Going to indie-theatre’s biggest summer event, the Montreal Fringe Festival, is like going to a remarkably affordable casino: sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but you always end up happy because you’ve met a few memorable characters and had a few beers…
The St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival, June 4-24, is a sure bet when it comes to being both a lot of fun and a bit messy – there’s no artistic direction, no censorship, application is by lottery, and ticket prices are low, meaning anyone with $10 can be a part of the theatre crowd. This year’s festival will see over 700 performances by over 500 theatre, comedy, dance, music and visual artists from Quebec, elsewhere in Canada, the United States and far-flung places around the world. In many ways, Montreal’s festival is similar to international Fringe festivals, but Montreal’s Fringe has English and French shows in almost equal parts as well as a number of bilingual and wordless shows.
With such cultural variety, the festival, now in its 23rd edition, draws over 60,000 people to its dozen small venues each year – variety is the key to that success. Comedy, from autobiographical solo shows to sketch-comedy improv troupes, is often the biggest contender, but every year, exception dramas surprise audiences with their emotional weight and professional quality. Among the two opposites are many good options: Love in the Time of Time Machines; 2 For Tea; Talk, Mackerel; They Call Me Q; Teaching Shakespeare; White Hot; Joe’s Cafe; Tap Me on the Shoulder, and, naturally, dozens of others. Montreal’s vibrant dance community is out in full force too with shows such as The Knocking Within, The Elephant in the Room, Pulse, Southern Boy, and more.
And, of course, there’s theatre that’s even further off the beaten track and well into the sexy zone: funny, tawdry Glam Gam Burlesque puts on The Little Beau Beau Show at the famed Cafe Cléopâtre; innocence, love and life lessons collide in Holy Tranity: A Dirty Love Song to the Gay ‘80s, burlesque dancer Cherry Typhoon pairs up with clown-comedian Shoshinz in Annoying Visitor (possibly more silly than sexy); and even show called Cellos on Fire, where metal riffs meet wicked bowing skills, is sure to be hot. Continuing on with the risque, each day concludes at 1 a.m. with Fringe After Dark, a cabaret-like event at Café Campus, where each night offers something new: a Strip Spelling Bee, alt-burlesque, a zombie fest, a fake prom, a mac n’ cheese cook-off, a waffle breakfast, and more.
Among all the theatrics is an outdoor series of events at Fringe Park at the bustling corner of St-Laurent and Rachel. Sit back, have a cold drink, meet people and listen to music, take a workshop, or participate in a comedy show like storytelling series Confabulation or the Drag Races, every Thursday to Sunday – and June 23 features a full day of programming just for kids. Taking over the tunes on June 15 is Piknic Electronik, handing the mic over to Cult#MTL a little later in the day and on June 20 and Pop Montreal June 22-23. Fringe music shows also take over nearby Divan Orange (4234 St-Laurent) a few days a week, highlighting the talents of bands like Groenland, Buke & Gase, Krief, Klô Pelgag, and many more. With all that outdoor activity plus all those shows to see, the Montreal Fringe Fest is an indie-entertainment powerhouse built on the love of theatre (and beer).
The St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival, June 4-24, 2013