Fourth day of Ottawa Fringe, and my third show in a row at the lovely Academic Hall. What can I say, I like a good room. Another good turnout for the day, this time for a local show that originally premiered in shorter form at the original FRESH MEAT theatre festival a couple of years ago. It’s creator, Tess McManus of Little Green Hat productions, has expanded her work into something new, and is premiering it here in Ottawa before taking it on the road.

Called TALES SHE TELLS, the show is a storytelling tour through Irish mythology and legend, via our narrator Tess, who is recounting the stories her Mum told her when shew was a wee thing. The stories have common roots…a love affair predestined by magic, but seemingly destined to end badly. Quite frankly, love takes a bit of a beating in some of these stories, but our heroine tries to take a different look at them, and find hope in the ferocity with which each story’s young lovers fought for what was in their hearts. And all the while, her own love for her Mother is returned to, as are her own questions about life, love and destiny.

Tess McManus, sittin' in a tree.  Pic by Tom Benson.
Tess McManus, sittin’ in a tree. Pic by Tom Benson.

Tess’ passion for Irish heritage and family are on strong display in this beautifully-written show, and from her opening reminiscences about painful brushings of her thickly knotted hair (which her Ma attributed to a faerie infestation, perhaps a defining moment on our heroine’s upbringing) she has the full attention of the audience. The tales themselves are vibrant and mythic, filled with love, magic and mayhem, and hearty entertainment in and of themselves…the natural charm of miss McManus as our storyteller makes them downright irresistible. Simply staged by director Dave Dawson, he show has a nice balance of the fantastical nature of its stories, and the sweet heart beating underneath it all. A very engaging piece of storytelling theatre from someone who has clear love for the words she’s speaking. See the show, believe in magic, and hug your Ma. Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid

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