Montreal Fringe: The No Bull$#!% History of Canada and Bar Kapra the Squirrel Hunter: No-bullshit reviews

0 Posted by - June 13, 2015 - Features, Performance, Reviews

A tight, well-paced show, The No Bull$#!% History of Canada rips through 600+ years of history in what feels like ten minutes.

Given the vast timespan explored in what is actually just under an hour, it’s impossible to expect that anything will be covered in any kind of depth, so writer/performer Kyle Allatt focuses on the weird, hilarious, and little-known to make something that (be honest) we all yawned through in school lively and entertaining.

With that said, the first half of the show, dealing mainly with Canada’s colonial history, manages to largely overlook settlers’ treatment of indigenous peoples, referring to the latter in passing as “natives”. It’s not clear if this is intended as irony, but either way, it’s a disappointing choice from an otherwise intelligent writer who has clearly done the research, and whose show opened shortly after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report was released.

While Allatt’s 30-second history of women’s rights in Canada is sharp and on point, the slightly longer passage devoted to les Filles du roy (17th-century orphaned, poor, or otherwise marginalized French women effectively trafficked to settlers for use as white-baby-making machines) could benefit from a rewrite informed by that same kind of critical insight.

Some of the slides in the PowerPoint Allatt relies on for visual gags could also benefit from a more careful reconsideration. While the anachronisms in many of the slides are well-played, reducing entire cultures to literal caricatures (for example, using a cartoon leprechaun to represent an Irish settler) is an unfortunate choice that detracts from the hilarity of his storytelling.

Overall, this is a show with huge potential, from a confident and solid performer. Allatt has been touring this on the Canadian Fringe circuit for three years and it has doubtless been tweaked along the way; here’s hoping it gets a much more progressive tweak before he tours it again.

The No Bull$#!% History of Canada plays until June 21 at the Black Theatre Workshop, 3680 Jeanne-Mance, 4th floor. NB: the venue is accessible only by one small, slow elevator – give yourself lots of time to get there.

Bar Kapra the Squirrel Hunter, the latest offering from Scapegoat Carnavale, is the kind of show that works as whatever you want it to work as.

Bar’s mission is to hunt squirrels into extinction, Bat’s role is to collect Bar’s dead squirrels, while Trout follows behind on clean-up duty. Inevitably, self-interest and suspicion lead to an accident which sets off a tense, darkly comic chain of events, punctuated by appearances from an ever-growing squirrel population.

An allegory about sustainability, class, intersectionality, conflict and co-operation, communication breakdowns, or anything else you care to read into it, the play uses Trout’s synesthesia as well as continually shifting power dynamics between all three characters to explore how one seemingly simple thing can appear drastically different from one individual perspective to another. Which perhaps explains why it’s so easy to see so many possible subtexts in it, and why, without spoiling, the ending seemed too neat, predictable, and earnest.

Featuring three of Montreal’s best actors, as well as two puppeteers and a musician, Bar Kapra is exceptionally well-acted, and also very nicely staged given the limited resources inherent in mounting a Fringe show. This production seems like sitting in on one of the city’s more interesting (and exceptionally talented) groups workshopping something new, and which seems intended for the “alternative” programming stream at one of Montreal’s conservative, mainstream theatres. If that’s the case, then the ending is entirely suitable for that audience.

Regardless though, this is absolutely worth the time, and the ticket price is a bargain considering the calibre of the artists involved.

Bar Kapra the Squirrel Hunter plays until June 19 at Théâtre La Chapelle, 3700 St-Dominique.

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