It’s the most wonderful, ecstatic and weird time of the year for Montreal theatre.
The Fringe Festival is a grab-bag of theatre shows with cheap ticket prices and no artistic censorship. The 26th edition kicked off with a preview on May 30 at Café Campus, complete with a stripping Wilma and Betty duo, a popsicle-eating contest, diapers, beaver and food puppets, erotic coffee poetry and a guy getting drenched in windshield washer fluid.
The biggest change to the Fringe game this year: all tickets are now available for sale online. Usually, box office reserves a portion for front of house sales, and while making every ticket available beforehand is good for artists, guaranteeing sales in advance, it could make it harder for the audience to snag hot tickets or be spontaneous.
But over 18 days, there are 800+ performances of over 80 shows at 22 venues, by over 500 artists. So make a plan, buy your tickets and hit the theatre. And while show selection is done by lottery, I’m seeing a chance theme this year: women telling their own stories.
Here are some of my picks for this year’s Fringe: Holly Gauthier-Frankel returns as burlesque alter ego Miss Sugarpuss — for the last time! — in another film noir dramedy, Love and Pasties, Miss S. Since fleeing for her life, we find Miss Sugarpuss has been hiding out as an artiste in bohemian Paris… until a stranger walks into her life to screw it up. (Venue Off A, June 9-18)
Captain Aurora II: A Superhero Musical Sequel picks up with our young heroine, who in the last chapter was fighting two-bit baddies until she uncovered an alien conspiracy threatening Earth. The first chapter played to packed houses at last year’s Fringe, as well as Centaur’s WildSide fest. (Venue 10, June 9-19.)
Escape into a surreal world with two cashiers fighting the doldrums of their food truck in Caisse 606/Checkout 606. Taking place inside the “Fille du Laitier” food truck at St-Laurent and Rachel, you can catch 40 shows, both in French and English.
Your favourite Fringe rabbit Jon Bennett presents a new chapter of his harebrained life with Aussie Rules (Playing With Men). A master storyteller, this Australian performer usually has his audiences in stitches. (Venue 2, June 13 18.)
Montreal raconteur Nisha Coleman continues to venture into the one-woman show world with Self-Exile, a meditation on personal esteem. Coleman knows how to spin stories in her own delicate but mischievous way, so I’m looking forward to seeing her solo. (Venue 10, June 9-19.)
Alexandria Haber’s Enough Already is about a triathlete’s journey with chronic pain, and based on its preview, it promises to be a crushing but ethereal look into this struggle. $5 tickets for those with chronic illness or pain. (Venue 6, June 9-18.)
Special mentions: Bedrock Burlesque parodies your favourite stone-age cartoon family in the flesh (Off Venue W). The young guns at Chocolate Moose Theatre bring children’s plays to life in Plays by Kids (Venue 3). Jem Rolls, a bonafide Fringe star, should be on your bucket list: see his hyperactive performance poetry in GET LOST (Venue 9). And Mark Jumper, who had an absurd but relaxing sleeper hit at last year’s Fringe, returns with Jumper’s Wonderful Museum (Venue 12). ■
The 26th annual Montreal Fringe Festival runs until June 18. For the complete schedule, venue map and more details, visit the Montreal Fringe website.