While this round of Fresh Meat 4.2 actors aren’t likely to be grass-fed, they certainly put on a delicious performance.
Artist Andrew King steps out of his element to host the night, introducing the different acts and entertaining the audience with his awkward sense of humor.
As becomes the Fresh Meat Festival, many of these shows were unique in their own regard, but this week’s performances rank as some of the best of fest. A quick nod to Madeleine Hall’s Ethel.
It is also interesting to see the evening’s format evolve since opening night. One of the notable improvements is the introduction of short breaks between each of the performances. Not only does this give the stage crew the time to assemble some of the more elaborate stage designs, it also helps each of these very different performances to stand on their own. You might say that it gives the audience a moment to clear their palate before starting the next course.
So, if you’re theatrical taste buds are yearning for something new, just take a look at our menu, and see if there’s something you like.
TOLERANCE, or THUNK!Theatre Explains why It Is Important to be Kind to Every Fucking Thing on this Planet
Mandarin orange, anyone? Be prepared to get out of your seat and rub shoulders with your fellow audience members in this interactive performance.
Spewing bile right from the start, Karen Balcome, Geoff McBride, and Gabbie Lazarovitz set aside their all-consuming revulsion just enough to march the audience through an exercise in the visualization and abandonment of hate. No spoilers, but mandarin oranges play a large role in this.
The majority of the action lies in the actors shouting at and corralling the audience into groups, getting laughs with their deprecating, off-the-cuff comments and no-nonsense attitudes. By the end of the performance, the actors have herded the audience onto the stage, and in the glare of the spotlights, with the last hate extracted from the audience, the performance enters its final moments.
I found the end difficult to absorb, due to the sudden philosophic seriousness of the actors and the particularly close quarters I found myself in. However, it was still the most appropriate ending for a performance such as this.
Well, you missed it… Slow Burn is unique in the Fresh Meat performances in that the goal of Chris Hannay and Leslie Cserepy is to create a new and improvised show every night.
While I cannot vouch for what might happen on Friday and Saturday performances, the first showing of Slow Burn was a somewhat anxiety-ridden look at turning thirty. Witty banter abounds in the discussions between Hannay and Cserepy, discussions which inevitably steer the performance into smaller improv routines nested within the larger routine.
Hannay and Cserepy maintain an entertaining chemistry throughout the performance. They maintain their composure throughout their improvisations, and they aren’t afraid to poke fun at some of the more frustrating points of improv itself. Compared to some of the other performances, it doesn’t stand out quite as well, but this has more to do, perhaps, with the nature of improv.
It was also somewhat disappointing to note that the prompt they received from the audience at the beginning of their performance held little bearing until the very end. Even then it seemed somewhat forced. However, this delay may be a part of the comedy, and where the title Slow Burn actually fits in.
If any performance at this year’s fest stood out above the rest, it was most certainly Madeleine Hall’s Ethel. In an effective display of storytelling and physical acting, Hall explores the impressions of a woman as she visits her ailing grandmother and considers both the beauty and the tragedy of living out these final years.
There is a tragic comedy to Hall’s account of Ethel’s decline into senility. The audience laughs when Ethel begins to confuse television and reality, but there’s a sadness woven into this on a very real level. However, Hall manages to play this duality in the most entertaining way, leaving the audience amused by Ethel’s somewhat idealized and cat-like existence.
Hall’s sense of performance is also amazingly precise. The simple act of making tea becomes a well-rehearsed and tactile ritual. There isn’t a single detail left out: from the tearing open of the teabag to the stepping on the garbage can foot pedal. She is so sure of herself that you can almost see the props that don’t exist.
Of all the Fresh Meat performances seen so far, this is the one I hope most to see expanded into a full production at Fringe.
This is your psyche; this is your psyche demolished by your day-to-day routine. MISE-EN-ABYME is an atmospheric exploration of a mind that believes it is trapped within an endless loop. Get up, go to work, go to sleep, repeat.
Megan Carty’s frenetic reenactment of this monotony provides the strong sense of the panic, frustration, and exhaustion that comes with not being in control of your own life. With this in mind, there is also a “man behind the curtain” who seems to be pulling her strings.
An indirect puppeteer, Martin Dawagne mans a guitar and a series of loop pedals that serves to provide interesting undertones and repetitions to this performance. As interesting as this may be, the downside is that this sound equipment tends to overpower Carty’s own monologue, which, while adding an interesting level of meaning, can get distracting.
It isn’t until Carty and Dawagne’s separate worlds begin to collide, with Carty beginning to take control of this background noise, that his necessity on stage becomes apparent.
For an existential play, it also seems oddly sure of itself. Perhaps I’m just a little doom-and-gloom, but the conclusion, full of certainty and optimism, just seems too good to be true, as though there is yet another psychological layer that needs pulling back.
Anglophones are at a disadvantage with this bilingual performance. In fact, a large part of Élise Gauthier and Alex Zabloski’s performance is in French.
Pan-dora involves the interactions of two threadbare figures. Gauthier circles the audience, mumbling disjointed French phrases to herself. Zabloski, on the other hand, is fixed in the limelight, shouting meaningless English slogans towards her from the foot of a technological behemoth, constructed from obsolete media players, tube tvs and cassette players.
While Gauthier’s staging is interesting, sidelined and indirect, it is also out of sight for a large portion of the audience. This is unfortunate because she is very active in her corner, pulling out a variety of jars and items from her soiled pack, that are simply impossible to see from certain angles.
Perhaps there is some intent behind offering access to certain aspects of this performance to select audience members. This comes across even in the choice of language, intentionally or not. As Anglophones, we hear Zabloski’s slogans, and they seem to have some context, but they have no meaning.
Gauthier does express her final words in English, and this clarifies some aspects of what came before. The need to distract ourselves with meaningless things, to keep us from thinking about the harsher things in life. However, it still feels as though you’ve missed something crucial.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to know what you think. How fresh was your meat? Which was your favourite course? Join the discussion and let me know in the comments below.
Fresh Meat 4, weekend 2, runs until Saturday October 24th.Details and tickets at http://freshmeatfest.com