Once again, The Fringe Festival is serving up a cornucopia of stage delictables, with something for everyone. You might say this is art with no strings attached, art with no holds barred, where anything and everything goes. From dance to drag, drama and music, it has it all.
This is the 18th year of The St Ambroise Film Festival, a venue that allows artists from all genres to strut their stuff. What makes it different from other festivals with staged productions is that the shows have no artistic direction – the artists are selected by lottery and there is absolutely no censorship. You must, therefore, carefully read the descriptions of the shows if you don't wish to be insulted, singled out in the audience, or if 'language' upsets your digestion. One of the best things about the Festival is that the cost of the tickets is kept at a minimum and all the money is fed back to the artists working in the productions.
The beginnings of all Fringe Festivals go back to 1947 when artists in Scotland felt excluded from the prestigious Edinburgh Festival – so they created their own venue. It wasn't long before it became known at the “Festival Fringe”. From that, came the numerous other “Fringe Fests” over Canada and the United States. The very first festival in Montreal was held on St Laurent Boulevard in 1991. It has now become a yearly event, drawing visitors and performers from near and far. Last year, over 55,000 people attended the indoor and outdoor venues.
This year, it boasts 90 performance companies from eight different countries as well as Canada and the United States, culminating in 700 performances. Most of the shows are between 30 and 60 minutes in length and are situated in the east end of the city, allowing the 'fringer' to hop from one show to another.
The theatre shows run from productions geared to the baby-boomers, with shows featuring comical mishaps of females in menopause and beyond with 3 Old Bags and 64 and No More Lies , to Balls, a look at testicular cancer. Then there's Degrassi: the Musical, based on the popular television series of the late 80s. There is also the more serious look at the fraility of life with Beth, a take-off of Shakespeare's MacBeth, about a woman seeking revenge when she discovers that the man she loves has another life.
Perhaps it's comedy, dance, or a combination of both you prefer. There's everything from the hillarious one-man hit, The Official Napoleon Dynamite Dance Class, a one-woman show/cabaret featuring Marysia-Siren from England with Find Me a Primitive Man, or Shoshinz and Cherry Typhoon from Japan with a promise to “dazzle you with hilarious stage antics without any words but with voices, bodies, and magical souls”. And veterans of past Fringe fests, T.J Dawe and Greg Landucci, return this year with their hit, Dishpig, a story of “scrubbing and scraping dishes until your arms fall off”.
Whether it's dance, stand-up comedy or conventional theatre (what am I saying – there's nothing conventional about The Fringe Festival!), there is something to tickle the fancy of everyone who simply enjoys being entertained.
The St Ambroise Fringe Festival is on until June 22. You can find all the listed shows and different venues on www.montrealfringe.ca