Review: Baobab (Young People’s Theatre)

Young People’s Theatre welcomes Montreal’s Théâtre Motus in a co-production with the SÔ Company of Mali for Baobab, presented in the Studio from May 8 to 17, 2012. Baobab is recommended for children ages four to eight. Baobab features Ralph Prosper, Mireille Tawfik, Nathalie Cora and Aboulaye Koné, and is written and directed by Hélène Ducharme.

The story, inspired by West African legends, is about an ancient baobab tree during a drought. One day the tree produces an egg, from which a little boy, Amondo, hatches. The villagers recognize that Amondo is the only one who can undertake the quest to bring water back to the land, completing three tasks that will lead him to the heart of the sun.

Baobab makes use of puppetry, masks, and percussive rhythms to bring the fairy tale to life, with delightful results. The puppetry was inventive and effective: sometimes characters were fully-realized creatures (like Amondo), sometimes they would be pieces added to the performers and their instruments (for instance, a bird’s head and tail added to a kora), and sometimes shadow puppetry would be used (as in the photo above, where images were projected into sand). Puppets would appear out of objects already on stage, and it was wonderful to watch where things would come from next.

The masks, which were predominantly saved for the larger, scarier villains of the piece, were also quite effective. I was particularly impressed with the monkey costume (as were the children in the audience, as most are generally amused with bum-humour).

The music was entertaining. The opening song was very casually performed, while audience members were still filtering in, and the performers would go up to individual children and introduce themselves. They would then introduce the child to the rest of the audience. (If your child is particularly shy, I would suggest sitting where they cannot be easily reached.) It was an excellent way to get the kids involved with the play, and allowed them to build up to the story.

Baobab was an excellent play. I highly recommend it for children both young and old.

Baobab is playing at the Young People’s Theatre Studio (165 Front Street East) until May 17, 2012
– Performances run: May 8-10 @ 10:30 AM & 12:45 PM, Fri. May 11 @ 10:30 AM, Sun. May 13 @ 11AM & 2PM, May 14-17 @ 10:30 AM & 12:45 PM
– French language performances on May 11, 16 at 10:30 AM & 12:45 PM
– Tickets range from $15-$20 + HST & service charges
– Tickets are available online at or by calling the Box Office at 416.862.2222

Photo (L-R): Sharon James, Widemir Normil and Nathale Cora (from the 2009/10 Production) taken by Robert Etcheverr.