Drop Everything to see Jacques Brel is Alive and Living in Paris

Seriously –  immediately call and get tickets to see this stunningly delicious piece of theatre. A group of very talented young Montreal actors (2 male, 2 female – plus 4 musicians and a sound crew) used Indiegogo to raise the money to make this event possible – and it is up to us – their audience – to support their efforts.


For those unfamiliar with Jacques Brel, he was a composer and singer of the like of Leonard Cohen – with the same down and beaten story telling motifs, great lyrics, and wonderful rhythms, but without the religious overtones. Jacques Brel composed his songs in French, but they were translated into English many years ago – and for most of us, the ones we recognize are the English versions.

This production by In Your Face alternated between English and French, with a bit of Flemish thrown in with “Marieke”. But it isn’t just about the songs – it’s about what the performers with their live musician backup are doing while they are performing the songs. This behind the singer action is often the highlight of the piece. Another highlight – Jacques Brel’s songs were written to become more and more emotional as they go on – and the older of the male performers was particularly committed to that escalation of energy, commitment, and anguish.

It would be impossible to fairly pick one favorite song – standouts included “When I am Dead”, “Carousel”, “Brussels”, “If we only had love”, “Au Suivant”, “Sons of” – there are so many brilliantly executed pieces to enjoy – but I walked out humming “Marieke”.

Go – please go. You won’t be sorry – and who knows when another opportunity to enjoy such an over-the-top theatrical piece will come our way.

(I was in the Audience on Friday, March 23)

The Clone People – Dawson Studio Wins Again

I do get confused by the Dawson Theatre’s way of describing exactly which group and which class is doing which production. In this specific case – the program credits the 2nd Year Studio – the website (http://www.dawsoncollege.qc.ca/2012-2013/4th-studio-the-clone-people) refers to it as a production by the 4th studio. Honestly – I’m so confused.

But ignoring my confusion as to which group is doing what to whom in the library – the truth is that these productions are a wonderful value for the money. They are ‘pay what you can’ – so essentially free – they are generally excellently directed (the staff at Dawson are clearly of extremely high calibre), and I totally love the idea of seeing young people strut their stuff in front of family and friends.

The play itself is a very good story. You are introduced to a ‘hollywood’ couple – a husband and wife very much in love with each other, a neighbor who is over the hill and over the top, and the ‘managers’ of the couple. The wife, who at the start is on location, suddenly runs away from her location and drives home to hide out. She is complaining of headaches and has serious concerns about some of her staff and what they may have done to her in the past.

Clearly – since the title is “The Clone People” – we’re going to be seeing some clones – and naturally that’s what happens. The cast has a lot of fun switching behaviors to carry the illusion of the clone’d people, with the clear star being the female lead. She ends up having to have 3 different personalities in order to convince us that she’s been ‘clone’d’ – and she does an excellent job.

You don’t go to Dawson to see professional theatre – you go to have an enjoyable night out and maybe to see a play you have never even heard of performed credibly. This one was a winner on all counts.

(I was in the audience on Saturday, March 9th)

2 Words to Avoid when Reading Descriptions of upcoming Theatre Events

As declared several time before, I love theatre – and I’m not particularly picky about what I go to see. if it’s in English – I’m keen to see what’s what.

That said – there are 2 words that when used to describe an upcoming theatrical offering have a tendency to convince me to go elsewhere.

1. Innovative. As in an Innovative look at a story, or an Innovative group of people.

What exactly are we innovating? Theatre is about telling stories – are we not going to be telling a story? Are we going to do without sets, without actors, without costumes? What about theatre are you planning to change? I just can’t see how an innovation is going to better my theatre experience. I suspect you termed it Innovative because you couldn’t think of a better word to describe what you are doing. And that’s really off-putting.

2. Experimental.

This one is really scary – and for many of the same reasons I shy away from Innovative. Are we going to be experimenting with sets? with stories? with the acting. How can you experiment with acting – you do it well, you do it poorly – what kind of experiment is needed?

I’m not afraid of works by new authors, in fact – that’s a lot of fun. But don’t experiment with my time and money – learn how to do it first – then present it to me. I really don’t want to have to suffer thru your experiments

Mi Otro Yo – Kinda weird – some liked it – but not for kids

We were split on this recent offering at Tohu (see my Tohu blog a few days ago – or check out the Tohu website – http://tohu.ca/en/home.html)

For the kids in the audience – the results were rather mixed. And since there were some fairly disturbing parts of the performance – I’m not surprised.

One really neat piece that confused and upset the kids had the two very talented performers moving along a red wall – leaving their hands in place as they went. Cool effect. For a moment you’d have one head – 4 hands – and then a 5th hand would appear holding a sign. Very neat. What upset the kids was that after they were done with this piece – 3 of the ‘hands’ stayed behind. One little kid kept asking her father – but he left his hands…

In another brilliant sketch – the two actors put on a suit of clothes – creating a visual third person composed of the right hand and right leg (acting like a left leg) of one fellow  and the left hand and left leg (acting like a right leg) of the other. I think you’d have to have seen it.

Two people in our group thought the entire piece was awesome – I personally thought that there were brilliant bits – and much less brilliant bits.

Parts I didn’t care for – the tumbling with a book – yes it’s hard to do – but visually boring. And the piece I really found pointless – and way over the top disturbing – the part that involved pretending to kill a chicken – and then having the chicken come to life and ‘eat’ the guy. I guess it might have been good theatre – but I found it upsetting – and very kid-inappropriate.

Wouldn’t go to see them again – bottom line. But it wouldn’t discourage me from going to Tohu later this year when the student’s perform.

Yo Tohu – Stripped down Cirque – but so much fun!

I’m such a sap for the Circus – both old school (with animals) and new school (acrobats, jugglers, and the like). Which is why Pista del Tango was such a disappointment. How dare you ruin the Circus for me?

Thank goodness for Tohu. I always assume that everyone knows what I’m talking about when I say Tohu – but based on the lack of audience on Thursday (2/27/2013) night, I’m guessing that maybe I need to start off with a – how to find the Tohu.

Where/What is Tohu

Start by checking out their website – there’s both an English and a French version – you can get tickets, check the dates of different performances, and get a list of all the free stuff that happens there. I can personally recommend just about anything that they put on – I’ve never had a bad time – and frequently had a great time. This is NOT Cirque de Soleil, despite the physical closeness – those tall buildings to the right as you drive in are the Montreal headquarters of the Cirque de Soleil – and clearly there’s money and financing cross-overs. But Tohu is clearly independent – and rather feisty about that.


Festival Mondial Du Cirque De Demain

This is the third or fourth time I’ve seen these guys perform – and it is always a huge pleasure. Truly some of the best young (and not so young) performers from around the world come to Montreal as part of this group. There is no pretense at a story, or a theme, or even much of a set. Instead – this is a presentation by 9 different performing teams – each one of which has one at least one award – and in some cases – several awards. So we’re talking the best of the best at what they do. And what they can do is nothing short of astounding. We were 4 – and each of us had a different top act. My husband’s personal favorite was the Starbugs – 3 nutty guys – clowns with tremendous physical abilities. I just couldn’t stop laughing. One highlight – the fake ‘fight’ that started with the 2 guys in ‘contact’, and continued as they got further and further apart. What a hoot. My daughter loved the Chinese juggler/plate spinner who managed to take spinning objects to an entirely new level – and ended his act by pulling a ‘dragon’ out of his basket and spinning that! Another favorite was the Trapeze artist – who did things on a trapeze including several multiple spins high above the audience, unattached to the trapeze at all, that I’d never seen before.

Then there were the 2 male contortionists. I can’t find words to describe their act – except to say that sometimes they looked completely normal, and other times left me sitting with my mouth completely open in stunned surprise.

I particularly like the first act – a quick presentation by the students in the circus school. A teaser to encourage people to get tickets to their graduation performances in April – something I totally recommend that all my followers – and all their friends – do immediately. There are 2 different productions – they split the class in half, and each group gets their group of performances. I’ve done both – and never been sorry.

Finally – I wouldn’t do a fair review of this wonderful evening if I didn’t mention the guy (huge) and girl (tiny) team. The guy essentially tossed his partner around like she was putty – and she let him do it! Her grace was extraordinary, and his control when tossing her was so light and easy – you could easily fool yourself into thinking – I could do that. Word to the wise – Nope, you probably can’t.

Positive Stuff: Cafe at Tohu – little known but completely wonderful place to grab a grilled cheese sandwich, a bag of delicious popcorn, or even a Latté before a performance, Free stuff before the performance – in this case – a pile of circus toys that you could try out – including a tightrope to walk and plates to spin, and inexpensive parking – Just $5. Negative Stuff: Don’t count on the scenery and costumes to blow you away – that’s not the point, There’s not a bad seat in the house – but there are some side seats that are best avoided, and it ends late if there’s an intermission.

Go – Enjoy – Tell’m the Soup Lady sent ya.