Culture & Conversation

Invitation to a Storm

Gone are the days when a theatre-goer could get a ticket, stand in line, sit in the dark watching a play, then go out for drinks and talk about what it all meant. At least at Festival Transamériques. Nella Tempesta greets you and the door and follows you home.

Keep Your Shirt On

Last night, South-African choreographer Robin Orlin and the Moving into Dance Mophatong company presented Beauty remained for just a moment then returned gently to her starting position… Despite Orlin’s international reputation as a creator of powerful and provocative works, Beauty failed to pack a serious punch, giving a disappointing start to the FTA festival for dance.

Byron’s Top Picks –Sight Unseen!

June is busting out ahead of schedule and all theatre eyes are on the annual Montreal St. Ambrose Fringe. Surely the 23rd coming is at hand..and what rough beast, its hour come round at last, now slouches toward the Plateau to be born? (Apologies to the late great W. B. Yeats.)

Hitting the Note Divine

A recent TED talk, The Surprising Need for Strangeness, emphasized the need for us to connect with people who are different from ourselves. Doing so helps us discover new ideas and avoid sameness. This notion can also be applied to music.

Dr Feelgood

I’m going to die. It’ll happen one day whether I like it or not, I won’t have a choice. Neither will you, your best friend, or your worst enemy. If we could invest in the inevitability, we’d all be rich. The problem is; dying isn’t sexy and it doesn’t sell, while fear, denial and escapism is the defining hustle of our time. Di(e)-agnosis? Death needs a makeover, a re-brand, stat!

5 Songs: Madonna

Madonna aka Madge — where do I begin? I mean, she is royalty in the music world. She sang about her virginity, burned crosses, kissed Britney Spears on national television, made Jean Paul Gauthier’s cones erect, wrote a children’s book…the list is endless and so is her playlist. You either love her or hate her, or even love to hate her. But since her debut in 1984, the woman has had an album or at least a song (I’m sure more than one) that you absolutely adored.

Intimate Soirée

I went into this not knowing quite what to expect. Aside from the fact that all the publicity material was in French (and my comprehension is – erf – on the patchy side), it was also fairly cryptic. “Prenez un verre et faites vos choix de tête-à-tête,” the e-flyer proclaimed. Okay, like one-on-one performances? Sure, I can get into that.

He Who Must (Not) Be Named

Foreign policy tends to get short shrift at key moments — like during election campaigns — in spite of having a profound effect on us in ways we are not even aware. I looked forward to this book by Montreal writer and political activist Yves Engler, who has earned a reputation as an intrepid researcher. The Ugly Canadian could not have come at a better time. Stephen Harper must be taken to task for tarnishing Canada’s international reputation.

All That Jazz On Acid

Everybody who hates the new film adaptation of The Great Gatsby seems to love parts of it. Both the New Yorker and the New York Times offered fairly scathing analyses – and high praise. Out of allegiance to the author, I decided to re-read Fitzgerald’s novel before seeing the movie.

Sherlock Stoned

It would hardly have taken the world’s greatest detective to deduce that Hollywood pulling-power, in the shape of local boy Jay Baruchel, combined with the brand name recognition of Conan Doyle’s immortal creation, would make Sherlock Holmes a surefire hit. Guttingly, the death of playwright-performer Greg Kramer just before rehearsals began have made this not just a major cultural event for the city but a celebration of the life and talent of one of its most mercurial theatre artists.

Growing Up Down

Suspectible is Geneviève Castrée’s first full-length English-language graphic novel. The multi-disciplinary artist and Quebec native has crafted a moving tale about Goglu, a bright, dreamy little girl who has a less than ideal start in life. As the title implies, she is sensitive, but Vulnerable would have also been a fitting title.

5 Songs: New Psychedelic

When the inevitable question is posed: “What time period would you have liked to live in besides this one?” I have an answer, 1968-1977, the glorious years when the Grateful Dead were at their best. When I listen to that music—at night, alone, tucked into bed, my ears pressed into the headphones—I am transported to a world that I know I have already been and will one day arrive at again. The Grateful Dead are like my spiritual womb to which I am always trying to return.

Method and Madness

Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion were in Montreal this past weekend for a blink-and-you’ll miss-it run of Cheap Lecture and The Cow Piece, followed by Counting to One Hundred and One Flute Note. Packaged by Usine C as Quatre Créations in two nights, the individual works seemed shakily whole – a feeling reinforced at the close of each by Burrows and Fargion’s look of bemused surprise that they had, once more, pulled it off.

Global Stage Soars

For a Quebec Anglo de souche or by adoption, there can’t be a better tonic to the maudit winter of our discontent than a spell at the Festival Transamérique, opening in Montreal next Wednesday. An 18-day many-lingual feast of cutting-edge dance and theatre from the world out there, this is the Quebec we know and love. The rest is just politics.