Unique in Ottawa, Fresh Meat showcases new short works by local artists. In its sixth year, the festival boasts a varied lineup of new, creative shows from a diversity of performers. Ten 20-minute plays (plus some bonus programming this year) performed over two weekends provide the audience with an anthology of works and a delightful evening. The lineup for October 19–22 has some of the more tech-heavy shows of the fest, as well as multiple performances that discuss mental health.
Created by Helen Thai
Performed by Franco Pang and Helen Thai
Directed by Kristina Watt
Livia Belcea: In the time that it takes to cook rice in a rice cooker, In-between tells the story of two siblings, their relationship with each other, with their immigrant parents, with their Vietnamese ancestors and culture and with their new Canadian culture. Added to the mix is an eating disorder and the estrangement that can happen between first generation children and their parents when culture and language barriers grow between them. The acting in In-between was excellent and the concept and storyline are interesting, but the piece was simply too dense and complex for the 20 minute format. I hope Helen and Franco tell this story again in a longer format, filling in the bits and pieces that the audience would want to know so much more about.
Mer Weinhold: Twenty minutes is both enough time to tell a short story and to cook rice. In-between opens with a rice cooker being filled and turned on, and moves through a series of short scenes between two siblings. Centred on the strength of family ties, the play highlights the struggle between assimilation to a culture that one’s parents don’t belong to, and loyalty to a culture one has inherited. In-between covers a lot of emotional ground, ranging from the humour of sibling dynamics, to the distress of dealing with an eating disorder, to the comfort of a family’s love.
Created by Kristina Watt
Creative team: Steve Geyer, Nick Carpenter, Andrea Connell
Produced by 100 Watt Productions
Livia Belcea: Holding Mercury was presented in two parts so different from one another that I wondered if they were actually connected. I would have preferred to see them separately, as they both held up on their own. Nonetheless, the play is clever and intriguing. Kristina is well a rounded, professional artist and this was evident through her work. In the first part of Holding Mercury, she tries to fix with an objective and cognitive approach the parts of her brain that have been unbalanced and conditioned through life experiences. The second part of the performance felt like the manic side of the first’s. Through a series of short poems, we hear the brain’s own attempt to make sense of the trauma it has been subjected to.
Mer Weinhold: Holding Mercury opens with Watt, dressed in operating scrubs and wielding a scalpel, explaining she’s going to “help a friend fix things.” She proceeds to delve into the brain both figuratively, by describing brain structures, and literally, probing a prop brain to explore different cognitive centres (being squeamish about depictions of surgery, I was pleased that the prop brain stayed securely under an operating sheet the whole time). This segues into a performance that combines music and spoken word poetry, embracing the quirks of this particular brain and building something new out of discordant pieces.
Created & performed by Madeleine Hall & Mitchel Rose
Produced by Aplombusrhombus
Livia Belcea: Folie is a hilarious and quirky non-verbal skit featuring two film sound technicians doing their jobs while also managing the sexual tension between them. This is a show that is meant to make its audience laugh and it certainly delivers! Madeleine and Mitchel’s non verbal acting is expressive, imaginative and silly. This piece doesn’t take itself too seriously and the use of monochromatic orange for the actor’s costumes, set and props is cool, original and gives the play a retro vibe.
Mer Weinhold: Everything is orange, and no one speaks – but there are lots of interesting noises. A delightful and funny mime show (not a description I ever thought I’d write), Folie is a small window into what goes into creating sound effects as well as being fantastic physical comedy. Two foley artists (makers of sound effects) must resist the rapidly intensifying sexual tension between them in order to get through the workday. Along the way, they compose a thunderstorm using various ordinary household objects, create the soundtrack for a short film scene, and have fun with sound and music.
a n X i e t y w o m X n
Written & performed by Kelsey Rideout
Produced by E T E R N I T Y
Livia Belcea: a n X i e t y w o m X n is a raw and honest piece in which a young woman turns inwards to examines herself, her behaviours and her disorders. Through her observations, she finds scattered memories of her parents, dating, various relationships and finding her vocational calling. At times, the performance feels like a decent into madness, but the audience is quickly brought back to a place of neutrality with a sharp reminder that the young woman is searching for her identity through the repeated words “Who am I”. Kelsey’s use of yarn hung continuously in various corners of the stage and around her neck is interesting, but I’m not convinced its suited for the performance. The yarn seems to convey that the young woman is confined by the web she laid herself, but the rest of the performance indicated that the young woman fell prisoner to the mental disorders have taken a hold of her. Although presented as a work in progress, the performance felt underrehearsed, as the audience saw the actress read straight from the pages containing her lines.
Mer Weinhold: Disjointed scenes illustrate the struggle with identity, thought processes of anxiety, and how those can be passed down within a family. a n X i e t y w o m X n features fascinating use of yarn as a set piece, in which the performer gets progressively more tangled as the show continues, despite efforts to free herself. As a technical comment, the play opens with recorded audio, which was difficult to hear – perhaps a sound balance issue that will be resolved in other performances. Note that this is a work in progress, and feedback is welcome, so take the opportunity to share your thoughts.
Choreographed & performed by Geoffrey Dollar
Livia Belcea: Geoffrey Dollar is a powerful, elegant and technical dancer. Through spoken word and dance, he challenges the audience to reimagine contemporary dance and movement by sharing his own experience of dancing, moving and going through space as a performer with limited visual sight. The use of lighting in the performance and its simplicity drew the audience’s attention to each of Geoffrey’s movement, but given the complexity of dancing and speaking at the same time, his words were sometimes hard to hear. This was unfortunate, as Geoffrey’s poetic account of how his perception has changed as a non-visual learner was just as, if not more, mesmerizing to me than the way he moved.
Mer Weinhold: Plays containing moments of dance are reasonably common in my theatre-going experience, but InSight is the first dance performance containing pieces of thespianism I’ve encountered. Dollar opens by contrasting objective, quantitative sensation and subjective, qualitative perception, and how these combine in works of art. Beautiful use of lighting highlights how we, as an audience, rely on sight to experience dance, while as a dancer the performer is primarily using hearing, touch, and somatic senses to move in relation to music. A short, captivating piece that embodies the new and experimental side of the Fresh Meat festival.
The Fresh Meat theatre festival plays in Arts Court Studio (2 Daly Avenue) from October 12-14 and 19-21. Showtime is 7:30pm for all days. Tickets are $20 advance or at the door, or $15 in advance for both Thursdays. For complete details, visit the Fresh Meat website.