant delivery about a brilliant man

Scottish performance poet genius, Jem Rolls gives  a one hour non-stop verbal lesson on the genius, Leo Szilard, a Hungarian Jew of eccentricities was the first man to conceive of fusion, and spent most of his entire life pursuing its making before the Nazis could get hold of it. Jem paints a rapid-speed replay of all the trials and disappointments he endured within the context of 1939 into Hiroshima. We hear about all the physicists he meets to assist him in his quest. This show was a premier for him, and despite some line stumbles and lighting problems, the presentation was a one-man feat.
I suggest he uses props and cut out faces to highlight all the characters he mentions. He talked so quickly with amazing clarity. I think this would make a full and interesting play in need of actors to portray everyone whose role was pivotal to the rise and fall of Leo Szilard – a name I won’t’ forget now. I admire Jem for choosing this subject over a night of his own poetry.

June 13th, Saturday at Petite Café Campus, 2:30 show

Shy Shy in Space

It is Anything but Shy

“Spacey” musical  soars into highly entertaining orbit

How cute is this show? It’s really really cute! It opens with 1950 black and white TV ads and scenes projected on the back screen which evoke the beginning of the space race. A Russian cosmonaut has been sent in space and the USA is sending Shy Shy Schullie in her ship called, Aquarius into space. She will be singing a slew of songs that will be aired right down to earth as she enters the galaxy.
The 5-piece band was terrific as was Shy Shy’s adorably cabaret-style voice. She sang song with the space themes, including “Rocket Man”, “Major Tom”, “Fly Me to the Moon”, “Lonely”, and many more.
You enter the theatre and these 4 white-clad space people with their lights on at their forehead start the mood, and it’s really effective.


Shows seen June 17th

@ Venue 2 Petite Café Campus:

16:15 Famous Haydell Sisters Comeback Tour

Dishy ditties sung in country style

The best thing about these two sister chicks – Mattie and Maybelle is the clever lyric the duo have created in each song. Risky tongue in cheek messages pour out sexy irony. One line in a song, for example, says: “Seven seconds is too short a ride – pleasure denied.” Then there’s the abstinence song that ends with anything but. The song of bullying has a refrain warning, “I’m going to kiss your ass with my love.” The bickering and banter between the two ‘sisters’ is funny, and when they reveal their grandfather taught them everything, including French kissing, this is more or less the kind of comic surprise that hits you like a boomerang backfiring.
The 90’s nostalgia theme was worked into their has-been hiatus period, and then their come back performance is what we are treated to along with a lot of background conversations between the sisters per-millennium.
I liked the show, but the cute soprano needed more voice training. Her older sister has a great voice, but both have charismatic stage presence.
They’re really good songwriters, and I think this show is most entertaining.

@ Venue 10 La Chapelle:

17:30 James & Jamesy in High Tea

Imaginative craziness turns teatime into a flood
Audience participates to save the tea-loving boys

The best thing about this whacky play is the characters created and the movement by Alastair Knowles and Aaron Malkin, beautifully integrated into tea, talk and trouble. Yes, it’s tea galore, but it becomes all kinds of things. Think of tiptoeing through the teapot which is no ordinary teapot. How about Jamesy seeing it as a dolphin a, a telephone and other things as he sets the stage in a surreal world where Monty Python-type peculiarity compels the audience to turn into sea creatures, farm animals, a captain, a queen, and even God which I suddenly found myself playing when Jamsey suddenly approached me with a white gown, and told me I was God. I was one of many who got to share in the fun.

My beef with this eccentric creation went on too long, and the novelty of it wore off when strangeness turned into ongoing winging it – or should I say swimming in it: they were drowning at one point in the liquid plot.
Still, it was a fun Fringe experience that showcased some great acting. Both actors hail from Vancouver where they trained as clowns with David MacMurray Smith. Alastair (Jamesy) who was as campy as they come in the role, told me he spent three years developing the character. He was so fluid and funny to watch.
Aaron Malkin was a great foil to him, and equally talented. The show got kind of silly but the kids loved it, and you know what, the adults too, because there’s nothing like being able to be anything but yourself.

The website for these marvellous performers is:

19:00 Les Voyageurs Clandestins

Polished silent movie-type comedy in the air and on the ground

Three aerialists offer a comic story – two of which are hiding in the luggage full of clothes owned by a man waiting for a train. While he waits, he plays a ditty on the saxophone. It is a highly clever, light-hearted show, but each of the three show off just how great they are when soaring towards the air.  Marie-Noël Béty is a fantastic aerialist and her smile is as winning as she pulls off gravity-defying feats. Likewise Nathan Chagoya is as fluid on a trapeze as he is on his feet. Samuel Boulianne is the sax guy, a lovely singer and can climb up a rope with ease. They all met in circus training school. Respectively, each has three, seven and two years of circus training. Interesting that Marie-Noël is a trained dancer and holds a PhD in education, but she gave it up to tie herself in ceiling to floor ribbon to swing through the air and plummet as fast as a falling star, but she is definitely a rising one. Photos by Alexandre Galliez

The website for these marvellous performers is:

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