It was the 11pm show and there were only a handful of us in the audience; I was concerned that this would affect the energy of the show. However, that didn’t stop Julia Haist from putting on an excellent and breath-taking performance in This Is Not She, presented by the Simian Assembly. She walked on stage and I immediately knew I was going to love this show. Here, Haist performs as Ms. Lee-Humbert, an English professor, and we, the audience members, are her students.
Because we were a small “class” in attendance, we were forced to interact and dive into the story, which made everything so much more personal. Haist truly has a unique ability to drive the plot forwards while also improvising with the audience participation. I’ve sat through my share of university english classes, and it felt like I was there all over again; kudos to Haist for making the setting feel so realistic. At times I even forgot I was watching a Fringe show.
Haist demonstrates her acting ability during the flashback cuts, which are nicely executed with the change of lighting and background sounds and voices. The emotion and despair that Haist increasingly portrays through Ms Lee-Humbert is extraordinary to watch – so much that when the flashback ends and you’re taken back to the classroom setting, there is a significant shift in the energy in the room and suddenly you’re empathetic towards the teacher. Most of us forget that teachers are real people too, and this production brings that realization that into the spotlight. At one point Ms Lee-Humbert shouts “I am TRYING to do my job” and the emotion in the room was almost overwhelming. The emotional breakdown scene was absolutely heartbreaking. As a real student I would have tried to comfort her, but I didn’t know how much audience interaction was expected, so I just had to sit there and watch her become increasingly upset. It was difficult to witness as a mere bystander, but I couldn’t take my eyes away. This was when the small number of audience members worked in Haist’s advantage as the room fell silent but there was an uncanny connection between us all.
This Is Not She is real, raw, and definitely personal. Julia Haist deserves notable recognition for portraying teachers as humans. She definitely has a talent for improvisation, acting, and daresay, even teaching. I’d sit in her next class anytime.
Review by Montreal Theatre Hub Fringe Contributor Patricia Fitzgibbon
The Simian Assembly presents “This is Not She”
When: June 8 – 18, 2017
Where: Black Theatre Workshop Studio, 3680 Jeanne-Mance
Duration: 60 minutes
Tickets: www.montrealfringe.ca | 514.849.FEST (3378)
Official Media Partner of the 2017 St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival
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