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

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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

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