Of all the gin joints in Montreal, Philippe Gobeille from Philo14 sets up his world of puppets at Café Campus. And it’s a charmer. The bilingual Gobeille is a multi-talented performer, with puppetry being his main love. In French at the Montreal Fringe last year, his show (Les Aventures d’Humphrey Beauregret, les affaires non classes) was in many top picks lists and garnered Frankie nominations for the MainLine Creativity Award and the Freestanding Room Award. This year, he returns to the fest to present the English version “The Adventures of Humphrey Beauregret: the Case o’Bianca”.
It’s a treat to watch Gobeille move from character to character, seamlessly, fully-committed, and with a complete sense of fun. If you only have a vague idea about the film Casablanca, you’ll still be fine, though the references and the twists on them are fun to spot.
This is a story told with tenderness, loads of humour and irony. The audience was completely drawn in, sometimes literally. There was just enough audience participation to keep everyone invested, and not in a creepy puppet-in-your-face way. Though I’m not sure the magic show portion was quite necessary to move the narrative along.
The puppets as film characters don’t disappoint. There’s lonely, heart-broken, mono-browed Humphrey Beauregret and his crumpled raincoat, serial dating until he finds ‘the one’. Though not serial numbers, he names his conquests the actual date that they went out (opening night’s was ‘June 6, 6:30pm’, in case there was another one later…) Beauregret’s heart is looking for the one that got away, the “one with the skin as soft as fleece and hair as shiny as polyester.”
Sensitive Bianca, with her long blonde hair, waltzes back in Humphrey’s life and the strains and tensions of their past resurface. But it is not meant to be. There’s a zombie involved. And also a wicked club owner; Timmy, a delightful emcee; and the ghost of Sam. And there’s singing—nothing like a lounge-singer puppet musical medley to get an audience on board.
Philippe Gobeille has built and created each unique cast member and lives in the moment with every one, able to ad-lib and go with the flow with whatever happens (including a venue technician who seemed to be asleep at the wheel at times). There’s a lovely off the wall quality that makes Gobeille so likeable. Bonus –– after the show you can chat with Gobeille and take a selfie with Timmy. “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship…”
Gobeille has been working at his craft for years. He is an artistic entrepreneur of many trades, who has been involved in the theatre for almost 20 years. Constantly working on different projects at once, puppetry has always been at the core of his professional path. Highly inspired by Jim Henson and Frank Oz, the puppets he builds always keep a fuzzy and silly appearance. Canadian puppeteer Ronnie Burkett has also been a big influence in Philippe’s storytelling and character development.
Philo14 presents “The Adventures of Humphrey Beauregret: the Case o’Bianca”
at the 29th St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival
Check out all our other 70+ reviews
from this year’s fest on our Fringe page!
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