by Kathy Morgan
I will be the first to admit that I was feeling a little jaded, and perhaps a little patronizing, as I headed into Pobby and Dingan at Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People (LKTYP). The show is aimed at 9-16 year olds and titled after a little girl’s two imaginary friends, but the show won me over. For the sake of journalistic integrity, I’ll admit that my cheeks were a little damp by the final curtain.
This is a play about family, and the things that you do for family that you wouldn’t likely do for someone else. The family indulges Kellyanne (played by Laura Schutt), in her unstinting belief in her two imaginary friends, Pobby and Dingan, and the continual and fruitless search by her father (played by Martin Julien) for opals in the family claim. It’s the resolute belief of these characters that both threatens and binds the family together. The piece is narrated by Kellyanne’s brother, Ashmor (played by Benjamin Clost), commenting on the action a year after the play takes place, and Aaron Stern.
The play is narrated by Ashmor as he looks back on the events of the previous year. This allows for an interesting commentary by the older Ashmor as the story is played out by the younger Ashmor, played by Aaron stern, and the rest of the family. The blend works perfectly with the interjections helping to examine the characters’ motivations more deeply, without bogging down the story.
For me, this play hinges on the performances of its actors, and I flet there were several stand outs in the cast. I thought that Julien did a brilliant job of the slightly oafish, but well-intentioned father trying to take care of his family in the only way he knows how. I was also captivated by the really honest performance of Schutt as the young girl. Deborah Drakeford, who plays Annie, the mom, was the only one of the cast that I felt was playing “children’s theatre” and I felt her performance came across as a little condescending.
Clost had the difficult job of being the disembodied head, as it were, that leads the audience through the story, as well as playing the raft of colourful characters that make up the local community. He did this with mixed success. Some of the characters were brilliant and charming, others fell a little off the mark. But I will give him complete credit for making very brave choices and taking big risks. To me, that creates the best and most exciting theatre, and I had nothing but thunderous applause for him at the end of the show, as much for his willingness to go there as for his success in arriving. If anything, I would say that some of the characters he portrayed were a caricature, not because his choices went too far, but because he didn’t include enough humanity in them.
The play is set in the Australian outback, and I thought the set design by Camellia Koo did a good job in creating a set that was both transporting but functional. Although I will say that I felt that it was a little cramped, as my impression of the Australian outback is one of unending space. The dialect work was mixed, but Laura Schutt, Martin Julien and Benjamin Clost were impeccable. The play itself - written by Paula Wing and based on the book by Ben Rice – was well crafted if occasionally a little flowery and long-winded when describing the opals, which drive a lot of the motivation for the characters.
As my first visit to LKTYP, I was really impressed not only with the quality of the production, but also with its obvious mission to create theatre that is challenging for young people. I was duly impressed with the production, and recommend taking your kids on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
– Pobby and Dingan plays at the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People (165 Front St. E) until May 10
– Show times are Saturday and Sunday at 2pm, Monday to Friday at 10:15am, and Monday, Tuesday and Thursday at 1pm.
-Ticket prices range from $15 – $20, available online or by phone 416.862.2222; and in person at the box office.
Available discounts include a PWYC show on Saturday, May 2nd.