Lessons Learned: When You Turn Bridges into Pulpits or Planks, Divides Form

By Jay Menard

[Note: I wrote this the day after the provincial election, but sat on it as an experiment… hoping the narrative it discusses would change and render it moot. It hasn’t.]

If you’ll indulge me for stepping away from the “Chicken Little” narrative that has dominated the social media universe since the Conservative majority election (and, let’s face it, even before), I honestly believe that Thursday night’s result offers liberals — both small and large-L — an incredible opportunity.

The opportunity? To build bridges.

The challenge is, the very behaviour and beliefs that led to the Conservative majority are precisely the things that may prevent them from seizing that opportunity. This year, I avoided discussing the elections online because I knew it was fruitless — there was no room for debate or discussion and no minds would be changed — but now, in “The Aftermath,” I hope there are are some lessons that can be learned for the betterment of us all.

In London, this is especially true with a municipal election coming up that I fear will just build upon the arrogance, intolerance, and division that we saw at the provincial election. Continue reading

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London Fringe 2018: Mark Toland: Mind Reader – A Night of Wonder and Mystery

By Jay Menard

Mark Toland is quick to tell you what his “powers” aren’t — he’s not psychic. Instead, he’s an astute people watcher who has honed his talent and gift to the point where you’re going to enjoy a magical experience each and every night.

Toland asks specifically that people do not share too much of the show, as he wants to preserve the mystery. And it’s a request we’re all too happy to honour, because this is a show that defies description and must be experienced. Continue reading

2018 London Fringe: Bad Habits – A Devilishly Funny Show that Doesn’t Religiously Adhere to Structure

By Jay Menard

Portland-based due Amica Hunter and David Cantor, of A Little bit Off, have quickly become Fringe Favourites, with such hilarious and inventive shows like Beau and Aero, and Bella Culpa. Their shows are wonderfully creative, slightly askew, and always endearing.

Bad Habits is no different — it’s a devillishly funny show that doesn’t religiously adhere to structure. Continue reading

London Fringe 2018: Fraser the Hypnotist Presents Life Happens – Gentle Fun at the Expense of Others’ Influences

By Jay Menard

For an hour-and-a-half, Fraser Frase takes attendees on a journey of the mind — with some heavy suggestions guiding them there. In the end, the result is a hilarious show where the audience are the stars as he guides hypnotized participants through a variety of actions, visions, and even celebrity encounters.

To be fair, I did spend the about 15 minutes of the show with my eyes closed. I never got hypnotized, but I was put through the process. And during that “hypnotic vetting period,” the action amongst the crowd is likely less exciting than what the candidates experience. But overall, it’s a lot of fun. Continue reading

London Fringe 2018: Jon Bennett: How I Learned to Hug – Embrace the Opportunity to See Bennett’s Best Show Yet

By Jay Menard

Jon Bennett is a masterful storyteller who is a veteran of the Fringe circuit. And How I Learned to Hug is likely his most well-rounded, heart-warming story. Over the years, from Pretending Things are a Cock to My Dad’s Deaths, we’ve seen him grow and develop as a storyteller, infusing ribald humour with warmth — and with How I Learned to Hug, we see him fully build an uproariously hilarious show upon a foundation of heart, vulnerability, and sensitivity.

How I Learned to Hug is a story inspired by a customs experience at Montreal’s Trudeau Airport, where he feels he needs to justify the fact that he has felt love in the past. For the next hour, he regales us with his stories of loves lost and found, and how they, for a period, forced him to eschew the idea of hugging and public displays of affection. Continue reading

2018 London Fringe: Recovery Show – a Triumph of Raw, Exposed Honesty and Bravery

By Jay Menard

The title of Clara Madrenas’ Recovery Show is not so much of a misnomer, as it is a misdirection. The title is intended to be reflexive — representing the shared recovery from mental and physical ailments by Madrenas and her partner. But the truth is that, after leaving the production, it is the audience who is in need of Recovery time following one of the most open, honest, and visceral productions to be mounted on a Fringe stage in years.

During the play, Madrenas talks about how, during a particular stage of psychosis, she felt that the only way she could heal her ailing partner was to grasp a glowing orb that appeared on their bedroom wall, and transfer its energy into her partner by cracking open his chest, exposing his organs, and manipulating them.

That’s an apt metaphor for Recovery Show — as Madrenas metaphorically rips open her being and exposes her soul to the light. She does it not to be judged, but rather to be understood — and to help others understand their experiences. Like the mirror neurons she discusses late in the play, the audience shares the catharsis and empathy to which the story builds. Continue reading

London Fringe 2018: Rebellion — An Overwrought Vision Obscures the Most Important View

By Jay Menard

If one could focus exclusively on the dance and tune everything else out, Rebellion would be an excellent dance show. The performers, from The Dance Movement, execute the choreography beautifully. They are strong dancers as an ensemble, performing flawless synchronization when called for, and standing out as individuals when given the chance.

Unfortunately, direction and production decisions makes it impossible to tune the others out. And the dancers are obscured by directorial decisions that are implemented with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. The performance suffers as a result and the dancers are the victims of the decisions. Continue reading