One of the really great things about Fringe is that it allows artists to embrace forms of performance beyond the drama or one-man show. AL Connors: DJ Detective is definitely a one-man show, but it also beautifully integrates the non-traditional performance of DJing in a way that tailors each performance to its own audience.
On a stage that is bare besides a large speaker and a small digital console, Connors regales us with stories from his DJing career that illustrate the dos and don’ts of playing music for parties – when to trust the person making a questionable request, the respective merits of digital vs. vinyl systems, and the like. The observations are not earth-shattering – many of them seem like common sense – but they are as easy to ignore as they are observed, like people hovering their drinks precariously over the sound equipment (anyone can commit a party foul, especially if they’ve had a few). There’s not much hard science at play here (besides explaining how to speed up or slow down a song so that the two beats blend seamlessly into each other), but Connors still approaches the content in ways that approach the scientific method, such as classifying songs by level of intensity (one does not merely begin the dance party with Footloose).
There’s a strong audience participation element in DJ Detective as well: before going into the venue audience members have the opportunity to write down requests and leave them in a box, which Connors then takes into the performance, playing a different one when the moment calls for it. As an additional bonus, at the opening performance Connors was able to directly call out an audience member for once making an absolutely terrible request (the song involves canines and not knowing who has released them). I can’t guarantee that this kind of thing will happen at every performance, but the performer onstage being able to follow up on their story with the actual person involved lends a special kind of presence to a show. Besides this, Connors also plays songs that weren’t requested by audience members, as part of the final mystery of each performance: what song will get people up and dancing? By seeing how the audience reacts to certain songs as well with other variables in play such as the average age in the room, every performance ends with Connors playing the song that works for each audience.
If you’re looking for a show where AL Connors tells you his life story, this is not it – there are some amusing personal stories but the main focus is on the art of the DJ, and this fine focus keeps the show driving forward on when it could very easily slip into tangents of “this one time…” All the anecdotes we hear are integrated into the show due to an important lesson that each has to offer as we learn more and more about this type of performance. AL Connors: DJ Detective is not a drama with emotional stakes but it’s not quite a lecture either: it’s an educational show put together by someone who really knows how to keep people’s attention and how to classify things that most people wouldn’t think to mentally organize. Most of the lessons learned in this show are equally applicable to more theatrical pursuits like drama and comedy (especially improv), so I would recommend this show to anyone at Fringe with an interest in performing, or music, or dance (I’m sure there must be a few people here like that).
Written and Performed by AL Connors
At Studio Léonard-Beaulne (Venue 3)
Running Time: 60 minutes
Saturday 10 June 6:30pm
Sunday 11 June 10:00pm
Tuesday 13 June 7:30pm
Friday 16 June 8:30pm
Sunday 18 June 5:00pm