Reviews - Fringe 2019

Monster

By Brian Morton
Published July 25, 2019


Daniel MacIvor is a legend on the Canadian theatre scene. Since founding his theatre company, da da camera, with director Daniel Brooks in 1986, he has written and acted in a series of one man plays that remind one of the work of New York performance artist Spaulding Grey. Many of MacIvor's plays are based upon his own experiences as a gay man and in a meta-theatrical way blur the distinctions between reality and fiction. In other words, what is true and what is not.

Which leads us to consider "Monster", MacIvor's 1998 play, which is getting a revival at the studio at Theatre Aquarius, as part of the the 2019 Hamilton Fringe. It is produced by Twitches & Itches Theatre from down the QEW in St. Catherine's, a company that did "September Songs" last year, which was a favourite production.

It is enacted here by Colin Bruce Anthes, a rather intense performer with a powerful energy that single-handedly drives this production forward. He is mesmerizing and flips characters and voices effortlessly, while spending almost the entire length of this 75 minute play squatting on a black cube, centre stage, and reacting to the audience that he shouts at and berates, and many sound and lighting cues that change the reality of what he is presenting to us.

The story the play tells is about a film-maker who is writing a horror film script about a son who murders and dismembers his father. These events may or may not have been based upon an incident from his own life. We also find ourselves at a twelve step meeting, listening to addicts share their "feeling" about the trauma of their lives. All of these stories weave in and out of themselves so that we are deliberately unsure of how the disparate elements of the narrative relate to one another.

This is a very powerful play with a deep message, and it has been produced here in this version at the Hamilton Fringe exceptionally well. I can find no fault with it except one. And it is this.

The solo plays that MacIvor has staged over the past twenty-five years are so stamped with his performance style and mannerisms. The only one that I ever had the chance to see MacIvor perform in was "House", way back in 1995. A truly memorable evening at the theatre.

Every single production that I have ever seen of one of his solo plays always feels like some kind of tribute act - just like seeing Beatlemania, the broadway musical that started the whole phenomenon. I enjoy seeing these recreations and sing happily along with the songs, but while watching I always remind myself that the guy playing left-handed bass is no Paul McCartney.

MacIvor makes his living from other people performing his plays, but just once I would love to see a production that transforms the script and ignores what Daniel MacIvor originally created. Give me a version of "Monster" performed by a woman perhaps, or a 70-year-old man!

Still, as the Fringe is intended to be an introduction to different styles of theatre, this version of "Monster" is a fine way to discover to MacIvor's playwrighting for the many audience members who will never have heard of let alone seen any of his work.

Brian Morton is a director and playwright, and was the recipient of the 2013 Hamilton Arts Award for Theatre. In 1988, after two years training in Montreal at the National Theatre School of Canada, Morton was the founder and first artistic director of Theatre Terra Nova, which operated out of a 100 seat theatre on Dundurn Street. Three years after that, he was a partner with Guy Sprung in the Evelyn Group, which reopened the historic 750 seat Tivoli Theatre, as a venue for live performance with a production of Douglas Rodger’s play “How Could You, Mrs Dick?”, which dramatized the story of Hamilton’s notorious Evelyn Dick. With Theatre Erebus, he produced the UK premieres of four Canadian plays for the 1990 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. His stage adaptation of Sylvia Fraser’s “My Father’s House”, has had five productions, since it debuted in in 1992, at the Dundas Centre for the Arts. Morton’s “New Talent” was the highest grossing show in the 2008 Hamilton Fringe Festival, and in 2010, it toured to the London and Toronto Fringe Festivals. Brian’s original musical, “Under the Apple Tree”, about a shooting that happened backstage, at the Lyric theatre on Mary street in November 1921, debuted in the 2018 Hamilton Fringe Festival, and was presented at the 300-seat Zoetic Theatre; it got a second run at the Pearl Company, this past November. Brian was also the producer of the 2012 Hamilton Fringe Festival. He is currently a drama critic, and arts journalist for "VIEW Magazine", and has also published articles in the “Hamilton Spectator” and the “McMaster Silhouette”.

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