How bummed was I to be missing Winnipeg Fringe this year?
I mean, come ON! Ottawa Fringe is my baby and always will be, but 170+ shows? All day, every day? And it sounded like a helluva lot of fun, from the Ottawa peeps who were in thee peg touring…the Godmeres did boffo business with VERNUS SAYS SURPRISE, wee Tess McManus did herself proud with DONKEY DERBY…and then, there was that one other show that I had NOT seen. A solo show by OSSD’s Colleen Sutton, someone I was only familiar with in passing. But after what sounded like a very successful run in Winnipeg, the lady Sutton decided to give Ottawa a pleasant surprise by offering a one-night remount of the show for us to enjoy, at the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama. And enjoy isn’t nearly a big enough word.
Colleen’s show RIDER GIRL is her own story, as well as the story of the century-old underdogs of the Canadian Football League, the Saskatchewan Rough Riders. Starting out as a reluctant band member at the games, Colleen is drawn into Rider mania by her football-fan mentor Sandra, a disturbingly endearing character who, true to her word, only gets louder as she goes. The story charts Colleen’s progress as a musician, actor AND Ridergirl, with Sutton’s undeniable green-and-white-clad charm powering the way forward. But bills, personal tragedies and fumbled balls start piling up, and what starts out looking like a fluffy comedy about CFL fandom turns into something far more memorable. There are tons of genuine laughs in RIDER GIRL, but the heart wrenching moments are a close second.
I’ve seldom, if ever seen a show with as much pure heart as this show, and Colleen Sutton (who I now proudly have a HUGE crush on, thank you very much) pours every last bit of herself into the performance. Seriously, you might find yourself wondering how she’s even still standing at the end of it. A quiet monologue this ain’t, folks. This is a rowdy, physical, trash-talking, hilarious and moving show that performs the heretofore presumed impossible task of bridging the gap between professional sports and independent theatre. And if Mam’selle Sutton (along with director Jan Irwin) doesn’t deserve an MVP for that, then fuck me, I don’t know who does. And I don’t even WATCH football.
Now, I don’t know how much use this particular review IS, as this was a one-night only show. But if there’s any justice in the universe (and we’ll let Riders fans decide that for themselves), Rider Girl will be back at next year’s Fringe, and maybe sooner. Undercurrents, anyone? Just a thought. Peace, love and soul, Ottawa,
The Visitor (and Winston)