Review: Ginger Nation (Buddies in Bad Times Theatre)


Shawn Hitchins’ one man show was “funny yet moving” at Toronto’s Buddies in Bad Times Theatre

I sat down in my seat for Ginger Nation by Shawn Hitchins and looked around the room. I was not used to seeing Buddies in Bad Times Theatre looking so calm. On Saturday nights the theatre opens its doors as a bar and dance club. I was so accustomed to the speakers blasting 90’s hits and glorious drag queens strutting down the main staircase. This version of “Buddies” was toned down, but it had just as much spirit as the Saturday night crowd. I left the theatre just as elated as I do when I dance the night away.

The show opened with who I thought was an overly-enthusiastic Emcee. Soon I found out that it was Diana Love, the opening comedian. Love can only be described as a delightful weirdo. She introduced herself to the room as “your best friend for the next twenty minutes.” She did feel like a close friend who really lets loose over pitchers of sangria. She flipped from silly jokes about her hometown in P.E.I to lewd jokes about her sex life. Every punch line was followed by a laugh like she was shocked that she confessed that to a room full of people. By the end of her set, I was trying to wipe the tears from under my glasses.

After Love’s unforgettable set, Shawn Hitchins walked on stage in all his red-haired glory. Ginger Nation is a one-man show, a charming memoir, and a manifesto for those who have been mocked for their flaming hair and their inability to tan. Hitchins covered the important issue of being one of the only minorities people still find acceptable to bully. He spoke of real discrimination, like the Denmark sperm bank turning down ginger donors. This fact is even more hurtful when it is believed that the red-headed gene could disappear completely.

Other than the obvious matter of being red-haired and proud, Hitchins covered a variety of topics on stage. He spoke of the emotional wounds left from an awkward adolescence. Having had an awkward phase ranging from age 11 to 21, I found this painfully relatable. He also spoke about a life-changing decision to help his lesbian friends fulfill their dream of starting a family by becoming their sperm donor. I couldn’t relate to this, but I was certainly hooked.

I’m going to have to echo a Mooney on Theatre review about Hitchins for his 2010 show Shawn Hitchins is A Single White Douche: “He was snappy. He was snarky. He was funny.” He could make the audience erupt with laughter with dirty jokes and inappropriate miming, but his true talent is his sharp wit. He snuck quips into the story like little Easter eggs. Sometimes they were so clever, it took me seconds to register just how brilliant they were.

As funny as he was, he could also weave harshness into the story. The laughter would fade for a moment when he spoke of loneliness, depression, and about the desperation involved with trying to get pregnant. I thought these serious moments weren’t forced or melodramatic. They were raw and harsh and reminded you with a prod that this wasn’t just a show. This was real life.

I could’ve listened to him talk for another hour. I truly wanted to hear the whole story and more. Even my brother, who was my plus-one and who still hasn’t forgiven me for bringing him to a multi-media circus show, was won over by Hitchins. Hitchins managed to do what many Hollywood movies attempt and fail to do. He managed to have a story that was relatable yet wildly unique, funny yet moving, delightful in the moment yet thought-provoking after the lights went off.

Shawn Hitchins is wonderful. Diana Love is wonderful. Buddies in Bad Times Theatre is wonderful. I can’t give higher praise for the night I had.


Photo of Shawn Hitchins by Jen Squires.