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If there was ever a slice of stereotypical Americana to come to Canada, it was Monster Spectacular XXV. Set in Montreal’s controversial Olympic Stadium, scores of mostly white people, some with kids, some without, filed in wearing variations of denim and camo to see what was supposed to be “a three-hour show with no time-outs and non-stop high-speed breathtaking action!”

The reality was very different. Those filing into the stadium saw the field scattered with dirt, ramps, and old cars for the trucks to crush.

Within minutes the air was filled with the deafening roar of motors and a slew of monster trucks with fancy names like Backdraft, Overkill Evolution, and Bucking Bronco revved their engines and did a lap around the stadium to kick up some dust and show off their machines. Anyone with a lick of common sense was wearing earplugs, while most parents had their kids in sound muffling headphones.

The emcee for the night was a bilingual bald fellow in a black suit, white shirt, and red bowtie. If they’d added glasses to his ensemble he’d be a dead ringer for the dancing old man in the Six Flags commercials.

He announced that the event would be a competition between the drivers and their trucks, though there were no scores on the stadium’s many scoreboards. Instead audiences were treated to a slew of ads by purveyors of car parts.

The stunts were ok, with trucks going up ramps, doing low jumps, and even occasionally resting on their two back wheels. Despite the emcee’s best attempts at revving up enthusiasm, audiences only expressed any excitement when something broke or someone was at risk of getting seriously hurt, undoubtedly a throwback to the days when public floggings and executions were considered family outings.

In addition to the monster trucks, the show featured Tuff Trucks Buggies, which are basically souped up dune buggies, as well as an aerial show by some dirt bikers. The buggies were boring; aside from a couple of jumps, it was as exciting as watching kids go-carting, and the latter would probably be cheaper and more fun.

The true stars were the dirt bikers, who not only featured the only female driver, but also did dazzling jumps off a high ramp, throwing their limbs in midair before landing seamlessly. The audience loved it.

Aerial bikers aside, the show was a total bore. After the first series of jumps, the monster truck displays got repetitious. Only the sight of possibly injured drivers emerging triumphant from their damaged vehicles could summon any enthusiasm from the audience.

Even those who remembered loving shows like these as kids were disappointed. As for the children in attendance, it was hard to say, though a couple of kids a few rows down from us found it more fun to toss popcorn in the air to try and catch it in their mouths rather than take in the show.

Maybe these kinds of events are more fun when you’re drunk.

The Ministry of Education has revised its criteria for what constitutes an underprivileged school and how much food aid they should get. The Ministry’s food aid program aims to help high schools from underprivileged communities provide subsidized meals and snacks. Although the total budget of $7.7 million remains unchanged, many schools, particularly in outer regions, have seen their allowance plummet or disappear.

The Samares School Board in Lanaudière, for example, went from receiving $190 226 to $7081 in two school years. In the Eastern Quebec, the Chic-Chocs School Board went from $33 090 this year to $5 269 for next year. Chic-Chocs representative Marie-Noëlle Dion called the situation deplorable, particularly for three of their schools that will have to do without food aid all together.

The both the entire Outaouais and Laurentides region are now devoid of high schools providing subsidized meals.

The matter was the subject of a heated debate on Wednesday in the National Assembly where Education Minister Sébastien Proulx tried to defend the government’s policies.

“The money for the food aid program was maintained and indexed,” hammered Proulx, “it is meant for our most underprivileged schools, and that has not changed. If the rules have changed in the last few years, it was to correct inequalities in the sense that in some communities there were privileged schools receiving food aid.”

To which the official spokesperson for education of the opposition Alexandre Cloutier replied: “For the entire region of Outaouais, as of next September, there is zero funding! Are you saying there is not one kid who goes to school on an empty stomach in Outaouais?”

André Villeneuve, MNA of Berthier, piled on: “In Lanaudière, it’s four high schools, it’s hundreds of kids who will go to school on en empty stomach!

Where is the money going?

The Ministry determines the amount of food aid it will give to each school depending on where it ranks on the government’s indexes of deprivation. Those indexes reflect the proportion of students from families who are below the low-income threshold as well as their socio-economic background, which takes into account the level of education of the mother and whether or not the parents are employed.

Minister Proulx said that the calculations have been adjusted to focus on the schools that score 9 or 10 out of 10 on these indexes. At the time of publication, FTB is waiting for specifications from the Ministry about the nature of these adjustments and the number of schools that supposedly benefited from them.

Most of the schools scoring 9s and 10s are presumably in Montreal, where child poverty is particularly glaring. A recent study by Tonino Esposito of Université de Montréal and Catherine Roy of McGill found that sixteen of the 30 neighborhoods with the most underprivileged children in the province are in Montreal. Montréal-Nord is at the very top of the chart.

In any case, many children who were only a year ago considered underprivileged enough to get access to food aid are now considered as fortunate enough to do without it. Professionals and politicians are accusing the government of robbing Peter to pay Paul in education, while they break the bank for lobbies and corporations. Or, As Cloutier put it : How can a Minister who is swimming in budgetary surplus justify this sort of measure?”

* Featured image: École secondaire de L’Île, Outaouais. From HockeyAcademy

Saturday is the highlight day for Montréal en Lumière with the annual Nuit Blanche taking place. For those new to the city, this event takes place all day and night (and overnight) in a variety of locations with more events and activities than I care to count.

For people interested in the music part, there’s no way to preview even a fraction of the stuff going on so it’s best you check out the music schedule for yourself and pick out whatever you like. What we’ve done for this preview is to highlight three shows going on Friday night when there’s a little less action. All fit well into the local arts community vibe of Nuit Blanche, featuring local artists playing shows for reasonable prices.

A word of advice, regardless of your interests, the real key to a successful night is getting around in a timely manner. Get yourself a night pass from the STM since metros will be running all night or take advantage of the shuttle service offered.

Sean Nicholas Savage + Cafe Lanai

Our first suggestion for a pre-Nuit Blanche party is over at La Vitrola where local singer / songwriter / Indie Idol Sean Nicholas Savage and Cafe Lanai will be playing as part of a Blue Skies Turn Black showcase. Both acts are unique and original in their songwriting and should be on your list for this weekend if you’re looking for something a little more fresh and different.

Savage has released ten studio albums on Montreal-based Arbutus records (Grimes’ label), the latest being  The Magnificent First. He is also known as a bit of an unorthodox philosopher, something that comes out in his songs.

Sean Nicholas Savage and Cafe Lanai play La Vitrola, 4602 Boulevard St. Laurent, Friday, March 3rd, 10:00pm (Doors at 9:00pm), $8 in advance through the box office or $10 at the door.

Rust Eden + Krief + Tendre

Divan Orange is also hosting a show on Friday night in conjunction with Indie Montréal and Montréal en Lumière that’s perfect for setting off your busy weekend. The three acts set to hit the stage are Rust Eden, Krief  and Tendre, all local Indie performers who represent our city’s musicians quite well.

Rust Eden released their first album Apartment Green in 2016. Their indie rock sound in punctuated by elements of psychedelia and space rock, creating a very Montreal sound.

Rust Eden, Krief  and Tendre play Divan Orange, 4234 Boulevard Saint-Laurent, Friday, March 3rd, 9:30pm.

Ouijatrash + Street Sleeper + Calomine

For those who prefer something a little more, ummm… loud, you can head over to Crobar for a self described “Night of Mischief” presented by the good people over at Grimey Mtl and featuring Ouijatrash, Street Sleeper and Calomine. I’m not fully sold on the “mischief” part, this might be a little more like mayhem with a lineup that hardly takes it easy with their tunes.

Cover is only five bucks so it’s well worth stopping in if you’re downtown on Friday night.

Ouijatrash, Street Sleeper and Calomine play Crobar, 1221 Crescent, Friday, March 3rd, 9:00pm (Doors at 8:00), $5 (only at the door).

* Know a band or an artist that should be featured in Shows This Week? Maybe a show FTB should cover, too? Let us know at music@forgetthebox.net. We can’t be everywhere and can’t write about everything, but we do our best!

We might get to hear Kevin O’Leary speak French, after all. The Conservative Party leadership favourite will attend a bilingual debate in the Montreal area on February 13th. O’Leary has so far not spoken a word of French in public, conspicuously announcing his candidacy the morning after the only mandatory French debate.

He and ten others confirmed they will take part in a debate in Pointe-Claire, organized by the local association of Lac–Saint–Louis and Pierrefonds–Dollard. Since it’s not officially set up by the Conservative party of Canada, it is on a voluntary basis. It will start at 7pm at the Holiday Inn. According to CBC, the central themes of the debate will be the economy and national security.

The other implicit theme will be how well can each candidate connect with French-speaking Quebeckers. The French debate on January 17th showcased the cringe-worthy language skills of most conservative candidates. Although the Montreal debate is advertised as bilingual, it is not clear how much of it will be in French or whether all questions will be translated.

Parlez-vous Français?

Despite being a Montreal native, O’Leary has never been fluent in French. When Tout le monde en parle host asked him “Parlez-vous français?” in 2014, he replied: “No I don’t. I left here when I was six years old and I am very ashamed of that. If I had been able to stay longer, I probably could have done it.”

He sang a wildly different tune in more recent interviews. One year ago, he told David Akin, host of Everything is Political on SiriusXM Canada Radio that learning French was not necessary to be Prime Minister. He said he was amused by politicians who thought they could score some points in Quebec by learning French in accelerated classes. “I know what Quebec wants in Canada because that’s where I came from,” he claimed.

He refused to be shamed for blatantly avoiding the French debate, retorting instead that he spoke the language of jobs and economy. On January 18th, he told Global News: “There’s three official languages in Canada: There’s English, there’s French, and there’s the language of jobs.” He added that Trudeau will never be fluent in jobs. He has nonetheless promised to get better at French too.

Ten days later, his campaign associates are very confident about his French skills. “Let’s just say that I’m pretty sure that he’s going to surprise a lot of people,” said O’Leary’s Quebec organizer, Norm Vocino, in an interview with CBC.

His press secretary Ari S. Laskin told FTB that O’Leary has been working on his French on a daily basis for several weeks and that “he will be able to hold his own in a debate against Justin Trudeau.” Laskin assures that “it is a priority for him to be able to engage with the entire country in both national languages.”

He denies that O’Leary has ever been flippant about the importance of French: “I don’t think French wasn’t a priority. He was born in Montreal and has incredibly deep respect for the bilingual culture.”

O’Leary still on top

As to how O’Leary will appeal to the notoriously anti-Tory Montrealers, the language of jobs and economy still seems to be his favourite answer. According to his press secretary, Quebeckers are as tired as the rest of the country of Trudeau’s “platitudes” in that area. “What Mr O’Leary wants is to make sure that we have a strong economy and jobs created on a daily basis,” he said.

O’Leary has been called Canada’s Trump. Like him, he is a Reality TV star with a flourishing financial empire and he is leading the race despite the fact that he has no political experience.

While he doesn’t share Trump’s radical views on immigration and same-sex marriage, he is known for his inflammatory statements. He infamously claimed that the global concentration of wealth in the hands of the few richest people on earth is “fantastic news” and a source of inspiration.

He is currently the top candidate for the leadership of the party with 26% of the votes. His closest competitor, Maxime Bernier, polls at barely 11%.  The leader of the Conservative Party will be elected on May 27th.

* Featured image: screengrab from CTV News

Well December is upon us and you know what that means… you guessed it, metal bands raising money for Christmas charities! We’ve also got some great local and Canadian artists coming to town and for those who are into creating music, there’s a really awesome workshop taking place on Friday you should know about.

Let’s get started shall we…

MTLHC Christmas Benefit Party

Friday night,  bands from Montreal’s punk and metal communities will be coming together with Northern Sound Records to put on a show where the “profits will go into buying toys for the kids.” Bands on the bill include Harriers, Nuke, Gazm, Boundaries, Kennedy and Front Commun.

They’re also accepting canned goods at the event, if you bring a can then the cover charge is ten instead of fifteen bucks. Either way your contributions to this event will be going to a good cause. Also let’s not forget there’s six bands starting early and ending late who will be ready to give you a kick ass show!

MTLHC Christmas Benefit Party plays La Vitrola 4602 Boulevard St-Laurent, Friday, December 2nd, 7:30pm (Doors at 7:00), $15, (or $10 with a canned good).

Abigail Lapell + Dana Sipos

There’s no excuse if you miss Toronto based singer/songwriter Abigail Lapell who is in town this week for back to back shows, Thursday at Bad Lunch and Friday at Le Cagibi (where she will be joined by another great Canadian folk artist Dana Sipos). So take your pick for which night works best and come on down!

Rooted in traditional folk music,  Abigail’s sound still speaks to the modern world with a new an unique spin on the genre while still respecting the music’s roots. Early in 2017, Abigail will be coming out with a new ten song album entitled Hide Nor Hare so these shows will feature some fresh tracks that should get you excited for this upcoming release.

 Abigail Lapell and Dana Sipos play Le Cagibi, 5490 Boulevard St-Laurent, Friday, December 2nd, 8:00pm.

 

Chronolith + Wolk  + Ricardo the Fabulous

Everyone’s favourite dive Barfly will putting on an evening of metal music promoted by Grimey MTL this Saturday featuring Chronolith, Wolk and Ricardo the Fabulous. With the cover charge for this show being only five bucks and with Barfly’s well known “lowest prices on the Main” drink menu, this is certainly the most student friendly event of the weekend.

(I’d just like to put a disclaimer, Barfly doesn’t actually go around saying they have the lowest prices. Like don’t go in asking for a price match policy with some special you found at Bifteck just because someone on the internet said they had the lowest prices).

 Chronolith, Wolk and Ricardo the Fabulous play Barfly 4062a Boulevard St-Laurent, Saturday, December 3rd, 9:00pm (Doors at 8:30), $5, at the door only.

 

RAC Workshop with Steve Baughman + Mauricio Iragorri

The last “show” this week isn’t for music fans but instead a great opportunity for people creating music to meet and learn from two of the best mixing and mastering experts in the field today. Recording Arts Canada will be hosting an event here in Montreal on Friday where you can meet Steve Baughman and Mauricio Iragorri and learn their tricks of the trade.

In order to attend you need to sign up and we’ve been warned that space is very limited so you might want to get on it right away! There’s also a session on Saturday in Toronto for those living in or travelling to that area.

* Featured image of Chronolith via Facebook

* Know a band or an artist that should be featured in Shows This Week? Maybe a show FTB should cover, too? Let us know at music@forgetthebox.net. We can’t be everywhere and can’t write about everything, but we do our best!

Panelists Samantha Gold, Cem Ertekin and Jerry Gabriel discuss the Ghomeshi trials, recent terror attacks around the world and Netflix’s new actions regarding VPNs and Proxy Servers. Cem also gives us a McGill Update. Plus the Community Calendar and Predictions!

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau
Production Assistant: Enzo Sabbagha

Panelists

Samantha Gold: FTB Legal Columnist

Cem Ertekin: Editor at The McGill Daily

Jerry Gabriel: Podcast regular and FTB contributor

 

* Ghomeshi and terrorism reports by Hannah Besseau

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

Psymposia and the CSSDP are presenting Psychedelic Stories & 920 Psilocybin Mushroom Day. It’s actually a two day gathering, which seeks to engender awareness about the medicinal properties of the Psilocybin Mushroom. By providing a space for sharing stories and for exploring and discussing new research on psychedelics the organizers hope to give a balanced view of what Psilocybin Mushrooms offer in terms of spirituality and healing. The itinerary looks fresh, educational and gully at the same time. I spoke with Gonzo Nieto, one of the curators of the event.

 

J: Tell me briefly about your curatorial aesthetic and what you hope to accomplish with the event…

G: With the event, we’re hoping to bring attention to the medicinal and spiritual effects and the healing potential of psilocybin mushrooms, as well as to address and push back against the stigma that surrounds the mushroom and its use.

 

J: And as far as aesthetic is concerned?

G: Our lineup for the 920 Psilocybin Mushroom Day is curated not only to educate about psilocybin mushrooms, but also to reflect the underlying message and meaning of the experience itself. The mushroom carries a message of wholeness, of movement toward our full human potential, so alongside presentations on psilocybin research we have a breathwork session, a yoga class, and a presentation on dream hacking.

 

W3rd, right!?! This event is gonna bang hard, I even heard Hamilton Morris from VICE might show up. The space is dope. The panels and talks are both academic and shamanistic. The vendors are talented af and, well, I’ll be there. Na’mean. Come through, get your photo taken, learn something. Hit me up, I’ll be outside during “Terrence McKenna Happy Hour” for sure…

For over eight weeks, photographer Robert Van Waarden travelled from Hardisty Alberta to Saint-John New Brunswick in order to talk with and photograph residents living along the projected path of TransCanada’s EnergyEast pipeline. He has chronicled his many stops and is now in the process of curating his images and short films for an upcoming travelling exhibit that will revisit the communities he visited along the pipeline’s route.

While travelling the country by car, he has witnessed first-hand the generosity and hospitality of countless Canadians. Van Waarden has been able to discuss at length with those who will bear the brunt of the risk if ever the pipeline is built, and says that the main concerns residents have with the project is water safety, spills and climate change. These are legitimate concerns.  Gaspé is fighting Petrolia over regulations that would protect the town’s drinking water from harm caused by hydraulic fracturing while in Alberta, the lakes surrounding the oil sands are being polluted at an alarming rate.

//www.youtube.com/embed/ccvD1Nx_hvA

TransCanada’s EnergyEast pipeline is slated to cross the Nipigon River which flows into Lake Superior, the world’s largest fresh-water lake that millions of Canadians and Americans rely on for drinking water.  Van Waarden interviewed Keith Hobbs, mayor of Thunder Bay and Chair of the Great Lakes & St. Lawrence Cities, an opponent of  the EnergyEast pipeline.   

Despite environmental concerns, some see the pipeline as a positive economic force that will create jobs and stimulate Canada’s economy. Some figures seem to back them up: in the last year, nine out of ten new jobs in Canada were created in Alberta, and while countries across the globe still struggle to reboot their economy, Canada’s export markets has become an engine of growth.

Some people are ready to take on the immediate environmental risk to their community (let alone the global reach of tar-sands pollution) for the promise of some direct or trickle-down economic gain. It’s unfortunate that people are being put in this situation and that the discussion is constrained to tar-sand jobs vs. no jobs when in fact, green energy initiatives have the potential to create even more jobs , stimulate technological innovation and sustainable growth with less risk for both people and the environment.

Van Waarden also met with First Nations people who have opened their homes and hearts and shared their experience among them Kanesetake Grand Chief Serge Simon who discussed his community’s oppositions to the pipeline.

Along the Pipeline | Serge Simon, Grand Chief Kanesatake, Quebec from Robert van Waarden on Vimeo.

If First Nations have often been sidelined when it comes to natural resources development and extraction, the recent Supreme Court decision in favour of the Tsilhqot’in in British Columbia will no doubt shake things up a bit. Van Waarden says that the “First Nations could stop this pipeline and that they are taking it seriously. From what I have seen and heard they are going to be a force to reckon with.”

“We live in a beautiful country and there is an incredible amount of land and people that would be impacted by this pipeline. There are many strong voices and opinions in this country and the common thread throughout is that Canadians and First Nations are questioning the direction we are headed. It has been an honour to listen to and photograph so many diverse individuals and communities”

For more images and video, please visit link http://alongthepipeline.com

Our fair city is just a little bit more colourful than it was since the second edition of Mural Festival took place last month. Local and international artists painted 20 new murals along the Main. The festival started under the rain but thankfully the sun came out just in time, allowing the artists to work on their walls. Some artists kept painting despite the rain such as RONE, from Australia, who finished up his mural on St-Dominique just as the rain stopped.

A few of the walls from last year’s Mural were repainted but most of them were done on brand new walls adding even more art to the city. Kevin Ledo’s breathtaking wall of a woman from the Hupa Tribe, inspired from a photo by Edward Curtis, is of a significant contribution to this year’s festival.

This year Mural introduced Le Market, a pop up shop in the Parc du Portugal, where festival goers could shop local to live music all weekend. Also new this year, in collaboration with ExCentris Cinema, screenings of  street art or graffiti related movies. Patrick O’Connor’s Making A Name and Freights were two of the nine documentaries screened the first one focusing on Montreal’s graffiti scene and the second on graffiti traveling on freight trains. A wonderful initiative to educate on this underground culture.

Every day, the Block Party entertained the masses with live music in the parking lot behind Station 16. Kashink’s impressive, massive and colorful mural in the same parking lot is just a preview of her exhibition at Station 16 which runs until July 3. Walking around felt like being on a treasure hunt because Mural’s not just about paintings along building walls. In the spirit of street arts, Peter Schmittson decorated our streets with sculptures,  Mathieu Connery  painted our sidewalks, Labrona gave more colors to doors along The Main, Garbage Beauty beautified with calligraphy discarded items found on the curb. Finally, be on the lookout for hundreds of diamonds installed on walls all over the city by Le Diamantaire.

It’s now time for a walk around with the camera or your phone to spot all these treasures. Don’t forget some murals are on Clark, on St-Dominique and one at the corner of St-Urbain and Guilbault.

The next urban art related festival will be the 19th edition of Under Pressure International Graffiti Convention on August 9th and 10th!

Click on the image below for visuals of the festival.

Mural FestivalMural Festival

 

I ended up at Untitled Sam Mullins Project at the Montreal Fringe because I’m an idiot—this, I promise, is not a disclaimer.

The fact is I ended up at Sam Mullins because my Interweb Googleplexing abilities rather failed me in the moment, and while I thought I was in the right place for Johnny Legdick, I somehow ended up at Untitled Sam Mullins Project, and with a friend along for the ride to boot. And with my friend’s ticket already paid for, and Johnny Legdick already, oh, 25 minutes in and 15 minutes away down the road (at TSC,  not Mainline, I’ve now learned), we decided to proceed as planned and feign no faux-pas. And we didn’t regret it.

Sam Mullins is, my friend tells me: curly haired, sweet, a plucker of her similarly panic-attack-y heartstrings, and full of nice muscles. My friend says Sam Mullins is hot. I say Sam Mullins tells a mean story, or four, and delivers them in an honest, straightforward, audience-connected way.

Sam Mullins, at least to this Google-for-Dummies simpleton, is refreshing. Where I’ve come to expect costume work, sketchiness and stand-up antics from one man/woman shows (sometimes with tremendous success, sometimes with tremendous barf), Sam Mullins is just a guy, with some muscles, telling some stories about himself.

Whether it be about that dress he wore to school, the hometown hockey glory he ruined, the time his father saved Josh Hamilton’s career, or his panic attacks and the road he’s gone down to overcome it all, on stage—Sam Mullins is just, seemingly, quaintly, himself, and the sound writing instincts he’s trying out for us, unburdening himself one well-crafted story at a time. There’s some nipping and tucking ahead, but that’s kinda the whole point.

In any case, there’s nothing overly clever to say here. Just cats instead of marriage is indeed a brilliant idea. He’ll explain it to you; have no fear.

In his Frankie award-winning show The Quitter, Al Lafrance brings the audience through his bumpy trip on the road to happiness. Spoiler alert; donuts, mix tapes and small town Quebec are all part of the journey that lead this former General manager of the Montreal Fringe Festival to where he is today.

For a man who describes himself as grumpy, Lafrance can be pretty darn charming. Even before he began speaking during his last performance, the packed crowd at Montreal Improv erupted with applause. LaFrance is a man who loves the Montreal Fringe, and the Montreal Fringe clearly loves him back.AlLafrance_photo3_Fringe2014

The show is a mix between stand-up comedy and storytelling. Other Fringe performers used intricate props and amusing imagery to help grab the audience’s attention and did it well. Lafrance meanwhile commands just as much attention roaming around the stage for an hour with nothing but confidence and a box of donuts he left for everyone on the way in. He can get away with that largely because it’s hard not to respect Lafrance’s no bullshit approach to reflecting on his life: I’m not perfect, mistakes have been made. Thankfully some of them have been amusing enough for me to share and make you laugh.  

The journey may have been silly at times, heartbreaking in others. But the lesson LaFrance has learned is something that everybody can appreciate: sometimes quitting doesn’t mean failing. Sometimes you need to make mistakes in life so that you can end up where you’re supposed to be. While Fringe shows can at times have an air of self-importance to them, it was a pleasure for this reviewer to end her Fringe 2014 experience on such an upbeat note.

The Quitter has completed its run at the Montreal Fringe Festival. Make sure to check out LaFrance’s website Bloody Underrated for information on his cross-Canada Fringe tour.

A Bandolier of Dreams_Photo2_fringe2014The following is a review for a show you will never see.

The setting? A Victorian-era drawing room. The characters? Two English gentleman. The story? Well my darlings that changes every time as Bandolier of Dreams is a hilarious hour of improv from Matt Goldberg and Mike Hughes- aka two members of the long-running comedy troupe Uncalled For.

At the story telling shows I’ve seen this year’s Montreal Fringe festival, I’ve come to have great respect for the talent it takes to keep an audience engrossed in your story. Improv I feel like takes it up a notch. Not only do you have to keep an audience entertained, but you’re under the added pressure of making it all up as you go along  (and in this show all while speaking in an English accent!). I assume Goldberg and Hughes set out very loose parameters of where they want the story to go and have fun props like tea trays, wine bottles and telephones to keep the show moving along.

Needless to say, Goldberg and Hughes hit it out of the park. The two have an easy and obvious chemistry that comes from their years working together, and are professionals in the art of improvisation. There were times when Goldberg came close to breaking character and bursting out laughing but honestly, it only added to the silly atmosphere. As their Fringe profile declares, you come to this show for the “comedy experience”, not serious theatre.

I had even greater respect for the difficulties of creating witty banter on the spot when yours truly got called up onstage in an audience cameo role. I caught on to some of the tricks of improv; your actors will feed you ideas you can build on by asking questions or open ended statements. I came up with much more amusing things I could have said on the metro ride home then I did on stage, but it was a fun experience none the less. (Oh and that wine they drink onstage folks is definitely real so thanks for the drink guys!)  Remember to give a wink to Hughes during the show and who knows, maybe you’ll end up a star of Bandolier of Dreams as well.

Bandolier of Dreams plays at Theatre Sainte Catherine until June 22nd.

 

 

I’ve never been to a wake, but I can safely say hosting one in a bar, a most Irish affectation, I am told, may come with a certain set of unfortunate but hilarious outcomes. It’s an old cliché that death rituals are about the living—a show of elegy, narcissus eulogies. Sermo Scomber Theatre’s In Memoriam is no different. It hinges on the ridiculousness of the fact and basks in it’s messy, lively tastelessness.

A shuffling cast of fluid, multi-talented women (and one gent, too), all of Cheddar Fandango’s eulogizers take turns refilling their swizzle-stick drinks, throwing back shots at the bar and telling all of us what cheddar meant to them. As you might assume, things turn to retribution and over-sharing as everyone gets more and more liquored up. Shouts across the room are exchanged, expediently. And in turn, we get a realer, more hilarious portrait of Cheddar, as well as of the people who populated her life.

cheddar fandango fringe 2

Whether it’s her three singing sisters—the kind one, the estranged one, the white and not-so-nice one—her best friend, who met her when she walked in on her screwing her husband in Berlin, the pal who wants his cashmere back, the friend who aims to, corset and all, make it yet another performance, and the random dame/crasher who no one seems to know, and who’s full of checkout aisle slam poems, everyone at Cheddar’s bar-side wake takes part in making it what Cheddar’s life seems to have been at its best: a performance.

Complete with reaper/dead-Cheddar tap-dance interludes, original songs and a crowd pleasing rendition of “Amazing Grace,” In Memoriam doesn’t disappoint, even if it’s got one too many Tom Waits songs in the background. Wakes are kinda tacky, so it’s alright; indulgences have their time and place.

See it at the Wiggle Room tonight as part of the Montreal Fringe festival; pay your respects, if you’ve got any.