Fringe Review: Pen and paper isn’t dead in breathtaking original show “INK”


Photo Credit: Thaddeus Hink

A man, a pen, and a giant roll of paper. That is what Alastair Knowles’s one man show “INK” consists of. Though it was the journey he took us on, using nothing but these three elements, which left all of us in the audience in sincere awe, and certainly created some new clown lovers by the end of the performance. 

Knowles gives the performance of a man clearly well practiced in clown and movement. He enters the scene in an entirely white outfit, including his face being painted white, to transform him into this persona living in a world seeming to consist entirely of paper. The story follows this clown character as he draws portraits of individual members of the audience in turn, which gives the audience the gift of feeling as if they are a part of the performance –– and who doesn’t love that?

As our beloved clown continues to repeat this sequence nearly to the point insanity, it suddenly stops. The lights and mood change, and we get to experience another side of this character as he searches for meaning and profundity in his paper world. This wordless performance holds a vast amount of emotional depth, as we venture on a journey of love, loss, and feeling trapped, all expressed through flawless movement and exceptional character work. There were moments throughout the show where, during a specifically sad scene, the audience was so totally captivated in such a way where not a single sound could be heard in the whole auditorium. Not a single whisper or creak of a chair as someone shifted their weight, nothing. It is hard to imagine a moment where I can remember an audience being so fully immersed in a piece that it seems that they had forgotten they were in a theatre setting at all. It truly felt as though we were there with this character, in his lonely world. 

The piece was written and created by BC couple Knowles himself along with his partner, Stéphanie Morin-Robert (who also happens to have two other shows she created showing in the festival this year) and was also directed by Morin-Robert. These two artists managed to create a performance in which movement, music and paper all serve an equal amount of purpose. Everything was so immaculately timed that its almost impossible to believe that they only had 3 hours of tech time before opening. There was not a single noticeable moment where a cue was off, as many, if not all, sound cues were cued by a specific movement the actor made. Instrumental music choices were made to reflect the mood of the moment and lighting itself played a crucial role in the storytelling of the piece just as notably. For example, blue lighting was often used during melancholic scenes, and in one particular moment of breathtaking beauty, our clown stood behind the roll of paper, which was illuminated from behind to cast a shadow of Knowles silhouetted body against the paper. The well thought out tech choices in INK make for an impressively well rounded, seamless performance that left every member of the audience wide eyed and delighted. 

Among moments of laughter and bemusement, there were several moments of pure innocence onstage, ones that had the audience in a reverie of pure joy and innocent giggles –– the most memorable being a moment where Knowles sent giant sections of paper into the audience with two handheld fans. In this seemingly simple moment, Knowles was able to reflect the feeling of pure innocence and childlike joy and wonder into the audience, a true testament to how powerful a stage presence he holds. The performance from beginning to end was captivating, so much so, that Knowles himself had to eventually humbly gesture for the audience to end their tumultuous applause, which seemed like it would never end.

It was nothing short of well deserved, and I truly suggest this show to anyone and everyone planning experience the talent of Fringe this year.

A must see for anybody who wants to be swept away into the vast emotional, wordless, world of mime and clown, and anyone prepared to be tickled pink with genuine fits of laughter.

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Alastair Knowles presents “INK”
at the 29th St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival

Performances: June 8 – 16, 2019
Venue: 10 – La Chapelle
3700, Saint-Dominique Montréal, H2X 2X7
Admission: $12
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!

Melanie MacDonald

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