Review: Day of Delight (Clay and Paper Theatre)

DoDClay and Paper Deliver a Fantastic Day in Toronto’s Dufferin Grove Park.

The cold rain on Sunday morning concerned me, as I was looking forward to spending the afternoon outside with my partner and our adorable son. June 16th was both our 6th anniversary and his 11 month birthday and we were going to Clay and Paper’s Day of Delight in Dufferin Grove Park. There aren’t many events where I can kill two birds with one stone and spend time with my new family while also reviewing for Mooney. Day of Delight fulfills this double duty perfectly.

On Day of Delight, Clay and Paper invites other artists and art collectives around the city to present something on the general topic of “love” to celebrate the summer solstice. It seems we missed the 2012 Day of Delight, but we loved the 2011 offering. This year was similarly entertaining, although we didn’t enjoy having to move to different locations in the park so often. I asked my partner if we had been asked to move so much the last time or if we just noticed it more this year because of having the baby. She and I both remembered less moving, and couldn’t see any real requirement to keep going back and forth.

I liked all three of the locations, but would make more sense, and be a lot easier for parents, to go to one location and do everything that is programmed there before moving to the next spot. Returning to the first location for the final performance is fine, but constantly going back and forth, back and forth, is a problem for people with wee ones.

The first performance was a set of dance numbers from the Toronto Thai Dramatic Arts group. These were interspersed with songs from the jazz singing ensemble Broulala. The Thai dancers were lovely to watch but it was sometimes challenging to focus on their very precise movements, as they didn’t capture the attention of the children in the audience, not until the end. Their last dance was more energetic and funny, mimicking the motions of people being stung by red ants which provoked a lot of laughter.

Broulala was just excellent. My only small problem was that I wished they had been miked for their version of “Oh My My”. They seemed to have substituted the role of the doctor in Jill Barber’s original for that of a dentist, which seemed like it might be pretty humourous, but it was hard to hear the narrative singer over the wonderful backing harmonies and the enthusiastic clapping-along of the audience.

With the Thai dancers, as with the Ekakshara Dance Creations doing Indian dances later on in the day, I was a bit surprised that the younger children weren’t fascinated by the shiny, colourful costumes even if the choreography was beyond them. I guess I just don’t have the mind of a child (even though I was very disappointed that the cardboard fortress was too large for me to enter, since this the first year I had the excuse of a baby to even try getting in there.) Crawling through Cardbordia was, however, our baby’s favourite part. I could always tell where he was inside by the sound of his constant chuckles and occasional happy squeal.

Next was a comedy number, by Viktor Lukawski playing “Olaf Hagen: Love Specialist”. This was a clowny bit of silliness sending up romance movies and the old school dating scenarios. Lots of older kids and adults enjoyed this, especially when we all sang along to “Time of my Life“. I particularly enjoyed that the audience participant chosen to play Olaf’s dates’ father looked eerily like my own father, from the Jerry Garcia hair and beard down to the Hawaiian shirt.

Max Kelly did an informative and entertaining piece on the creeks and streams that flow underneath Toronto, illustrated via a large, badly drawn flipboard. His enthusiasm and energy were infectious, and we were all primed to fall in love with the next act, Kosa Kolectiv, singing Eastern European folk songs in Ukranian and Bulgarian. They had a flip book, with much more skilled artwork, to help show what each of the songs was about. The picture of a goat in a dress was an audience favourite.

There was a movement piece from a group called the Coyote Collective titled “Icarus Dances with the Sun”, but I never really understood what was going on in it. Icarus seemed to be a nerdy office drone being pestered by annoying coworkers until the sun comes down from the sky to show him some fancy footwork. I might have missed something while ensuring that the baby didn’t start chewing on a stranger’s hair (more for the stranger’s sake than for his) but I really didn’t get this number.

The next piece was Iana Komarnytska doing an amazing belly dance. I’ve seen my fair share of belly dance and that was the best I’ve ever seen. I want to organize some sort of variety night now just so I can book her. Keep an eye out for her.

The finale was Clay and Paper’s own show, The Return of the Green Man. Finally all the children, even the babies, were entranced – there’s just something about puppets! Clay and Paper’s giant wearable puppets, coupled with flowing colourful clothes, and the semi-chaotic vigour of their movements, kept all the kids thrilled. The story was a little dark – as all fairy tales should be – involving the Green Man soliciting an orphan girl to cut off his head in order to sacrifice himself to Death in return for his dragon’s life. The mythology of the Green Man, the cute puns embedded in the rhyming verse of the narrator, and the somewhat out-of-place but always welcome jabs at Stephen Harper, kept the adults almost as entertained as the kids.

Day of Delight won’t happen for another year but Clay and Paper is holding their Puppet Factory Fundraiser this Friday, June 21st. It’s sure to be fun and buying a ticket will support innovative local art with a mandate to “create, develop and perform multi-disciplinary, community-driven theatrical works using narrative theatre and large-scale puppetry in public spaces for large and diverse audiences… [to] reunite art with the daily life of the community, and to make art accessible to all.” That’s a pretty awesome mandate.

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Photo of Kosa Kolecti by Tamara Romanchuk