Celebrating Canada’s 150th with Eyes Wide Open

By Jay Menard

It’s not been perfect getting here. In fact, it’s downright horrible for a lot of people. But I’m still going to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday today — with open eyes and an open heart — because I’m proud of who were are.

And I’m even more hopeful for who we can become.

I’m going to celebrate and I’m not going to ask for forgiveness for doing so. I also completely understand those who choose to denounce the celebrations — and I appreciate and support those reasons.

But I guess I don’t see a celebration of this nature as being a validation of everything that’s come before it. Instead, it’s a benchmark along a much longer path towards securing a better future for everyone. Continue reading

London Fringe — Delirium Expertly Finds Meaning, Connections in Life

By Jay Menard

Martin Dockery’s Delirium, which closed the Fringe Festival last night, is a fast-paced, energetic, and hilarious one-man show that takes topics as diverse as immigration, Burning Man, and Monarch butterflies, and finds the interconnectedness and meaning in between them.

Dockery is a gifted storyteller. Alone, on an empty stage, he spends an hour captivating the audience with three seemingly separate tales. The first deals with his proposal to his partner Vanessa after dealing with immigration at Pearson International Airport in Toronto; the second is the tale of an encounter he had at Burning Man, prompted by a restaurant idea he had at the festival; and the final story is an airplane encounter he had following the death of his beloved dog, prompted by a seat mix-up. Continue reading

London Fringe — A Figgy Pudding that’s a Delight to Consume

By Jay Menard

For many people, a traditional figgy pudding conjures up feelings of warmth, family, and the holidays (not for me, mind you. I’m repulsed by the concept…) But, conceptually at least, Figgy Pudding is an apt title for Jimmy Hogg’s wonderfully warm, funny, and family centred look back at the Christmases of his youth.

For those of us of a certain vintage, the show has added relevance. Whether it’s growing up with New Wave and visions of keyboards dancing through our heads, or an odd fascination with He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Hogg’s story brings you right back to a specific time and place in the 80s. And even if you’re not of that generation, there are more than enough relatable moments about family — from playing games with them to drinking stories — that mean that common ground can easily be found. Continue reading

London Fringe – Full Tilt Boogie? More Like the Band’s Warming Up

By Jay Menard

Full Tilt Boogie, by Sean Quigley, is an ambitious production that attempts to tackle multiple topics: distribution of wealth, xenophobia, social media discourse, and hope. It’s at once both too much and not enough. And while there are elements of a solid production there, it remains too much of a superficial examination of today’s life to actually be moving.

Quigley plays the role of storyteller, songster, and raconteur. Unfortunately the tone he uses, especially with a largely familiar audience that skewed larger than the average Fringe show, was fairly condescending. Conscripting Friendly Giant-esque story time and using an elementary teacher-esque delivery undermines the messages Quigley’s trying to tell.

He spends much of his time verbally pointing at things: xenophobia, those who opposed BRT and sanctuary cities, our lack of compassion towards the homeless, and the faults of big business in their greed and failure to redistribute wealth. He tackles the “check your privilege” mentality with a cursory statement about how perhaps we just need to show more compassion. Continue reading

London Fringe — Vision Quest a Welcome Twist on Traditional Tricks

By Jay Menard

London-born magician Lupi puts a new twist on some traditional tricks in Vision Quest. Actually, that may not be completely accurate — Lupi embraces his traditional roots to add new flair to some familiar magical acts. And in the end, he is able to present something that feels completely fresh, innovative, and wholly entertaining.

Lupi is Chippewa of the Thames-born and states early on in the production that he has been endeavouring to teach himself the values of the Ojibwe. Over a pulsing soundtrack of A Tribe Called Red, Lupi integrates stories from the Mishomis Book: Voices of the Ojibway (sic) into his magical presentation.

If you think this adds depth to each and every trick during the show, you’ll be floored by the end of the show when you see how the seemingly independent acts are interrelated. It’s a welcome twist on traditional magic and the fact that we, as a heavily invested and involved crowd, get there together is a testament to Lupi’s skill. Continue reading

London Fringe — Sunflower: A Story of Life, with Surprisingly Deep Roots

By Jay Menard

Throw out everything you would expect when you think of a grown man in a giant sunflower suit. Brendan Kinnon’s My Life as a 6 ft. Sunflower is a wonderful story about life, death, and renewal that has surprisingly deep roots.

Kinnon is the six-foot-tall Sunflower in question. He enters to a voice over, ostensibly from a National Geographic film crew shooting a documentary on sunflowers. Through circumstance, he misses his ‘shot’ and starts to complain about his lot in life.

You see, Kinnon’s sunflower is a reincarnated human who died, after an unremarkable life, young — and bizarrely. But over the course of the play, Kinnon shares his feelings of inadequacy in life, of feeling disconnected and alone, and that he was missing out. Continue reading

London Fringe — Mark Toland Celebrates Mystery

By Jay Menard

It’s very hard to review Mark Toland’s show — not because there’s not enough content or because it’s hard to describe, but because that’s the way Toland wants it. His show is about mystery and the unknown, which can be undermined by prior knowledge. Far be it for me to deny his request, so the best I can do is encourage you to see the show and experience amazement first hand.

What I can tell you that Mark Toland – Mind Reader is a fast-paced show that consistently hits with its tricks and feats of mind-reading. There were repeated gasps and expressions of, “how did he do that?”

Most importantly, Toland has a presence and a personality that is engaging and affable. He plays the small Procunier hall well, drawing us into his confidence, making us co-conspirators in the experience, yet still amazing us with his abilities. Continue reading