8th Phenomena Festival: an exceptionally exuberant edition

What an incredible 8th edition of Phenomena Festival that was both a marathon and an explosion of fireworks for 21 days. My team and I are very proud and rightfully so.

There was the magnificent Phenomenal Parade that gathered 500 participants in costumes, two fanfares, stiltwalkers, a skater, and rollerskaters in wedding dresses. All of whom proudly walked along Saint-Laurent boulevard under a radiant sun, while a crowd of over 1000 people watched them in awe.

Numain by Stéphane Crête garnered critical acclaim and was presented to sold-out audiences for 5 evenings and one additional performance (by popular demand) at La Chapelle Scènes contemporaines. Singulier Pluriel’s Valparaíso was also hailed by critics and fans alike during its highly sought-after 10 performances.

The cabarets and shows presented at La Sala Rossa were also notable successes. Effervescence, poetry, passion, emotion, diversity and extravagance were aplenty throughout the Festival. With a 94% attendance rate and 4 full-house evenings, we welcomed a large number of audience members. Thanks to Lucie Bazzo’s ingenious decoration and Michel Fordin’s lighting prowess, La Sala Rossa was once again enhanced and uplifted by the spirit of Phenomena.

Amongst our coup de coeurs:

The exuberant evening entitled Royaume de Kekeland in tribute to Brigitte Fontaine divided by two acts: a poetic theatrical performance by Collectif Tôle, and a rock ’n roll anarchist gathering by Edith Michel and le Bien-Être Social Club.

A remarkably spot-on DADA Cabaret directed by Theatre de La Pire Espèce, hosted by two irresistible oddballs and delivered by iconoclastic, funny and heart-warming artists. We were very happy to celebrate their 20-year-anniversary with them.

A historical and unforgettable evening, our first Deaf performances cabaret, under the artistic direction of Véro Leduc and Jack Volpe. 9 performers and 9 interpreters generously welcomed all who were present to witness and learn about deaf cultures. Such an incredible and effervescent encounter between deaf and hearing audience members instigated vibrant conversations in French, English, LSQ and ASL.

A very entertaining electoral evening in the company of Theatre de la LNI’s savvy improv comedians and Christian Vanasse, a distinctly inspired moderator. It was an absolute joy to experience the political landscape of the past couple of weeks, including political faux-pas, through the lens of the LNI.

An object-theatre evening in two parts, wherein two generations of artists were invited on stage. We congratulate Théâtre du Renard’s fresh artistic take on quantum physics in La Rébellion du minuscule — we discovered a world of particules! Subsequently, Le Sous-marin jaune presented La Pensée sauvage, a passionate and imagery-filled conversation between Loup bleu and Claude Lévi-Strauss. Hats off to Antoine Laprise and his team for this charming, funny and brilliant show, especially created for Phenomena.

Our first DADA Cabaret in English was also a big hit, due in no small part to the evening’s hosts Alexis O’Hara and Stephen Lawson. We were positively floored by their presentations and their outrageous costumes. We were presented with DADA performances that were at once striking, conceptual, political and at times simply… beautifully poetic.

The long-awaited evening that joined Joséphine Bacon and singer-songwriter Matiu was indeed the connection we all were waiting for. Lucky were those who were there to witness Joséphine in her beauty and smiling grace, declaiming her texts in tranquil strength. Many audience members were deeply touched by her presence and words, and many bubbled in laughter from her facetious stories. Matiu, expert entertainer with his disarming oppeness and candor, won the hearts of audience members who spontaneously got up from their seats to sing and dance with him. A profound, honest, vibrant evening of authentic connection between artists and audience.

We were excited to discover the artists performing at our first alternative drag and burlesque cabaret, and they did not disappoint. These artists delivered extravagant, colorful, at times unsettling performances that shook up stereotypes and pre-conceived notions of what burlesque and drag is about. We witnessed a heartfelt complicity amongst artists spaning across generations and styles, as well as ample generosity throughout the evening. We congratulate Rosie Bourgeoisie and Ilana Shecter for their artistic codirection.

Finally, we’d like to salute Jacqueline Van de Geer and Michael Martini’s duo laboratory performance that explored different theatrical deaths through humour and whismy. We also pursued our charming exhibition of Lucie Bazzo’s luminous 3D artwork presented in the display windows of twenty shop-owners in the Mile End. The exhibition was combined with three guided tours in the neighbourhood created in collaboration with Mile End Memories.

And how does one feel after such an amazing Festival edition? Proud, delighted and above all grateful. Grateful for the different art councils that support us, for my board of directors who endorse my artistic vision, and for the artists who work hard to present top notch creations. I’m grateful for our collaborators Luc Beauchemin (graphic design), Caroline Hayeur (photo and video), Tomi Grgicevic (video), Patsy Van Roost (an inspiring Fairy), Lucie Bazzo (scenography) and Michel Fordin (lighting design), for our partners who help us to go further and and do better. I’m also grateful for our amazing volunteers and, of course, for my two work colleagues Charlie Julien and Cleo da Fonseca. I am infinitely grateful for the audiences who heeded the call and came to see the result of all our efforts.

And what now? We keep on working on our other projects, because Les Filles électriques is also a creation company. Next step: our show Comment j’ai appris à parler aux oiseaux presented on November 16th at Maison de la culture Janine-Sutto and on November 23rd at the Centre culturel de Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, as part of the Conseil des arts de Montréal en tournée program.

Yours, as electric as always,
D. Kimm
General and Artistic Director
Les Filles électriques / Festival Phénomena

Thank you to our collaborators and funders: Canada Coucil for the Arts, Conseil des arts de Montréal, Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, Canadian Heritage, the City of Montréal, la Fondation des Sourds du Québec, SIVET and Bell.