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Fresh Meat IV brings dark but entertaining DIY theatre (part 2)

By Diane Lachapelle on October 26, 2015

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See the writeup on Part 1 of Fresh Meat 4 here.

Part 2 of Fresh Meat 4 takes a slightly darker turn and I couldn’t help but go with it. Somehow everything is different this week than it was last week. Maybe that always happens and I just never noticed it until I had a two part festival to review. Or maybe something funny is going on. It’s not like I don’t have other weekly recurring events against which to mark my ever nearing death. But anywhoo…

The Liberals won (good, I guess), the Daily Grind, Shiraz and everything between and above them is obliterated (horrible!) and I may not be cut out for theatre reviewing. I did get to talk to some nice strangers and that is frankly, the entire point of theatre; a real and immediate interaction, the opposite of staring at a screen.

downloadEthel (Madeleine Hall) is a solo show, well written and well performed, about watching someone die of old age, and a comforting (or totally opposite of that) reminder that beginnings and endings maybe aren’t that important; it’s the middle that matters.

Tolerance (Thunk!theatre) was a funny exercise and the pay-off was more or less worth it; however, in a way, it just reminded me of how intolerant I am. This is hardly the fault of the creators. I take full responsibility. Also, I would have liked to eat the mandarin. Or possibly the entire bucket of them, alone in a dark broom closet.

Slow Burn (Chris Hannay and Leslie Cserepy ) is twenty minutes of improv. How you’ll feel about that will really depend on you. Some of you are annoyed just reading the words. Okay, most of you. Since it will be a completely different play every night, I’m not sure what would be helpful to say about it. There was a recursive element to it that matched up nicely with the rest of the show but I have no idea if that will happen again.

I will say that the light humour was kind of a welcome break from the introspective timbre of the evening as a whole which if I assimilated correctly had elements of This is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life, Wherever You Go There You Are, We’re All Busy Dying and Even Busier Distracting Ourselves from that Reality with a Bunch of Screens and Don’t be a jerk.

Not that I disliked it or was unentertained. There was a lot here to think about, or at least to get you started on something to think about or remind you about what you’re avoiding thinking about even though it’s right there all the time just below the surface (unless you’re the kind of person people write on mandarins about).

I was struck by how much these shows had in common; repetitive and recursive, lots of interactivity, explorations of space. The two shows in the second half in particular: Mise-en-Abyme (Cart Before the Horse) and Pan-dora (Filament Theatre), though wildly different had interesting areas of overlap. Both had a searcher woman and a fellow who’s in charge of the technical gear. Whether he’s outright oppressing her, merely contributing to her existential distress or just helpfully scoring her breakdown on a loop, is up for debate. Somehow, I couldn’t help but think of my husband and me.

The great thing about twenty minute pieces is that if you’re really not into what’s happening, it will be over soon. If some of these pieces slightly overstay their welcome, it’s kind of a feat worth witnessing, when you think about it. And there was lots of time to go to the bar between performances, conveniently located immediately behind the seating area.

The order the plays are shown in changes every night and I think it must influence the way you experience the full show a great deal. They also have a different host every night to keep things moving along. A word about the host of the first night of this second weekend: visual artist and admitted non-performer Andrew King blended amateur stand up and enthusiastic toastmaster into a routine that was somehow completely innocent and truly weird. He reminded me of the only boy I could stand in grade four and I’m deeply glad he got a girlfriend.

Fresh Meat 4: DIY Theatre Fest ran October 15-17 and 22-24, at 7:00pm, at the Arts Court Theatre (2 Daly Ave.).

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