by Monica Bradford-Lea and Lauren Welchner
50 min / Comedy / Mature
The Brotherhood is, on its surface, a comedy magic act. Much of the show (produced by Spicy Day) is exactly what you’d expect from this kind of performance—card tricks, sleight of hand, some reluctant but smiling audience members being pulled out to pick a card, any card. All of this is enjoyable and well-executed.
Some tricks earned genuine gasps from the crowd, which is exactly what you want at a magic show. Bradford-Lea and Welchner are clearly both experienced performers, they’re having fun on stage, and their raunchy humour gets consistent laughs (even in a small space, which can be very challenging for comedy).
But that raunchiness, and the broader premise of the show, hint at something else. These two magicians are here to perform for a secret evaluator from the eponymous Brotherhood of Wizardry, who has blended into the audience to judge their audition. The tension is already there: why is it called “The Brotherhood” and what does that mean for two women who are applying?
It’s not long before you realize that their raunchiness has an edge to it, that these two young women in little black dresses are very conscious of how they present themselves, and their flirtatious smiles start to look a little strained, their jokes a little aggressive. The mask slides off a bit, and sometimes a pointed question about the gender dynamics of their industry slips out. The audience is still laughing, but ruefully, and a bit more quietly. We all know what’s been happening in the news, in our communities, in the performance industry, and we know magic is a perfect example, with its traditional scantily clad assistants as living props.
This sense of dread creeps through the back half of the show, producing almost the same feeling you might get on a bad date, especially as a woman—what was fun and titillating starts to get uncomfortable, and your smile turns sour and slides off your face. A saucy dance number becomes a surreal, troubling commentary on how young women are objectified. It’s an entertaining, genuinely funny performance, but it’s also a pointed feminist critique. By the end of the show, nobody was laughing anymore.
The Brotherhood by Monica Bradford-Lea and Lauren Welchner is being performed in Knot Project Space inside Arts Court (2 Daly Ave) until Saturday June 23, 2018. Tickets Cost $12. Visit ottawafringe.com for the schedule and box office info. Read more reviews at apt613.ca/fringe.