With over 800 performances by more than 500 artists in 16 venues over the course of 19 days (through June 16), the sheer choice of theatre productions at the 29th annual Montreal Fringe Festival is a bit daunting.
The Fringe operates by a lottery system, which means winning artists have full creative control over their shows. There are a lot of daring, wacky and wondrous performances. Some will move you to tears and make you laugh joyously, others will put you to sleep or prompt you to rip up your ticket as you walk out.
Remember that if you truly detest a show, you’ve likely only lost 30 to 60 minutes of your day — and now you have something to bitch about at the beer tent. And if you love a show, tell everyone you know.
Here’s a round-up of Fringe shows that I’d like to see, and that I suspect you’d like to, as well.
Stephen Maclean Rogers’ mother was struck with aphasia, a disorder that blurs your ability to speak. After her quick decline and death, the family uncovered letters that she had written to a spirit named Jax, asking for advice on a range of subjects. Rogers, who grew up in Guelph and is now based in Montreal, explores grief, his family’s interest in the spiritual and his mother’s legacy.
Le Ministère (4521 St-Laurent), June 8, 11, 13, 15, $5–$10
Meander is a whimsical being, clad in pink suspenders and blush make-up, who’s on a mission to find his wings. It’s a fairy tale, yes, but one decidedly for adults. You might recognize this clown from their alter ego Dot Dot Dot, the red-headed sweet-faced drag queen of House of Laureen. (Laureen is also presenting its own show: Mx Queerdo MTL, at Café Cléopâtre.)
Théâtre Impro Montreal (3697 St-Laurent, #202), June 7, 8, 13, 14, 16, $10
Burning Bridget Cleary
Remembered as “the last witch burned in Ireland,” the ailing Bridget Cleary’s gruesome fate was sealed when her husband suspected that she had been replaced with a changeling. This is feminist retelling was co-written and directed by Darragh Mondoux, a theatre artist who comes by her history honestly as both a Concordia Irish studies student and member of the court at this year’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade.
MainLine Theatre (3997 St-Laurent), June 8–11, 13, 15, $8–$10
The Trophy Hunt
Bring your walking shoes for this site-specific hunting party. The masked Fringe-for-All preview gave off a swirl of tams, The Lion King and Mean Girls. Directed by Fringe vet and Shaw Fest-trained Paul Van Dyck, written by Trina Davies and starring a solid four-person cast and a strong chorus, the play is getting a “rolling world premiere” across Canada this summer, with artists presenting different interpretations of the show at various Fringe festivals. Neat!
Info Booth at Fringe Park (Rachel & St-Laurent), June 7–8, 11–15, $12
Piaf and Brel: The Impossible Concert
Singer Melanie Gall brings to life two iconic performers who felt and lived all the feels both onstage and off. The Alberta-based Gall, who’s also the world’s leading expert in historic songs about knitting and spinning, has run the show at the Edinburgh Fringe three times. Tickets cost $10 for students, seniors and beret wearers.
Le Ministère, June 9–11, 13–15, $10–$12
inVivo (testé sur moi)
A 90-minute, bilingual look at one woman’s mission to get knocked up. inVivo is the follow-up to Véronick Raymond’s autobiographical 2017 Fringe piece inVitro. After seven failed attempts at using her own eggs, the Montreal author and theatre artist explores her other options while taking a critical look at the ethical, feminist and environmental quandaries of assisted procreation.
Studio Jean-Valcourt du Conservatoire (4750 Henri-Julien), June 8, 9, 13, 14, 16, $10–$12
Blindside / Eye Candy / INK
On that family note: Stephanie Morin-Robert and Alastair Knowles are Canadian Fringe circuit darlings, and now also partners and parents to one-year-old Olive. They’re hitting the festival with baby in tow, presenting three shows in Montreal: choreographer Morin-Robert’s storytelling dance show, Blindside; Eye Candy, her new tale about sex, pregnancy and birth, which features Olive; and INK, which hands the elastic and gifted Knowles a pen and 10,000 square feet of paper in a quest to get more out of life.
La Chapelle Theatre (3700 St-Dominique), various dates, times and prices
To show off his Fringe bonafides, playwright Keir Cutler wore a 1999 festival t-shirt to the Fringe-for-All preview, but his many shows speak to his skill and experience. For his 15th crack at the festival, and 10th original monologue, Cutler will tell his mother’s fascinating story, adapted from her memoir and anecdotes. The founder of children’s publisher Tundra Books, May Ebbitt Cutler also served as mayor of Westmount.
Freestanding Room (4324 St-Laurent), June 7–9, 13–15, $12
A 30-minute clown escapade about a trio of “aquanauts” who are forced into action when their reservoir springs a leak, because sometimes you need a wet ‘n’ wild palate cleanser, and perhaps a non-verbal, all-ages show to schlep the kids to.
Parking du Musée des Hospitalières (201 des Pins W.), June 7, $7
See the complete Fringe program here.