Edmonton Fringe patron ‘furious’ after Victoria performer undresses him without consent

EDMONTON — A woman says she hopes Edmonton's Fringe theatre festival puts a greater emphasis on consent after a performer pulled her husband on stage and started to undress him, making him so upset that he called police.

Vikki Wiercinski and her husband have been avid festival-goers over the years and were taking in Wednesday evening's Late Night Cabaret, a racy variety show, with some friends.

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Right before intermission, she said, Victoria comedian Mike Delamont — in character as "God is a Scottish Drag Queen" — started lip-synching to "Let's Get It On," pulled her husband from the audience, took hold of him from behind and unbuttoned his shirt, exposing his bare chest to an audience of 100 or so people.

"He's the chillest human on Earth and I have never seen him this furious," Wiercinski said Thursday of her husband, Jim, who did not want to be interviewed or have his last name published.

She said they had been to other Late Night Cabaret performances in the past and, while they knew the show would be risque, they were not prepared for what happened.

After the bit, which lasted about 30 seconds, Delamont made a remark about having "passed all the rules of consent," Wiercinski said. The event's host said something to the effect of "get this man a drink" and offered drink tickets, she said.

The couple reported what happened on the Fringe's "safer spaces" web page, which states: "We believe EVERYONE has the right to fringe in a safe place, where they are welcomed and respected. If you witness or experience bullying, harassment, discrimination, abuse, threats, or assault, please submit a report below."

Jim also reported it as an assault to the Edmonton Police Service, but Wiercinski said officers were not receptive.

The Fringe said in a news release that it has begun a "structured dialogue with a patron."

The festival said the performer immediately recognized he did not have proper consent, stopped contact and acknowledged the error before leaving the stage.

The Fringe also said the artist apologized and police indicated they would not lay charges. Edmonton police did not immediately confirm that was the case.

Delamont said in an emailed statement he has volunteered to participate in sensitivity training.

"I immediately recognized I did not request clear consent, and that this individual may not be comfortable with participating. I stopped the scene and he left the stage," he said.

"I regret completely putting this individual in a position they were not comfortable with and I offer my sincerest apologies for any harm I have caused."

The Fringe later confirmed that Delamont will no longer be performing as part of Late Night Cabaret.

Fringe Theatre executive director Adam Mitchell said everyone has the right to feel respected and welcome.

"We are committed to supporting this patron in every way we can and will continue to take an active role in maintaining a safe space for everyone taking part in the festival."

Wiercinski acknowledged it's tough to balance a show's sense of spontaneity while ensuring proper consent when there's audience participation.

But the Fringe and other theatre outfits should have some sort of framework in place, she said.

"We have no idea what people's bodies have been through. This is not the case with my husband, but what if he was a childhood sexual trauma survivor?" she said.

"Ultimately, the trust got broken."

— By Lauren Krugel in Calgary

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