Get dozens of artists together and give them carte blanche to discuss anything their hearts desire, and politics are bound to come up. This year’s Fringe Fest offers two delightfully different takes on democracy – one featuring sexual assault and the other, water sports. Rover is here to evaluate the candidates. Debate to follow.
Let’s Start a Country – &&&&
Comedians Asaf Gerchak and Gerard Harris take to the stage (well it was more like an empty pool) at Bain St-Michel for a show that could be described as hilarious, participatory, and educational. With the help of the audience, Gerchak and Harris declare sovereignty and turn an old indoor pool into a brand new 1500 square foot independent nation. All that needs to be done is create a flag, develop policies and most importantly, find a name for the new nation.
Harris leads the discussion, calling on the audience for suggestions/filling important government roles. Sprinkled throughout the show are tidbits of trivia that concern issues of sovereignty throughout world history. While Harris and the audience work together to help define the country, Gerchak plays a variety of characters (including anchorman Manly Peterbridge and an eccentric European flag designer) that help to drive a delightfully silly and bizarre narrative that pits their new nation against the Canadian government and curmudgeonly MP bent on stopping Gerchak and Harris at all costs.
A show like this, with so much going on, could easily turn into a disorganized mess. Harris and Gerchak however, skillfully transition between the narrative and the group discussion with ease. This is done with the help of a variety of media, including video, Power Point and a diplomatic toy-robot-dog. The show is so perfectly organized and presented, it’s almost a shame that it’s not longer. With the energy, humour and clever writing driving this show, 45 minutes in length just doesn’t feel like enough.
FUCKING STEPHEN HARPER- &&&
The Title of this show can be interpreted in a number of ways. It can be OH THAT FUCKING STEPHEN HARPER HAS DONE IT AGAIN, or HOW TO ENGAGE IN SEXUAL ASSAULT ON STEPHEN HARPER and finally, LET’S FUCK STEPHEN HARPER OVER. The truth is, it’s a little bit of all three.
Essentially, FUCKING STEPHEN HARPER is two stories. Firstly, it tells the story of journalist (and show host) Rob Salerno’s journalistic career, and how he became known as the “crazed gay journalist” who allegedly sexually assaulted the Prime Minister a few years ago. But more importantly, it chronicles the oppressive and homophobic policies that the Conservative government has put in place since coming to power, as well as the downright hateful nature of some Conservative party MPs.
Salerno is a gifted storyteller with great stage presence. The story itself unfortunately has too many tangents that cause it to veer off-course and occasionally lose some of its steam. Although, I’m hesitant to criticize him too much for this, because the tangents were often about important LGBT related issues.
FUCKING STEPHEN HARPER also serves as an introduction to Salerno’s book of the same name. Proceeds from book sales, which Salerno was selling at the show, (more information on the book is available here http://www.tenfootpole.ca/merch.php) will be going to charities to help people living with HIV/AIDS – charities that mercilessly had their funding cut by the Conservative government.
Let’s Start a Country plays tonight, tomorrow and Sunday at Bain St-Michel, 5300 St-Dominique. Fucking Stephen Harper plays tonight, Saturday and Sunday at Petit Campus, 57 Prince-Arthur street East. For more information visit www.montrealfringe.ca.