I know I must be getting a little burned out in my Ottawa Fringe review binge, as this is the latest I’ve gotten with one (nearly 24 hours after viewing, god DAMMIT). Think it’s time to retire the lovely but, let’s face it, undeserved online media pass after this one, and just start doling out the much-deserved cash these shows deserve. Would certainly help them a lot more than one of my silly reviews/previews…or is that just Fringe overload setting in?
But for now, I still got one more writeup to do and one more writeup it is, and it’s a dandy! From last night, as part two of my one-woman Nouvelle Scene double bill, I caught Jess McAuley’s THIS IS STEP ONE, an autobiographical storytelling piece. Spurred on by as mundane an event as updating her new iphone, Jessica was seized by the urge to delve into her less-than-perfect past warts and all, and bring audiences along for the ride. And holy blue freaking hannah, what a ride. In many ways, this is your typical storytelling show…personal tales, related in a straightforward manner, minimal tech except for some cleverly used video assists here and there. The story spins from poorly thought out sexual misadventures in her early years, to even worse ones later on A high school crush turns into an ongoing disaster, and creeps into every facet of Jess’ existence. The drama gets pretty epic, and that’s not even factoring in the Rocky Horror Show (which DOES factor in). I don’t want to give anything else away, but yeah…Jess has racked up some mileage, gang, and there were some extremely bumpy roads along the way.
As mentioned this is very much a typical storytelling show..where it diverges is with Jess McAuley herself. Jess is actually rather hard to describe as a performer in this one…from the subject matter, which is harsh and harrowing in places, one could perhaps justifiably call her fearless. But it feels like there IS fear there, real and palpable, that Jess is colliding with head-on and grappling to overcome every time she shares this story with people. She is earnest and passionate in her telling to the point of seeming desperation, which is crazily exciting to behold. The phrase ‘step one’ is rightly used in the title, as this show is as real and jagged as any unburdening revelation from the early days of a 12-step program. This show is Jess’ confessional, as cathartic as it is devastating, and it can take a bit of steel to sit through it without squirming (and squirm you will). In a Fringe year bursting to overflowing with storytelling shows, this one definitely stands out. Not necessarily better or more polished, but as honest, brave and visceral as anything you’ll see. Peace, love and soul,
Kevin R (and Baby G)
PS Check out the rest of Jess’ showtimes and ticket info HERE!