Hamilton Fringe Festival

An 11-day unjuried theatre festival that happens every summer in downtown Hamilton

On The Fringe #3

Posted by on Jun 5, 2013

Written by Denyse Terry

PLAY: Betting On The Riverman

COMPANY: Haywain Theatre

DETAILS: Written by: David B. Fraser.  Directed by: Julian Nicholson

LOCATION: Hamilton Theatre Inc.

SCHEDULE: Fri, July 19 7:00pm; Sat, July 20 3:30pm; Sun, July 21 6:30pm; Mon, July 22 6:00pm; Fri, July 26 6:00pm; Sat, July 27 9:30pm; Sun, July 28 12:30pm


an exchange with Haywain Theatre’s Julian Nicholson


Just another clandestine rendezvous. This time with Julian Nicholson, director of Betting On The Riverman.  And alas, the north side of the café is not so very quiet. The police are enjoying their coffee rather loudly. Over their clatter Nicholson sets the stage:

The entire play takes place in a casino hotel room. There, you meet Eddy, a long-time gambler whose luck has truly run out. He is desperate to come up with the money he owes, before the Riverman comes calling. What’s a Riverman, you ask?

The Riverman is the person who fishes dead bodies out of the nearby river. Dead bodies of gamblers. Like Eddie. The Riverman is actually a woman, played by Carol Riddel. Nicholson says, “It’s a fabulous role. She uses her sexuality and warmth in order to entrap men into more gambling, so she can go after them for more and more money.” Rick Kanary plays Eddie, Kimberly Jonasson is Eddie’s fed up ex-wife, and Nicholson himself plays Eddie’s rather insensitive father.

If all this sounds a little familiar – it should. Betting On The Riverman played at Hamilton’s Fringe in 2009 – that year directed by the play’s author David B. Fraser. If Fraser’s name rings a few bells too, his play Gerald Hilroy’s Guide to the Art of Seduction won the Fringe’s scriptwriting competition in 2008 and, directed by Nicholson, played to packed houses and critical acclaim. “We had a wicked time.” Says Nicholson. “It was great.”

Nicholson and Fraser have known each other since their McMaster days. So when Fraser called and suggested a remounting of Betting On The Riverman, Nicholson quickly agreed.

Says Nicholson, “This play is more important than ever – because of the debate over casinos. It’s marvelously written. When I first saw it I loved it. I mean, I’ve always enjoyed Dave’s writing. His dialogue really hits the audience with the appalling effects of gambling addiction on a family. It’s an intense play. More intense, this time around. And really, more relevant than ever. It just snaps… It really moves along.”

Nicholson has moved around quite a bit too. Originally from Lowestoft, County Suffolk, in England he retains a mild, and charming accent. He landed in Winnipeg originally, then on to Burlington, and finally Hamilton in 1985. He speaks really quickly, but softly, remnants of his accent getting drowned out by the louder cops.

For 33 years, Nicholson has acted steadily in community theatre. At McMaster, where he graduated with a BA in Drama, he was Artistic director for the 1990-91 Summer Drama Festival. By 2000 he was in British Columbia, working with Paul Thompson on the Governor General’s Literary Award winning play, Elizabeth Rex, co-created by another familiar name, Timothy Findley. Nicholson continued in independent theatre.

In 2011, Nicholson caught a feature part in the police thriller, ‘A Case of Deceit’. “Oh there’s lots of blood and bullets in that one.”  The film, after showcasing in Cannes, is going into distribution this summer. More recently, to Commemorate the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Stoney Creek, Nicholson plays Captain Dominique Ducharme, for Shooting Eye Production’s educational film, expected to be in class rooms shortly. Nicholson’s character Ducharme was a leader of First Nations troops who played a key role in the victory at the Battle of Beaver Dams during the war of 1812.

It sounds like a battle field in here.

In Raise The Hammer’s July 2009 posting, Judith Sandiford writes of Betting on the Riverman, “…neatly constructed drama shows the manipulative workings of a gambler’s tactics, especially when he is cornered and all previous strategies have been played out. “

Nicholson is happy to be back in the Fringe with this play. For the last five years at the Fringe, “I’ve managed to be on stage every year… I usually get called up – to the magic shows. Often, because I am there with my granddaughter. Which is ironic you see because I spent two summers working as a magician, when I was in university.”

Really he did. It’s an awesome story. Track him down and make him tell you. He recalls, “Once there were more people on stage than there were in the audience, but when you had a full house, and they all go, “AHHH…that’s the best.”

And that’s a good noise.


It was a beautiful day, so Julian Nicholson and I went for a little walk. Hmmm, Where The Heck is he? Tell us where, at publicity@hamiltonfringe.ca and win two tickets to Betting On The Riverman! Include your contact information please. And yes, you can play WTH? as many times as you want! **And Joe M. got it again! You are a rock star Joe!

where the heck is Julian Nicholson?

On The Fringe is written by Denyse Terry

Denyse is a local freelance writer.

A Fringe volunteer for the past 5 years, she has served as a member of the Board of Directors since 2011.
Her short story ‘Boom’ has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize:

Hamilton Arts & Letters, ‘Boom’ by Denyse Terry