Waiting to see Pirates Don’t Babysit at George Ignatieff Theatre for Toronto Fringe 2016, I enjoyed the wash of that familiar Fringe feeling for the first time this year — a line, a line speech, being dunned for a button and so on. Then we entered the darkened theatre, me and my kid companions, and set sail on an imaginative (and fairly charming) pirate adventure.
There are two distinctive pleasures in this show. One, it’s a show about a kid that has an actual kid (Olivia Harms, the daughter of the playwright and the director) in it, which was fun for the grownups but absolutely transporting and totally delightful for the other actual children. The kids with me (6, 5, and 5) had many questions after the show about who writes plays (great opportunity to bring out the program and explain it) and memorizing lines. General post-show buzz among the shorter set was that having a kid playing an actual kid was more or less the best thing ever. We also agreed that it was lovely that the little girl Jenny (later Pirate Jenny) was the problem-solver among the group
The other is that the pirates are solidly, unabashedly piratical. Fancy pirate costumes, eyepatches, hooks, and exclamations of Arrrrgh! mark Pirates Nobeard, Butch, Mongo and Harriet, as do their noisiness, their lusty singing, their scratching and their long list of things pirates don’t do (babysitting is just the tip of the iceberg). In a time when it seems like everything is a re-imagination of an irony, it was really nice (and very fun for the children) to just enjoy some pirates…pirating away.
I will confess that I did not adore Pirate Butch’s lisp. I kind of get that there was a joke that his name was Butch but he was quite femme, but I would have liked it a lot better if he could just have been a lovely femme boy pirate (with a very nice singing voice). Instead, there was this ongoing gag about his speech impediment that felt weirdly mean-spirited in such a sweet show.
But Pirates Don’t Babysit is, overall, just the kind of show you want in FringeKids. It’s fun for children as young as 3 or 4, amusing enough to keep the adults awake, people occasionally burst into song, there are hats with feathers in them, and it clocks in at a lean 40 minutes — perfect length for beginning theatre-goers.
- Pirates Don’t Babysit! plays at the George Ignatieff Theatre. (15 Devonshire Pl)
- Tickets for FringeKids shows are $5 for kids (age 12 and younger); adults pay $12 at the door or in advance online.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Honest Ed’s Alley, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- The George Ignatieff Theatre is wheelchair-accessible, and has wide aisles for easy mid-show exits.
- Don’t miss the FringeKids club located on the lawn adjacent to the venue! Free activities for children (3-12) and caregivers run every day of the festival: see website for details.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Wednesday June 29th, 02:30 pm
- Friday July 1st, 03:15 pm
- Sunday July 3rd, 10:00 am
- Tuesday July 5th, 11:30 am
- Wednesday July 6th, 04:15 pm
- Saturday July 9th, 01:30 pm
- Sunday July 10th, 02:30 pm
Picture provided by company