La Baraque is a small and cozy venue hidden in a centennial house on one of the busiest parts of Saint Catherine Street. The only indication of something happening inside is a handwritten note taped to the door. The upstairs is painted in warm colours and spotted with antiques and knick-knacks; it feels like you’re in some the living room of someone exceptionally cool. This is partly true because people do live there. When I first arrive, a woman is eating her dinner at the counter in the kitchen. On my way out, a shirtless man who seems fresh out of the shower goes to the fridge and grabs a beer. This place feels comfortable and homey.
The performance space itself is just a big open room, but it still feels intimate; there are more trinkets scattered about, a crumbling wall slowly revealing the brick underneath, and an assortment of mismatched chairs and cushions. La Baraque is the perfect location to see Jacqueline Van de Geer.
The last time I saw Van de Geer perform was in an equally unconventional space: a hotel room. She was presenting In Transit, an interactive game where the spectator rolls a dice and is transported to a foreign city and given an ethereal guided tour. Only three people could participate at once, but I would have done it over and over had I been allowed.
This year’s Infringement Festival has two more Van de Geer originals: Paperbag Queen and Dogwoman. Paperbag Queen was the first of the two performances, with Van de Geer taking the audience on a tour of a strange country where she is queen. The audience waves at her with paper bags on their hands; we talk about religion, politics, and romance; we all slow dance.
Before the show Van de Geer was walking about the lobby, fixing her fake moustache, getting herself a drink, and chatting with guests. There seems to be no boundary between her and the character she performs. In fact, the most poignant moments of the show are the charming anecdotes she tells of her youth: one about dancing with toilet paper as a child, the other about having large feet (size 12!).
The second performance of the evening was written and hosted by Van de Geer and performed by Ianos Mammio and Julia Dawiskiba. Dogwoman is a self-described Dada play in which we are shown a ballet dancer/dogwoman and her owner/Santa Claus as they enact and subvert their relationship of dominance and submission. At least, I think that’s what happened. I’m sure somebody else would have a different take. Whatever it was, it was a lot of nonsensical fun. It was also short, and irrationality in small doses can be very refreshing.
Sadly, the short run of these shows has already come to its end. If you find yourself in Toronto Paperbag Queen will be at this year’s Fringe Festival starting July 7th. For fans of offbeat and wacky interactive theatre, Van de Geer’s show is sure to please.
For more information on upcoming events at the Infringement Festival, running until June 26, visit their site: http://www.infringementfestival.com/montreal/. For info on La Baraque, see http://www.labaraque.ca/