Fringe Review: Marissa Blair carries Antonin Artaud’s “Spurt of Blood” into the modern age

2019 Montreal Fringe Festival Coverage

(Photo Credit: Kathy Slamen Photography)

Fans of horror and unconventional avant-garde performance will rejoice at “Antonin Artaud’s Spurt of Blood”, directed by Marissa Blair. In the intimacy of the Freestanding Room, with the audience seated in the round and the door duct-taped shut, a unique Theatre of Cruelty experience unfolds. For those unfamiliar with the genre, Spurt of Blood makes for a very involved introduction. This multilingual, multi-sensory experience may shock, frighten, or destabilize the viewer; what it will not be is a typical evening at the theatre.

Theatre of Cruelty aims to shock audiences by assaulting their senses. “Spurt of Blood” definitely delivers, with strong images and a vibrant soundscape (engineered by Eric Wrazen) that you can feel through your entire body. With ceiling projections by Courtney Moses-Orbin, part of the piece feels like a planetarium show gone rogue. Seven impressively committed performers – Tofunmi Famotibe, Joanna Felemegos, Laurie Labrecque, Jeroen Lindeman, Rahul Mishra, Erin Perrine and Kathy Slamen – evolve inside and outside the audience circle, the action takes place all around, everywhere, and even the most seemingly ill-fitting characters get violently sucked into the world of the play. The appeal is like that of a horror movie: you toe the line between enjoyment and dread, but it’s more than okay because that’s precisely what you came for.

(Photo Credit: Kathy Slamen Photography)

The show comes with a fair amount of content warnings: strong language, mature themes, loud noises (this warning is particularly fair), flashing lights, complete darkness, and splattering of stage blood. Yeah, it gets pretty intense in there. As far as warnings go, the company does a wonderful job at making sure each audience member has a safe and enjoyable experience: each person is given a small LED light and if at any point they feel the need to leave the performance, they may wave the light above their head and will be escorted to the door. Sure, “Spurt of Blood” is meant to rattle the audience, but it’s important to decide for ourselves where is best to draw the line regarding just how rattled we are willing to be. As for the stage blood, you can expect a splash no matter where you sit, but not to worry: it washes off easily.

“Antonin Artaud’s Spurt of Blood” isn’t a piece with a clear plot or structure, though there are fixed characters and recurring themes. What’s far more interesting are the overall vision and cult-like ambiance that persists throughout, as well as the reactions it provokes in the body, in the mind, and in those around us. Seeing a fellow audience member’s face scrunch up just a little as they feel a drop of blood hit their skin is priceless.

I think it’s fair to assume most of the audience didn’t understand exactly what was going on at all times, but the play is best enjoyed if you don’t try to fight the confusion; just sit back, open up your senses, let it all happen to you and process it later. I’m still processing. I found the delivery of some lines questionable and some moments of stillness stretched out a bit too long, but ultimately I walked out of the theatre feeling exponentially alive. Antonin Artaud’s Spurt of Blood” is unsettling in the best of ways, a treat for fans of all things strange and dark.

Marissa Blair presents “Antonin Artaud’s SPURT OF BLOOD”
at the 29th St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival

Performances: May 29 – June 15, 2019
Venue: OFF B – Espace FreeStanding Room
4324 Saint-Laurent, Suite 300 Montréal, H2W 1Z3
Admission: $10 – $12
Ages 18+
Box Office:
514.849.FEST (3378)

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Check out all our other 70+ reviews
from this year’s fest on our Fringe page!

Violette Kay

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