Walking into the perfectly air conditioned Palmerston Library Theatre and the set of Land of the Young’s “Oh, Raven!!” seems magical. It is a sort of enchanted forest with trees and an older hollowed out tree lying downstage. The music sets the right tone of enchantment and the kids get excited. A perfect beginning to a FringeKIDS show.
This is the story of farmers, a man/creature named Thog who lives in a log, and their friend the talking Raven. I really, really wish I could tell you more about the plot but I found it hard to follow. It might just be one of those things that only kids can fully appreciate and understand!
There is an issue of corn – I think the Raven is eating it – and Allen Hughes’s character is named Shadow. He says he is a shadow but he is a farmer. Then there is the very lovable Farmer Betty played my Jennifer Phipps. I have to say watching these two most veteran Canadian actors playing these parts is much akin to watching Christopher Plummer and Maggie Smith on Sesame St – all at once endearing and ironic – bringing their years of awards, training, and Shakespeare to the children.
The farmers have many discussions with the Raven, played by Jessica Seguin. She is stuck behind the trees for all of the play sadly, but manages to be engaging and kid friendly through her wings and voice. Rounding out the cast is Jake Chalmer’s Thog, who lives in a log. I enjoyed his sort of Newfie take on the character – both in accent and in seaworthiness.
So after a trial about the corn, the cast decides to go on a trip to the sea and there is a lot of business about what one does at sea and what needs to happen to save the corn. Allen Hughes tries very hard to keep the kids engaged and to incorporate them into the movement of the story.
I just found it hard to be both in a farmer’s field and at sea when there were all those trees around. They are really nice trees, but I was confused. I would have preferred the trees to be moved to allow for a bare stage with oceanic lights. That would have felt more like the ocean floor to me.
I also felt like there was too much dialogue off the top. The trial of corn seemed to take a really long time and I was squirming in my seat. So kudos to the kids there for being so well behaved (for the most part, there were a few that were less into it). I just like my kids shows with fast paced movement and as much change as possible – maybe my brain is just wired that way!
That said – I think the cast did a fine job in working with the text as it is written by Hughes. There was certainly a lot of love on the stage for both theatre and for kids.
Final Performance is:
July 17, 3:30 pm
– All individual Fringe tickets are $10 ($5 for FringeKids) at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062, in person at The Fringe Tent at 581 Bloor St. W. (Advance tickets are $11 – $10+$1 convenience fee)
– Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows