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

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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

London Fringe 2018: Hell Yeah! – Mandy Patinkin! This is a Great Show.

By Jay Menard

Mike Delamont is a veteran of the Fringe circuit and has graced the London Fringe stages for years — often as God, the Scottish Drag Queen, and last year as himself in a deeply personal production about his mother. But this year, Delamont has released his wild side and gives the Devil his due in Hell Yeah! An Evening with the Devil.

Delamont is a true professional. He’s built up enough cachet to be able to phone it in once in awhile, but he consistently delivers hilarious writing, structured content, and an incredibly immersive performance. He eschews the Scottish brogue and frumpy dress for a drawl reminiscent of a southern preacher, hikes up his slacks, slicks down his hair, and buffs his Ned Flanders-esque “Dr. Fuzzenstein.” Continue reading

London Fringe 2018: Beaver Dreams – Silly Fun that You Can Really Sink Your Teeth Into

By Jay Menard

Beaver Dreams (La Fievre du Castor) is a wonderfully engaging production that combines puppetry, visuals, costumes, and humour to present a show that combines warmth, laughter, and gently delivers a message of environmentalism.

It’s not a preachy show by any means. The focus is on humour and an incredible array of brilliant visual elements. But, at the root of it, is a story that holds up a mirror to human’s desire to “own” pristine pieces of the environment (and keep others — and development — at bay), with that of the wilderness who already call these places home. Continue reading

London Fringe 2018: So Tevye — Unbalanced Screed on Faith Fails to Live Up to Its Name

By Jay Menard

So Tevye may not need another daughter, but it clearly can use some refinement, edits, focus, and better pacing. There is a rudimentary foundation of a story in this play, but a lack of subtlety in delivery and challenges with its pacing causes that promising potential to be lost.

The production is Monda Halpern’s So Tevye, Could You Use Another Daughter. And there’s a certain chutzpah involved with name dropping Tevye in a production. Due to the iconic status of the character (known from Fiddler on the Roof and the Tevye series of novels from whence the film and play were inspired), you’re setting expectations extremely high about the quality of the content, at very least. When those expectations are elevated, it’s beholden on all involved to live up to them. Continue reading

London Fringe 2018: The Awesome 80s Prom — Radical? Tubular? Take Your Pick. This Prom’s a Blast

By Jay Menard,

There are moments and shows where you say, “They get it. That’s Fringe.” Describing what’s “fringey” is hard to do — you just know it when you see it. The Awesome 80s prom fully embraces the Fringe ethos and delivers a show that makes the most of its story, cast, and event its venue.

The Awesome 80s Prom, put on by London’s Original Kids Theatre Company, is a fully immersive experience — even before you enter the venue. The cast mingles with attendees in the line, fully in character. One big-haired, puffy dressed prom queen candidate angles for votes with the patrons. A convertible rolls by — guys and girls hooting at the crowd; upon its return, one football player spills out and immediately vomits on the ground.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Wannaget High prom of 1989. Continue reading

London Fringe 2018: ADHD Project – A Story About a Brain that Touches the Heart

By Jay Menard

The ADHD Project is a wonderfully told story of Carlyn Rhamey’s life with ADHD. It’s a story that’s filled with warmth, humour, a touch of sadness, and hefty dose of uplifting messaging that combines to have you fall in love with the story and the storyteller alike.

It’s hard not to like Rhamey. She’s vibrant, engaging, and fills the room with the force of her personality and joy. She punctuates many lines with a wonderfully expressive face and body language — which makes her moments of sadness and melancholy all the more jarring. Her story is crafted in such a way that we feel her highs and lows, and are not mere spectators, but partners in her quest to understand who she is, how her brain works, and where she fits in a society that’s all too quick to put people with ADHD in a box. Continue reading