Okay, so confession time…I’ve seen the fabulous one-woman comedy ROLLER DERBY SAVED MY SOUL a grand total of six times, if you can believe that. SIX. Even more unbelievable, this last time? Was the first time. Again. Lemme ‘splain.
Local Ottawa Theatre Heroine Nancy Kenny has been making waves with this show since it debuted at Ottawa Fringe in 2011 to great houses and well earned acclaim. It has toured to several cities, been treated to repeat performances, and gotten the enthusiastic backing of Roller Derby leagues across the country. And ya know I loved the bejeezus out of it. But heading into 2014, Nancy somehow wasn’t satisfied, and went back to the drawing board. Having already added a new soundtrack courtesy of ace composer and sound guy Steven Lafond, she started revisiting the script, working with director Tania Levy to streamline, tweak and ultimately (hopefully) improve on what was already a very solid crowd pleaser of a show. And recently, just before heading to London to embark on a major cross Canada tour of the show, she debuted it at a one night-only Ottawa fundraiser party. The party was sold out in advance…a taste, one hopes, of things to come.
The story follows meek Amy, an underachieving nerdgirl who’s just turned 30 and still hasn’t really accomplished much besides memorizing the lines from her favourite BUFFY episodes, and harbouring a niggling resentment towards younger sister June, who continues to surpass her in every field with what appears to be minimal effort. June’s latest conquest is roller derby, and as a peace offering she invites her little (older) sister to a match. Amy is baffled but intrigued, and without understanding why exactly, finds herself signing up for a recruitment drive. And then it all hits the fan (or, as it were, the track).
DERBY has, I can safely say, indeed been improved by the rework, just as funny and endearing as previous but with a newfound strength at its heart that lifts it up throughout. This is a show that has done some SERIOUS core work, folks, and it shows. Amy’s strained relationship with sister June is brought beautifully to the fore, as are her increasingly complex feelings for her Amazonian derby trainer Diana. The laughs are still plentiful (especially in a wonderfully awkward moment of overdrinking halfway through), the new score rocks, and the stakes are higher than ever as Amy’s struggle to find herself takes some sharp, and occasionally painful turns. It’s a show that does your heart good, folks, and it’s gotten a little wiser as it has grown. I can’t imagine how nerve-wracking it must be to go back and rework an already proven and acclaimed show like this…yet one more reason why Nancy Kenny is kinda my hero.
And here’s a good reason why she’ll soon be yours, too…on top of touring the show, Nancy and her team will also be filming for a feature length documentary, ON THE FRINGE, following life on the Canadian Fringe Festival circuit. It’s an ambitious and insanely exciting project and I already can’t wait to see the finished product, and neither can you! So do yourself a major favour if you’re anywhere along her path across Canada this summer…check out the show, smile for the cameras, and just maybe save your soul while you’re at it. What the Hell, it’s a great song anyhow.
Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid (and Winston)
– ROLLER DERBY SAVED MY SOUL will be touring Fringes across Canada this summer, including London, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Victoria and Vancouver. Check the website for all the info! #rdsms #onthefringe