Fringe Review: Improv and Parody in “I Can Only Give You Everything”


Image Credit: Alain Goulem

I Can Only Give You Everything tricked me into laughing.

Though the show was advertised to be a solo performance, Alain Goulem’s I Can Only Give You Everything took a comical turn that mocked the seriousness of the genre, decidedly abandoning it for improv.

The performance began before the show had even started. Audience members entered the venue to find a brooding black stage. Three spotlights punctured the darkness to expose enigmatic objects, daring the audience to guess what they’d be in for. I don’t believe anyone could have known.

Total darkness phased in as Goulem scooted a block over to center-stage, its noise comically interrupting the ominous stage set-up. Poking his head through a picture-frame, Goulem, wide-eyed, stated “Oh hello. Hi.” as though he hadn’t expected us to be there. The actor’s intentional cheesy over-acting was the first hint that Goulem didn’t want the audience to take this performance seriously. The mock-drama continued until––having forgotten his lines––Goulem admitted defeat: doing a one-man show is just too hard. So how about some improv?!

Image Credit: Alain Goulem

Three performers joined the improviser on stage to participate in what would turn into a much more lighthearted performance. The comedy began with three warm-up games that got both the performance and audience going: “The Machine,” a tableau vivant, “The Expert,” an interview, and “The Emotional Symphony,” a literal symphony of emotions, all required audience participation and thoughtfully engaged the crowd in play.

The main part of the performance was an improvised long narrative. A volunteer would pick up cards (that Goulem haphazardly mixed in front of us) that would dictate the time and location the next scene would take place in. As such, the performers’ challenge was to keep the improvised plot and characters coherent throughout the narrative, while constantly jumping back and forth through space and time.

The performers did an excellent job of fully committing to their characters, gripping the audience as we watched their hopes, dreams and expectations shift through time. It was entertaining to follow Goulem’s emotional ups and downs, witnessing his past excitement and concerns around creating a one-man show at Fringe, and his future disappointment over its (present) failure. Goulem was also skillful at referring back to earlier parts of the performance, topping-off new jokes by tying in old ones. The performer’s clever ability to bring together such an absurd piece kept the audience laughing enthusiastically through the panoply of farcical situations. 

Image Credit: Alain Goulem

The best part of I Can Only Give You Everything was saved for last. Goulem called it ‘The Palate Cleanser.’ Here, the performers positioned the improvised narrative they’d worked on as movie trailer, its actors and crew participating in its review. This section was another brilliant parody of genre, simultaneously emulating and poking fun at futile online review videos.

Though I didn’t get to see the serious solo-performance I had anticipated, Goulem and co.’s improvised material did a wonderful job of mocking it. In all, I Can Only Give You Everything was an amusing evening of unexpected events.

For improv enthusiasts who enjoy audience participation.

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Big Art Productions presents “I Can Only Give You Everything”
at the 29th St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival

Performances: June 7 – 16, 2019
Venue: 5 – Studio Jean-Valcourt du Conservatoire
4750 Henri-Julien, Montréal, H2T 2C8 
Admission: $10 | Ages 16+
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!

Desiree Goldwater

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