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Fringe This! Dickens of the Mounted

Posted by Jer / June 12, 2007

Ok. I know there is already a website devoted to buzz about the plays happening at Montreal's Fringe Festival. But due to awkward formatting and busy graphics on said site, I thought I'd start spreading some love for Fringe shows here on Midnight Poutine (if anyone else has any recommends, post a comment or contribute a post before the festival ends on the 17th).

Dickens of the Mounted is Canadian history told through the eyes of a heavy-drinking Mountie. What could be more Canadian, really (other than, of course, The Poutine Creation Story)? This isn't just any drunk Mountie though. As the title alludes, it's the true story of Frank Dickens, a rather unremarkable and reckless man who bears the burden of being the son of the late, great Charles Dickens.

The one-man play, adapted from a book of the same name written by Canadian humorist Eric Nicol, takes place during the period shortly after confederation when Canada was expanding westward, much to the dismay of the Métis and other First Nations peoples the Europeans were dispossessing. Dickens, who has neither his father's charm nor talent, is sent rather unceremoniously to join the RCMP (what does it say about our national force when Dickens' other choice was to face jail time in England).

In Canada, the younger Dickens exercises what little literary aspirations he inherited by writing letters to England, first to an old friend/bar mate, then to a younger, prettier pen pal. Through these letters we come to know the troubled past of both Dickens and Canada.

One person plays can be either hit or miss. Luckily this one falls into the former category. Kris Bruun - who draws on his experiences from military college and from boozing on stage in university plays - is excellent as the misguided Mountie. He plays the role with equal parts humour and loneliness, eliciting enough laughs to keep the play moving while never forgetting that the tale he tells is ultimately a disturbing one. Director Brad Lepp does a great job of pacing the scenes and squeezing loads of action from a minimal set (two steel suitcases and two planks of wood make a horse, a canoe, and an outhouse at various points in the play).

Other than a rushed and somewhat forced ending (the likely by-product of turning a 300 page book into a 30 page script) and some unnecessary fussing with the wooden plank props, there are few weak points in Dickens of the Mounted. The play, like the story it depicts, travels westward from here to Toronto, Sakstoon, Vancouver and other fringes. If you're looking to re-look Canada's history, through some slightly fuzzy whiskey-goggles, I can't think of a better way. Grab your whiskey, and your grade 7 history textbook and go enjoy yourselves.

Dickens of The Mounted runs every night this week, at the Association Portugaise du Canada (4170 St. Urbain). Showtimes vary. Admission is free to Mounties in full dress, $7 for students, and $9 for everyone else.



alanah / June 12, 2007 at 01:09 pm
For more reviews of Fringe performances, as well as the music, art-mart and other events associated with the fringe, check out the blog over at
Michael Black / June 12, 2007 at 03:00 pm
Or better yet, a far more complete list of what's being
said about the Fringe,
<a href="";></a>
which has been a better list than at the Fringe website for
years, though I don't know about this year. But I refuse
to put "indyish" on the list because of them being yet
more carpetbaggers coming in, adding clutter to the Fringe,
yet oblivious to all that has come before, and oblivious
to what is happening now.

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