Five days into this years Ottawa Fringe Festival, back and in person and everything, and I haven’t even broken double digits in shows yet. The pandemic has changed me, don’t tell me it hasn’t! But at least I made it out for a killer double bill on Monday after work, so maybe there’s hope for me yet. The world I’m not so sure about, but me..? I’m clinging to the liferaft of Fringe for all it’s worth. Thankfully, that’s a lot.
Show one of my Monday was my highly anticipated HOW I MET MY MOTHER from RibbitRepublic, starring and created by Jon Paterson. Calling Paterson a Fringe legend is underplaying the word legend. He’s been making a name for himself on the circuit for ages, and previously graced Ottawa teamed up with the likes of Kurt Fitzpatrick, Tara Travis and Martin Dockery to namedrop a few. And while this isn’t his first solo outing (anyone remember his dynamite performance in MacIvor’s HOUSE in ‘09? This old-timer sure does), it is his first time writing and starring in his own show. Teaming with Vanessa Quesnelle as director, this is the story of two lives…namely, Jon Paterson, and his loving Mother. The tale moves pretty seamlessly between two eras…the 80’s, where troubled teen Jon (aka Paddy) was making life pretty rough for his hard-working single Mom, and the more recent past, where grown-up kid and Fringe artist Jon Paterson suddenly finds himself thrust into the role of full-time caregiver for his Mom, now slowly suffering from dementia. And it turns out the transition from your Mother taking care of you, to you taking care of her, can happen pretty fast.
This is a powerhouse of a show, a rollercoaster of emotion that delights in inducing belly laughs with tales of teen hijinks mixed with liberal sprinklings of kitsch 80’s references, only to pull the rug out from under you with a punch to the heart. The temporal transitions, which are numerous, are handled with seasoned skill that never left me wondering when we were in the tale. Jon Paterson’s easy charm brings you in like a warm hug, making the terrifying scenario playing out before you entirely too real for comfort. Did I leave this show in tears? You bet. Jon Paterson and Vanessa Quesnelle take the tried and true one-man storyteller template and make it feel fresh, vibrant and exciting again. After this show, I’m feeling the revived urge to polish up that silly cat show of mine again…mental note, work with a director this time! HOW I MET MY MOTHER plays at studio 1201 for the rest of the Ottawa Fringe, tickets available at the fest website here! Peace, love and soul,