This review was painful for me to write. So much passion and effort goes into a theatre production; my awareness of this makes it difficult to break the news that a show has failed to satisfy the needs of its target audience. I wanted to like Skylark Productions’ Stay With Me at the Palmerston Library. M.J. Kang’s play (which she has written and is performing) is part of FringeKids!, and I was very much looking forward to it.
When you walk into the venue, one problem is immediately apparent—the stage is bare. There is little to attract the attention of the youngest audience members. (The show’s page on the Fringe website suggests that it is suited best for children 4 to 12.)
The story is essentially about a mother experiencing separation issues when her five-year-old daughter prepares to go to school, and how she overcomes these issues with the help of her daughter’s belief in her. The narrative is mostly from the mother’s perspective, and the show is intended to illustrate that parents can be just as scared of abandonment as their children.
The problem is one of presentation. Neither the text nor the performance style are tailored to meet the needs of the target audience. The clever hook of the story hinges on the audience’s awareness of a perceived role reversal—the daughter is far more level-headed and confident than her mother. This conceit is an intellectual one, and has not been designed to appeal to the very young audience.
Children are very capable of processing complex ideas, but it must be on their terms. The text and the performance style simply are not engaging for youngsters. There was no stagecraft, no music, and no whimsical flourishes to spark the imagination.
This is a shame because M.J. Kang is clearly sincere, and her story is heartfelt. How very disappointing it was to see the children around me become confused, bored, and then fidgety. I wanted them to be as enthusiastic as she about her story, but it was just not made accessible to them.
- Stay With Me is playing at the Palmerston Library [FringeKids!] (560 Palmerston Ave.).
July 4 – 2:30pm
July 5 – 2:45pm
July 7 – 12:45pm
July 8 – 7:45pm
July 9 – 6:00pm
July 11 – 2:15pm
July 12 – 6:00pm
July 13 – 11:30am
- Individual Fringe tickets are available at the door for $10 ($5 for FringeKids), cash only. Late comers will not be permitted.
- Advance tickets are $11 ($9 + $2 service charge) are available online at fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062 ext 1, or in person during the festival at the Festival Box Office in the parking lot behind Honest Ed’s (581 Bloor St W).
- Value packs are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows
Photo of Stay With Me provided by Skylark Productions