Fringe Review: There is no fail in “Trent Baumann: THERE IS NO I IN FAIL”


(Photo: Jo Duck)

“If you did everything you ever dreamed, you might never wake up.” I’m not entirely sure what that’s supposed to mean, but it is a part of what is undoubtedly the best “un-motivational” speech you will ever hear. “Trent Baumann: THERE IS NO I IN FAIL” encourages the audience to do less, expect less and find contentment in it all, making it the most fitting and realistic self-help guide for anyone who self-identifies as a walking disappointment. Being told to NOT live up to one’s full potential is quite satisfying for someone who is already doing just that (Me. I’m talking about me. But statistically also probably you).

Hailing all the way from Australia dressed in a cloud-printed suit, international Fringe sensation Trent Baumann embodies an “anti-motivational” speaker/milk crate salesman, a painfully ordinary guy who once dreamed of playing the piano, learning Japanese, and performing stand-up comedy at the open-mic night at his local coffee shop. In the form of a TED Talk flipped on its head, he recounts the day when he decided to take his life into his own hands and achieve those small dreams of his.

This ingenious and incredibly well-structured one-man comedy goes back and forth between the not-TED-talk and flashbacks of the fateful day the speaker is reminiscing, as well as moments where Baumann showcases a few useless but impressive skills he has picked up over the course of his life. Though I can’t imagine “milk crate salesman” being someone’s actual job, said milk crates here serve as a simple but effective way to transform the space. Stacked into various configurations, nine milk crates allow Baumann to go from an office cubicle to a stage, and anywhere in between. Accompanied by purposely cheesy music composed by Sachie, the show feels like an infomercial of sorts, which really suits the whole “failure” theme.

Laughter is guaranteed throughout, as Baumann pairs cringe-worthy life advice – for example: “Be your comfort zone” – with creative physical representations of those sigh-inducing statements – in this case by struggling to fit his entire body into the womb-like confines of a giant-but-not-giant-enough balloon, a tiny and ironically un-comfortable comfort zone.

“THERE IS NO I IN FAIL” is a deconstruction and mockery of the art of Motivational Speaking, one that hilariously highlights the fact that the average motivational speech is just a series of rather empty statements riddled with buzz-words like “potential”, “dream” and “fearless”, delivered in a specific “life-coachy” tone of voice that is both encouraging and slightly demeaning. By cueing validation-applause from the audience, dramatically punctuating his actions with confetti, and giving out balloons (which I found very difficult to blow due to laughter), Baumann pokes fun at himself and at his own art form, and makes it impossible not to laugh with him.

I face-palmed and rolled my eyes more times than I can count, and I mean that as the highest of compliments. A celebration of absurdity and self-acceptance, a must-see for everyone who enjoys self-deprecating humor and playing with balloons (so… everyone), “THERE IS NO I IN FAIL” is what can happen if you start saying “yes” instead of saying “why?”

Review by Montreal Theatre Hub Fringe Contributor Violette Kay

Downunderground presents
Trent Baumann: THERE IS NO I IN FAIL

When: June 10 at 2:15 pm, June 12 at 9:15 pm, June 14 at 8:15 pm, June 17 at 3:15 pm, June 18 at 6:00 pm
Where: Studio Multimédia du Conservatoire, 4750 Henri-Julien Ave.
Duration: 45 minutes
Admission: 10$
Box Office: | 514.849.FEST (3378)

Official Media Partner of the 2017 St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival

Check out our other 70+ reviews from this year’s Fringe! 

Violette Kay

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