Montreal Fringe Festival: Spoken word around the edges

Our lives are never simple, and it can take a lot of inner strength to get through the tough parts. That calls for artistic treatment.

Carole TenBrink and Stephanie Lawrence explore some of the outer limits in their spoken word show Extreme States, another Montreal St. Ambroise Fringe Festival production with six performances that captures our attention.

Mental breakdown and psychedelic voyages are explored as two women – one younger, one older – follow these paths to find the power that lies within. The actors/writers say their focus on “expanding human consciousness” makes mental health extremes accessible and tangible to a broad audience.

TenBrink was featured at last year’s Fringe in Myth Mirrors Punk. A poet, she says she discovered the Spoken Word form a decade ago and was “overjoyed to get poetry off the pages and onto the stage.”

In her shows, TenBrink says she strives to take performance “back to its primal roots where ritual, breath, rhythm, and movement carry audiences to larger awareness.” With that dynamic approach, featuring lots of energy and spunk, she says she aims “to move people emotionally to the edge of their seats.”

Stephanie Lawrence, with a mixed British and Jamaican background, had a real-life “extreme-state” experience in hospital, and, as she says, her story “came pouring out.”

Her story is delivered in Hip-Hop style, and with flowing musical rhythms captures the “gritty reality” of the human condition as she has confronted it around the edges.

Carole and Stephanie met at a spoken word event where they performed. Stephanie recalls thinking, “this woman knows a thing or two.”

The result is Extreme States – in Stephanie’s words, “bringing stories of healing through trauma and psychological breakdown into the mainstream of public discussion.”

Carole says she has this deep desire to “access the depth – that 98 per cent of untapped human capacity.”

Extreme States is on at Montreal Improv Theatre, 3977 St. Laurent, June 14, 9:45 pm; June 15, 6 pm; June 17, 7 pm; June 19, 2:30 pm. Tickets: 514-849-FEST or

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