[Victoria Fringe Festival ’14] Hot Patootie! Roller Derby Saved My Soul, A Review

28 Aug

By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)

Roller DerbyBroken Turtle Productions
Written/Created by: Nancy Kenny

Oh god bless Rock n’ Roll, the New Wave Punk movement and Disco. The soundtrack used in Nancy Kenny‘s show, Roller Derby Saved My Soul, will no doubt get some music lovers dancing. This performance has coasted all the way from debuting in Ottawa before going to Montreal and later into Calgary before arriving in Victoria as part of a huge Fringe tour to not only bring awareness of what participating in the Fringe is like but also spotlight her talent as a physical comedienne and tough-as-nail’s performer.

Technically, there’s no pattern about what kind of route Kenny’s taking, since she will be hitting Vancouver next. But if you get a chance to see this roving comedy, the price of admission is worth paying for just to see how she brings all the female pop culture icons from the past 6 decades and distills what being a hero is for all time.

As a rather precocious, solitary comic book nerd, there’s very little Amy (Kenny) can appreciate from life. When the play starts, she’s watching an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Audiences get an excellent summary that spotlights her life, and some rhetoric is made in how Amy wishes to be like Buffy.

In a previous generation, plenty of women aspired to be like Amelia Earhart. In today’s generation, there are more iconic ladies for young girls to aspire to. For example, Amy talked about how great Princess Leia (not Slave Leia) is when she kicked some major Stormtrooper butt, chided Grand Moff Tarken and sent the boys down a garbage bin. The humour is very apropos to get the point across of who she looked up to in her nerdy universe. Her dialogue shows that she is very knowledgable with the many heroines who have graced pop culture ever since Wonder Woman hit the pages of comicdom in the 40’s.

Photo by Richard Gilmore

Photo by Richard Gilmore

She uses these figures to give her confidence to hide her own insecurities. In this play, she learns how to succeed at life by her own terms. Amy’s older sister, June (both played by Kenny), always succeeded at everything she does and there’s some jealousy to be found. Kenny shows that she has versatility at shifting between multiple personalities (including playing a tough roller skater) in a one woman show. Audiences know who is whom, and when the narrative really picks up, audiences get to see the pathos developed to represent animosity from Amy towards June, and the prickliness June has towards Amy.

When the younger sibling decides its time to challenge life head-on after finding passion at a Roller Derby event, what she experiences is like a spiritual awakening. But when this sport is her sister’s turf, the challenge to come out on top shows that Kenny has developed a well-meaning tale about how these two are able to mend fences despite the rivalry the two principal characters have.

For a one person act, Kenny certainly delivers in her performance to sell the tension and the drama all while skating around the stage to make audiences feel like they are watching a derby. The disco theme highlights when this sport was really popular. And in this show’s case, the performance space is not all that big, perhaps measuring about 12×18′. Tape markers define the area so she can realize where she is at all time.

However, the technical excellence do not end there. Steven Lafond is to be commended for executing the sound cues perfectly and crafting a soundtrack that many can dig. Director Tania Levy helped Kenny find her muse (or should that be battle armour?) to create a play that will have audiences cheering in the end. And no matter what the gender, they can take the lessons learned from this show home. In what this play states, it’s not about the self that defines greatness. It’s in what Amy discovers about life that says it all. By the end, audiences can’t help but want to smile and groove out to Meatloaf playing the Sax.

5 Stars out of 5

This play continues at Fairfield Hall (1303 Fairfield) on:
Thu, Aug 28 • 7:30pm
Fri, Aug 29 • 6:30pm
Sat, Aug 30 • 5:15pm
Sun, Aug 31 • 2:15pm

before travelling to the Vancouver Fringe Festival Sept 3 – 13, 2014

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