We all like to reflect on defining moments in our lives. The big things, down to the small ones. Maybe you had a journal to keep those memories intact. Maybe a canvas, even. Maybe your body was your canvas.
Illustrated Lady is a one-woman storytelling experience created by and starring Sophie Post Croteau. Using the word intimate to describe a piece is such a cliché, and I would love to avoid it, but can’t. Illustrated Lady is a beautifully intimate and genuine experience in script, design, and execution, so much so that I found it rather difficult to leave the venue without actually talking to Sophie.
Oh, and (no spoilers because this is advertised), she tattoo’s herself.
It’s an awesome moment.
The setup is minimal and cozy. Cabaret style seating in a backroom at Pompette, lit dimly as well as by candle. Setting yourself and your drink down, Al Lafrance comes around and hands you a slip of paper and a marker to draw something that makes you happy. I drew a rain cloud and some rain. Sophie is sitting in a small platform at the front of the room. An abstract mishmash of angled lights, a power supply, a Mac, a sketch board of sorts, and various objects surround her. Behind her is a projection with a warning about how she is recently out of surgery, and not quite 100% yet.
Illustrated Lady offers the story of Sophie Post Croteau’s life, or, at least, a sliver. It’s nearly impossible to deliver a life’s worth of stories into 55 minutes. She doesn’t really try though, instead telling tales of “chapters” of her life and through her tattoos. Between these segments of storytelling, she looks through the audience’s drawings (the webcam on the mac projects this behind her, so we can see closely), eventually picking one and explaining the tattooing process.
A foot-operated switch is hit. The lights cut and a buzz is heard. She laughs, it was the wrong pedal. She fixes her mistake, and the show is underway.
From the top, she exudes genuine charisma and charm. Intimacy grows throughout the experience as she goes into detail about herself. When I say detail, I mean things you wouldn’t typically tell a room of people. She lets you in.
At the start, the performance seemed a little “rehearsed” and crafted. This was quickly lost however, as the storytelling continues into a much more dynamic and genuine tone. Design elements were bare but effective. One of my favorite choices was when she would activate harsh lights/lamps directly in front of her, casting huge shadows on either side behind her, and accentuating just how engaging of a storyteller she actually is.
My only gripe with the piece was the noise coming from the shared wall with the rest of Pompette. Very forgivable, as it was a Friday night, and was clearly not the intention of the production. I’m pleased to say that Sophie’s story drowns out the bar next door, and I found myself not noticing it.
For this review, I have been using the artist’s first name to refer to her. This is because Sophie sets a tone of such genuine and friendly intimacy that it seems a little much to refer to her by her last name. I didn’t know the artist before this show, but I really feel that I do now.
It felt as though everyone in the backroom at Pompette let their guard down. We weren’t an audience at a show, we were all friends sitting down for a drink, catching up with Sophie.
The defining moments in life are best recorded. As humans, we need to reflect. Sophie tattoo’d a little slice of pizza on her calf that night, so that this particular show and story on June 2nd would always be remembered.
Uplifting and wonderful (though it is hard to write a review on what is essentially someone’s life)! Sophie is a delightful human who beautifully illustrated herself.
Review by Montreal Theatre Hub Fringe Contributor Rahul Gandhi
Sophie Post Croteau presents “Illustrated Lady”
When: June 2-18, 2017
Where: Pompette, 4128 Boulevard Saint-Laurent
Duration: 55 minutes
Box Office: www.montrealfringe.ca | 514.849.FEST (3378)
Official Media Partner of the 2017 St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival
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