The rain just kept on pouring down on a gray and cold Tuesday, but happily that didn’t seem to be dampening anyone’s Fringing spirit. A whole soggy mob of us made the dash out, and subsequent climb up to Studio 311 for what I believe is the latest premiere of the 2014 Ottawa Fringe. It was a show I had sort of seen before, but not exactly. Kind of a recurring theme at this year’s Fringe (along with shadow puppets, but more on that in the NEXT post).

A solo work by the wonderful Madeleine Boyes-Manseau, TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET premiered in shorter form at last year’s Fresh Meat Festival (the same festival where TALES SHE TELLS and WAKE saw their inception). Now reworked and expanded, with new direction by Brad Long, the show stars Mado as Joy, a hospital worker working on a strange experiment indeed…it involves hurling vicious insults at a jar of rice (STUPID RICE!!), and it’s actually really kind of important. It all has to do with her estranged sister Sarah, her oddball nephew, and Joy’s whole somewhat difficult task of empathizing with…well, anyone, really.

Madeleine Boyes-Manseau in TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET (pic by Cory Thibert)
Madeleine Boyes-Manseau in TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET (pic by Cory Thibert)

A performance you absolutely cannot ignore or take your eyes off of, Mado proves again why she’s an actor people should be taking serious note of. The bold choice to star in a one-woman show as a woman who is, essentially, not a very good person is terribly refreshing and she pulls it off spectacularly. Joy may be the most brilliantly flawed character I’ve seen on a stage in a long time. Staged almost excruciatingly intimately by Long, we’re quite literally bedside as Joy recalls the events that have led her to this bizarre place in Mado’s fantastic script. Featuring the best apology letter of all time, and one of THE standout performances at the Fringe, this is more than worth the long climb up the stairs to studio 311. It’s worth an extra ten stories. Get going. Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid

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