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

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London Fringe — Forget Me Not: Entertaining, but Not Overly Memorable

By Jay Menard

Rob Gee brings a unique perspective to the stage, as a comic, poet, and psychiatric nurse in Forget Me Not — the Alzheimer’s Whodunnit.

Gee is eminently appealing, genuinely funny at times, and clearly a clever writer. The play itself is a pleasant diversion — it has moments of uproarious humour at times, but also devolves into repetition at times. It’s funny, entertaining, but — at the end of it — it’s not something that’s going to stay with you. Continue reading

London Fringe — AMAZE: Full of Energy, Some of it Nervous, but a World of Talent

By Jay Menard

Combining magic and comedy can be tricky. You don’t want one to overwhelm the other, nor do you want to distract from the tricks with jokes. But David Eliot, in his show AMAZE, has almost found the perfect balance between the two and presents an entertaining show that’s a pleasure for all ages.

Eliot’s sleight-of-hand magic is elite level. Even in moments where he slows down his tricks and focuses the audience’s attention on the result, you’re still unable to see the moment of deception. That’s a real talent and one that takes years of dedication and practice to master. Continue reading

London Fringe — Irena Sendler: The Right Story, the Wrong Presentation

By Jay Menard

Irena Sendler: Rescuing the Rescuer is a valuable show to see for the simple fact that it’s a story that needs to be told and retold. Thankfully, the story is so compelling that it overcomes some of the challenges with Libby Skala’s presentation.

It’s a tremendously hard show to review because any criticism feels almost sacrilegious. But separating the plot from the performance, there are areas that can be refined and improved to make an already impactful story more compelling. Continue reading

London Fringe – Hotter than Potter a Polished, Magical Experience

By Jay Menard

The most magical thing about Keith Brown is how he remains so personable and down-to-earth when he has so much talent and so much polish. Hotter than Potter is another successful Fringe show by the London-based magician and it shows continued growth in the all-so-important area of presentation.

In a less appealing person, Hotter than Potter — thought firmly tongue in cheek — could be considered arrogant. But Brown’s skill at presenting his tricks and interacting with the audience ensures that everyone knows that, despite his prodigious talent, he’s still a genuinely personable guy. He’s in on the joke — and while he may not take himself too seriously, it’s clear that he doesn’t cut any corners with his preparation and execution. Continue reading

London Fringe – Woody Sed a Musical Trip Through Time

By Jay Menard

Woody Sed examines the life and times of Woody Guthrie, his experiences, and the songs that were inspired by them. Thomas Jones does an admirable job trying to embody a couple of dozen characters who come in and out of the noted wanderer’s life.

It’s a warts-and-all look at Guthrie, from his early dust bowl days to his eventual silencing from Huntington’s Disease. Along the way, we travel along with Guthrie as he moves west, leaving families and wives in his wake, en route to New York. He gets introduced to communism and develops his voice — one that’s eventually silenced by Huntington’s. Continue reading

London Fringe – Love is a Battlefield: More of a Gentle, Predictable Skirmish

By Jay Menard

Love is a Battlefield is a perfectly pleasant and perfunctory piece of dramatic theatre. It doesn’t break any new ground, but it features capable performances by both leads. It’s less of a battle and more of a civil, but largely forgettable, disagreement.

The play, written by Martin Dockery and featuring dramaturgy by Vanessa Quesnelle, covers ground that’s been done frequently. It’s the standard femme fatale/oblivious suitor storyline that’s been a part of dramatic arts for decades. It’s a paint-by-numbers plot line with plot twists that are painfully obvious and viewers are able to predict the end well in advance. Continue reading