Had a rare Monday off of work today, so decided to take an even rarer stab at daytime theatre, with a return trip to the OTTAWA INTERNATIONAL CHILDREN’S FESTIVAL. I made it out to the opening night showing of FROGZ from Imago Theatre on Friday, but didn’t think I’d get to see any of the other pieces. And frankly, I almost didn’t go today, with the call of bacon and eggs at the Wellington diner a powerful siren song in my mind. Glad I resisted.
Located at Lebreton flasts in a myriad of tents and venues, you can only see a couple of shows on any given day with the scheduling…a tough blow to a Fringer used to catching 4 or 5 in a row in a festival atmosphere, but I get that things run differently at a Children’s event. So I picked my shows and bought my tickets. And as I bade my time, you could see that there was plenty to do besides the more theatrical aspects of the festival…a supercool face-painting tent looked insanely popular, and I recognized local heroes Alix Sideris and Patrice-Ann Forbes making the rounds, part of the Alice in Wonderland-themes TEA PARTY event occurring at regular intervals throughout the day in one of the outdoor areas. I even caught some of the 100WATT kids doing poetry reading inside one of the big tents, very neat.
But my first show was up, inside the War Museum itself in the lovely Barney Danson Theatre. Called I ON THE SKY, it was the creation of Montreal’s DynamO Theatre, an hourlong piece of nonverbal, physical theatre that had me intrigued. After about ten minutes, it damn near had me in tears. Starring the impressively talented team of Lauriane Brabant, Frederic Nadeau, Andreanne Joubert, Hugues Sarra-Bournet and Marie-Eve Lafontaine, SKY tells the wordless tale of a lone woman taking shelter from a storm on a park bench (No, I don’t get how that works either, but play along, okay?). There she sees and interacts with numerous passersby, including a sleepy custodian who loves to dance, an old baglady feeding the pigeons, a self-obsessed diva and many more. But there’s one person in particular, a young runaway girl whose fate seems to become intertwined with the lady’s, and watching their twin tales unfold is a thing of beauty. DynamO uses music, video backdrop, dance and positively breathtaking physical acrobatics (aided by an almost magically placed trampoline) to create what is definitely going to be on my top ten list of shows for 2014. Not specifically ‘children’s theatre’, but certainly accessible to all, SKY is heartbreaking, life-affirming and universal. An utterly affecting and effective hour of wonder.
It was almost hard to stick around the festival after that one…could anything top that?? But I of course stuck around, because theatre marches on, and also there was kick-ass wood fired pizza on hand to help pass the time. After that tasty treat, I was up for one of the main draws of the fest, Australia’s ERTH with DINOSAUR ZOO. Set up like a proper live animal show, our congenial Aussie host Mike entertained the kids as we all settled in on bales of straw or mats on the ground, all the while warning us that we COULD very well get eaten during the following hour. And while I knew that wasn’t exactly true, he sold it well, got the kids on his side, and set about introducing us to some of Australia’s finest dinosaur specimens. Definitely a show for kids, with lots of show and tell moments and educational riffs about creatures of old, but still very entertaining stuff. Aided by a pair of Dino-Wranglers, Erth trot out everything from adorable baby dinos to ancient oversized dragonflies, before unveiling the gasp-inducing finale, a monstrous T-Rex style carnivore that sent the kids absolutely SCATTERING when he made his impressive, roaring entrance. This gang knows their puppetry AND their kids, and they played both like the experts they are, scaring the bejeezus out of the kids and making gaping giggling fools out of the older folks like me in the crowd. Best time I’ve spent sitting on a haybale in a LONG time, I don’t mind saying.
That was it for the day….things wrap up early at this Festival…and sadly, I won’t be able to return for all the rest of this years offerings. Believe me, now I really, really want to. Memo to self for next year…book time off work. Next year, I’m seeing EVERYTHING. Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)