Montreal Fringe 2018: Highlights of the Fringe-for-All

Montreal theatre companies, artists, and fans gather at official festival launch event

2018 Fringe-for-All emcees Cat Lemieux, Dayane Ntibarikure, and Kenny Streule (Photo: Camila Fitzgibbon)

MONTREAL, Tuesday, May 29th. On Monday, May 28th, local theatre companies, artists, and supporters gathered at a jam-packed Club Soda on the Main to officially kick off the 28th Edition of the St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival at the annual Fringe-for-All – a rapid-fire, free showcase event for fans and media to get a glimpse of what’s to appear in the forthcoming three weeks of festival programming.

The celebrated theatre fest – Montreal’s largest – this year features over 500 artists from Quebec, Canada, and abroad delivering over 800 live performances across town between May 28th and June 17th. The eclectic lineup, presented by MainLine Theatre, includes a variety of acts from a dystopic game show to a live tarot reading, an interactive murder mystery, a post-apocalyptic drag comedy, a clown sex-ed class, and much more.

With nearly 70 local companies each taking to the stage with sequential two-minute teasers of their upcoming productions (next week is the International Fringe-for-All, taking place on June 6th at 9 pm at Petit Campus), we’ve distilled the many entertaining moments of last night’s events into a roundup of the highlights among the English-language and bilingual acts.

Montreal St-Ambroise Fringe Festival Executive and Artistic Director Amy Blackmore on this year’s edition: “Montreal has embraced the spirit of the Fringe for 28 years now. We’re looking forward to making this year a monstrous success! We welcome everyone to join us as we celebrate our values of diversity, community and artistic freedom. Fringing is more than an artistic activity, it’s an international movement and, for me, a way of life.” (Photo: Camila Fitzgibbon)

Female empowerment emerged as the dominant theme of the evening and we got a taste of the “patriarchy pie” early on in the 4-hour marathon event (quite literally; one does not escape sitting in the front row of the Fringe-for-All unblemished) with Kate Hammer Wants to Be INFEMOUS (INFEMOUS), a provocative one-woman comedy exploring the disconnect between womanhood and personhood. The sex-positive CLIO (Puppets not Patriarchy) was another conspicuous fan favourite with its giant puppet and winsome premise of re-education on female anatomy and pleasure. Don’t Read the Comments (Sermo Scumber Theatre), a clown and bouffon piece on sexual encounters and consent, grounded the preeminent theme in a powerful closing act.

Montreal clowns promote “Spicy Bingo Olé Olé”, a fundraising event hosted by the Fringe on May 31st at the MainLine Theatre in support of the MTL Clown Festival. (Photo: Camila Fitzgibbon)

Clown numbers are indeed nearly always a crowd pleaser the kaleidoscopic Fringe-for-All and Is That How Clowns Have Sex? A One-Woman Queer Clown Sex Ed Show (Maximaliste Productions) proved a standout as two-time “Spirit of the Fringe Award” winner (2016/2017) Fiona Ross-as-Ms. Beatrice Haven, in a humorous improvisational bit, navigated through audience-submitted questions on the topic of sex. The delightful duo of B&M: The Death of Boka and Mazy (Possiblement Théâtre) also gave a charming turn of physical tragi-comedy.

Dance pieces are also an inevitable draw at the effervescent event, with this year’s promising acts pointing to Dance Side of the Moon, a re-imagining of Pink Floyd’s legendary eigth studio album by award-winning choreographer Helen Simard (whose latest work, Idiot, was a high point of this year’s Wildside Festival at the Centaur), and Glam Gam Productions’ vaudevillian musical parody Greasy: A Lesbian Love Storywhose 2017 production of Peter Pansexual earned the company the Spirit of the Fringe award and went on to become the highest grossing show in the history of the festival.

House of Laureen’s Uma Gahd & co. return to the Montreal Fringe with “APOCALIPSYNC: Humanity is a Drag” at Théâtre Sainte-Catherine from June 7th-17th. (Photo: Camila Fitzgibbon)

Acherontia Productions’ SCRUM was a forerunning force at last year’s Fringe, and the three-time Frankie Award-winning ensemble returns to the lineup to enthral once again with {…} morph, a surrealist movement piece examining themes of body dysmorphia, gender dysphoria, religion, and class to depict the struggles of developing identities within marginalized groups.

Honourable mentions go to Creative Expression’s Mid Knight with an impactful (pun intended) piñata scene on parental divorce seen from the lens of a child and Pope Joan’s outlandish choreography in Betch a Sketch. Taking home our inaugural “What Just Happened Moment” Award of the night, however, is American Miracle (À cheval sur le Prince Hip) for bestowing upon us the unforgettable imagery of farm mammals balancing on Swiss balls. Only at the Fringe.

It is to be remarked that the convivial ambiance and frenzied, quick-fire format of the Fringe-for-All unevenly tends to favour physical comedy over heavier dramas (how does one, for instance, conceivably follow a lip-sync-for-your-life routine by drag royalty? Uma Gahd, indeed…), so here’s too to the non-movers and vandals and strippers for finding composed stillness in the eye of the storm and whose unmentioned but meritorious works are not to be readily dismissed as unworthy Fringe ventures. 120-second compressions are, of course, not always evocative of their full-length counterparts.

Cheers to these thrilling Fringe discoveries and to many more this festival season.

For photos from the event, check out our 2018 FRINGE GALLERY on our Facebook Page:

For more #FringeBuzz and articles on featured productions, check out our special FRINGE section:

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