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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday Feature - The Last Fringe Blog: Robin Henderson (The Only Bar)

It's days after the Fringe has wrapped and while my laundry mountain continues to build - I am still floating on happy Fringe feelings. 

What a phenomenal festival and what a phenomenal theatre experience for “The Only Bar”.  

Sitting third on the Fringe lottery waiting list for a very long time is what inspired the idea of mounting our production in a real taverne.  That and a lack of budget.  None of us had ever gone through a site-specific theatre experience before – so we had no idea of what to expect.  We really didn’t know if it would work or if it would be a total bust.  Especially when Boston and Vancouver made it into the final round of the playoffs.  But “The Only Bar” has been “punk-rock” since its original late night conception at the 24-hour musicals, so we relished the challenge of the bathroom doors slamming, regulars talking through our show, cash-registers ringing, hand-dryers buzzing and fire-truck sirens ablaze.

Without question, all future remounts of the show will be influenced by this run at the Verres Sterilises. From our collective 12 years of treeplanting experience, both Alain and I have spent a lot of time in drinking holes.  However, now that we’ve had the luxury of spending two weeks in this specific taverne, we are necessarily walking away with a ton of new inspiration.  From the soundscape, to the set design, to the interpersonal relationships – we absolutely have a deeper understanding of the characters, conversations and drama that unfolds in spaces like these.

Sure we had a couple of uncomfortable moments, including on the first night when one of the regulars scrawled “en francais svp” on one of our posters and then shredded it.  But the many magical moments shared between us, the audience, the staff and the regulars far outshone any negativity.

Surprisingly, my favourite performances were those on the nights the playoffs were on.  The true mirror of the characters on stage vs the guys at the back of the bar was extremely exciting.  There was so much tension, testosterone and stink in the air that the actors were always super fired up. Having to match the energy in the room and be spontaneous with whatever was happening in real time ended up inspiring many humorous, entertaining and even touching moments. Pure theatre muscle was flexed on those nights folks!!!

But even more hilarious, was the bar-staff adding their personal touch to the show.  Thierry has been working at Verres Sterilises for 13 years and is a fantastic bartender.  On his final shift, he waited until the show started to lean over to me and share that he had switched the fake drinks for real ones.  What can you do?  So funny to watch the actors try to not react. 

While we hadn’t originally intended to perform in a bar, we don’t have a single regret from mounting our production at the Verres Sterilises.  “The Only Bar” is in its early stages of development and it was a wonderful challenge to be playing in a “live space”.  We embraced the Fringe spirit and tried something a little more unpredictable for both our audience and us and we believe it turned out brilliantly for what it was. 

I captured some fun moments in “The Back Alley Chronicles” before and after our shows to share with all of you.  Below are my some of my favourite vids of the week. All the vids are raw footage from my iphone and completely unedited. Check ‘em out. Mark Louch drunkenly shares the story of the fight that broke out outside of the Verres Sterilises 5 minutes before opening night. Stephanie McKenna as she enters to start the show. Tango breaks out in the back alley.

Aaron Turner plays the ukulele version of “Man of the Year”.

Finally, thank-you to everyone who came out to see “The Only Bar” and a special thank-you to the staff and regulars at the Verres Sterilises for making us feel so welcomed.  I encourage everyone to go and have a pint there because it’s a cool place but also because the drink prices are from the 90s!! 

Much Fringe love!

Robin x

To find the rest of the blog and all the articles about the Fringe, this year, click here.

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