Outside the March presents and exciting, immersive Offsite SummerWorks production of Noah Haidle’s Mr. Marmalade. This darkly comic play sees the world through the eyes of four-year old Lucy (Amy Keating) who interprets it, as most children do, through play. This makes for a profound, reflective, and satisfying theatrical performance. Who knew watching grown-ups play children playing dress-up could be so emotionally satisfying? Or psychologically complex?
A foreboding introduction sees Lucy playing in a manner in which Ken basically rapes Barbie on their wedding night, all through the innocent lens of playtime and imagination and not without “normal” child-like aggression coupled with an alarming self-awareness. Hence the comedy.
The Offsite space is a kindergarten classroom, elaborately set to look just so. I could not tell where the production began and the classroom ended, the attention to detail was that complete. Of course there are a lot of prop possibilities when you are working with children’s toys; there must be at least five kitchen-sets in a row in one section of the roughly one thousand square-foot space.
You never know where the action will proceed and audience members are invited to follow the actors as closely as possible, sitting in designated children’s chairs labelled with shaped cut-outs and avoiding construction paper stop-signs on the floor. Indeed characters do emerge, as in Lucy’s imagination, from the most unlikely places. In this respect alone the production was astonishing, and perhaps the most well-executed and elaborate site-specific show I’ve ever seen.
Former Canadian Stage Artistic Director David Storch is the terrifying Mr. Marmalade, at first a kind of “boyfriend” to Lucy, for whom he must find time in his “busy” schedule. Their relationship is contrasted with that between Lucy and a new, real-life friend: the gangly, adorably awkward and suicidal Larry (Ishai Buchbinder). Jason Chinn and Katherine Cullen take up a few different, ageless “adult” characters each with their own set of disturbing influences on Lucy.
This all makes for a very pointed, distrubing, charming and even amusing commentary on the cultural roles children are taught from a very young age, and how sensitive they really are to even what seem like minor actions of adults. Lucy’s understanding of sex, love, and relationships is expressed in her destructive relationship with Mr. Marmalade, who is basically a paedophile, and per playtime spans decades within one night. Do not let that scare you away, though, because of course the sexual content is not as off-putting as you’d think since we know he is merely of Lucy’s own innocent design. Or is he?
What’s really scary is how similar he is to some real life people we may know.
– playing at St. Mary Catholic School. 20 Portugal Square (one block North of King and Bathurst). Kindergarten Room 219 on:
Saturday, August 6th at 3:00 pm
Sunday, August 7th at 3:00 pm
Monday, August 8th at 8:00 pm
Tuesday, August 9th at 7:00 pm
Wednesday, August 10th at 7:00 pm
Thursday, August 11th at 7:00 pm
Saturday, August 13th at 3:00 pm
– All individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at www.artsboxoffice.ca, by phone at 416.504.7529, in person at at the Arts Box Office (located at Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Ave., One block North East of Bathurst & Queen W. M-F 12PM-7PM, Weekends 10AM-8PM) (Advance tickets are $15 +HST and $1 service fee)
– Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows
Photo of Amy Keating as Lucy by Simon Bloom.