Halifax Fringe has come and gone for another year, but here are some final reviews from the last day of the festival.
A Feebleminded Dictator
By Brittny Rebhuhn, Kate Tobie, and Eric Johnston
Perhaps the strangest Fringe offering this year, A Feebleminded Dictator is a shadow play about two women and their tyrannical matriarch. Mantis (Erin Johnston) and Mouse (Brittny Rebhuhn) are under constant punishment or threat from Mum (Kate Tobie), a woman whose world revolves solely around her own desires. Mantis and Mouse snicker and scheme, plot some revenge, and mayhem ensues. A Feebleminded Dictator is absurd and grotesque, and the three women fearlessly portray some of the uglier aspects of the human desire for power. This play is visually impressive, astute, and a whole lot of fun. – Michael Lake
By Dan Bray & Jacob Sampson
Halifax theatre darlings Dan Bray and Jacob Sampson have created a comedy spoof of the Sherlock Holmes story, with Bray as a bumbling, drug-addicted Holmes, and Sampson as Watson, whose actual job is to keep the detective in line. Bray and Sampson, real life buds, have great chemistry onstage, and it’s pretty adorable to watch. Melissa MacGougan gives a deft performance, playing every other character in the play, changing costumes and accents like nobody’s business. The Return to Baker Street was a huge Fringe hit, and fun for the whole family. Except for the kids. Because Holmes does a lot of blow. – Michael Lake
The Lost Gentleman
By Jean-Francois Plante-Tan
Jean-Francois is a very earnest man and The Lost Gentleman is a very earnest play. In this one-man show, Plante-Tan tells his story of growing up thinking that the way to a woman’s heart was to become a perfect gentleman. This plan, predictably, results in heartbreak and bewilderment for our poor protagonist. The crystal clear reason is that his notion of a gentleman is someone who is kind and considerate but then feels entitled to the love of any woman he deems worthy of his affection. That said, Plante-Tan gives no indication that he loves, or even cares at all about women. Women, to him, are mere objects that either fit into his twisted notion of what romance is, or are the objects of his derision. In one of the play’s most offensive scenes – and there are many – he tells a story of feeling a moment of vulnerability with a former girlfriend, only to call her a bitch when he describes how she broke his heart. Or another, when he describes becoming “a real life gangster” in order to date a black girl who he calls “the Beyonce of the group”. Such examples of Plante-Tan’s obliviousness are abundant. Over the course of The Lost Gentleman, he frequently reminds his audience that he respects women, but the stories he tells indicate that this couldn’t be further from the truth.
It should be said that Plante-Tan’s notion of a gentleman is not a gentleman at all, but a misogynist. His gentleman feels entitled to the love and companionship of a woman simply because he is on his best behaviour. His gentleman believes that a woman who says yes, and then says no, is manipulative and deplorable rather than a person making a choice. Perhaps Plante-Tan’s gentleman should stop talking and try listening for a good, long while. – Michael Lake