BWW Review: Montreal Fringe Festival

The 27th edition of the St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival has come to a close.

This year's festival featured a bevy of poignant, entertaining and raucous shows.

Here are a few of our picks from the festival-shows that made up laugh, cry and reflect.

The Morning After the Life Before

An export from Ireland, The Morning After the Life Before is a touching, hopeful story of coming out and campaigning for your right to be heard, seen and treated equally.

Written and performed by Ann Blake, with co-star Lucia Smyth, the story of Ireland's historic 2015 vote to allow same-sex marriage is personal and playful.

It strikes a balance between introspective and self-aware, cracking jokes, passing out cake and reflecting on the how the personal becomes political. Performed in the Black Theatre Workshop's studio space, the intimate black box setting and simple production design makes for a really special and fully formed piece of theatre. Not to mention hilarious.

Oscar (girl gone wilde)

Performed in the small, relatively basic Freestanding Room, this storytelling play packs a lot of heart and emotional punch for what it is. Performed by festival veteran Johanna Nutter, the retelling of Oscar Wilde's children's stories makes for an intimate journey.

As Nutter brings the audience through the three stories, The Happy Prince, The Nightingale and the Rose and The Selfish Giant, she eases us into the darkness and catharsis inherent in some of the narratives.

The creature/creature production makes for an atypical theatre experience, but uses its unassuming design and lack of firm structure to its advantage. It ultimately feels like being invited into someone's living room to hear a bedtime story that at once unsettles and reassures you.

Divided Heart

This one-woman deeply personal performance by artist and musician Allie Weigh circles the concept of motherhood from all angles. There is a saying that defines feminisn as 'women having honest conversations with each other' and Divided Heart is nothing if not honest.

Weigh, who alternates storytelling with beats and violin, delves into the joys and heartbreaks of family life from birth to empty nest. Her performance is perfectly-paced and serves to draw the audience in. After all, as Weigh says early on, everybody has a mother. And everybody can find something to relate to in this earnest, open-hearted production.

Memento Mori

Produced by Fringe favourite Kaleidoscope Theatre Montreal (the team behind Captain Aurora musicals 1 and 2), Memento Mori is a decided change of pace.

Described as a "support group for the dead," the show is an interactive, immersive piece that plays with form and makes you forget you're watching a show at all.

Written and directed by Trevor Barrette, the show is tightly written, clever and exploratory when it comes to often-overdone themes of death, mortality and purpose.' Barette manages to take tropes that would feel tired on a cable drama and turn them into something whimsical and fresh.

Performed in the Freestanding Room, the show feels like a support group, complete with name tags and free coffee and snacks. It plays its hand close to the chest, teasing out details of plot and character slowly through the use of mostly monologue. The comparatively large cast, half a dozen people, make excellent use of their time in the spotlight, focusing the attention of the room into an uncomfortable but unavoidable intensity.

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From This Author Marilla Steuter-Martin