You Fancy Yourself – Contrary Company (in association with Theatre Passe Muraille)

By Megan Mooney

You have three more chances to check out Contrary Company’s You Fancy Yourself at Theatre Passe Muraille.  You might want to consider changing whatever plans you already have so that you can fit this one in.  If for no other reason, than to revel in Maja Ardal’s virtuoso performance.

It didn’t take long for my show partner, John, and me to believe unquestioningly that Elsa was a young girl, despite the fact that she was played by the very much grown-up Ardal.  Another very rare feat in my experience, was the fluidity and believability of accents in this one-woman piece.  All too often, when I see a show with actors "doing accents" the accents become the character, but in this case, these were simply characters who happened to have accents.

While I’m on the topic of accents, I can’t begin to tell you how impressed John and I were at the use of accents as a tool to demonstrate the passage of time.  When we first meet Elsa, fresh off the boat from Iceland to Scotland, she speaks English with a Nordic accent.  Later, but subtly, this changes to English with a Nordic accent with some Scottish thrown in the mix.  This then transitions to English with a Scottish accent, with some Nordic thrown in.  Eventually it is pretty much just Scottish.  As a kid I lived overseas, and I can attest to the transition in accents, but I certainly couldn’t come anywhere near reproducing the process.  I was blown away.

The show is about a quirky young girl finding her place in the world.  The story is reasonably straight forward, one might even say simple, but it certainly has texture.  I recognized many players from my own childhood on the stage, this is one of those stories that is familiar, but not because you’ve seen it on stage before, rather, it’s familiar because you’ve seen it in life before. 

Speaking of quirky, the show itself is a bit quirky, in an endearing way.  Sometimes it’s like we’re being told a story, while at other times it feels like we’re watching the action as it takes place.  There were times when I squinted my eyes and hugged myself to close myself off from what was happening on stage, and there were times when I grinned widely and sat forward in my seat.

The set and costumes were a great choice.  They were simple.  The set consisted of one piece.  The costumes, two – one for the first part of the show, and a different one after the intermission.  They let Ardal shine.  Nothing distracted from her performance.  Just like a little kid, we got to imagine all the other goings on.

It really is a lovely show, and Ardal really is an amazing performer.  Personally I think, if at all possible, you should really try to check out one of the 3 remaining performances.  It’s a great show.

By the way, if any of this is sounding familiar, well, an earlier production of the show, just about a year ago, was reviewed on Mooney on Theatre by Mark Augustine, who also loved it.

You Fancy Yourself is playing until Saturday January 23, 2009 at Theatre Passe Muraille (15 Ryerson Ave.)
– Evening showtimes are at 7:30, and Saturday Matinees are at 2:30
– Tickets are $35 on Friday and Saturday evenings, and pay-what-you-can for Saturday matinees
– Tickets are available in advance by calling 416-504-7529 or online