Stay With Me (Skylark Productions) 2013 Toronto Fringe Review

Stay With Me (Skylark Productions)

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.

Details:

  • Stay With Me is playing at the Palmerston Library [FringeKids!] (560 Palmerston Ave.).
  • Performances:
    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

One thought on “Stay With Me (Skylark Productions) 2013 Toronto Fringe Review”

  1. The particular show you saw was primarily filled with children – 45 to be exact – who had driven in from Brampton. They had just sat in the bus for an hour and a half and while they were fidgeting during the show, it was because they had just been sitting on a bus for an hour and a half. They weren’t bored. They were restless, but who wouldn’t be restless after sitting on a bus for an hour and a half and racing to see a play? They did enjoy the show – many of them spoke to me afterwards and asked to see it again. (I did have some parents from Brampton frantically trying to see a show that was later canceled because of the rain.) While bells and whistles are fun, it isn’t necessary to entertain – the show stood on its own and I can say that based on feedback from children throughout the show’s run, they were moved, interested, and enjoyed it. Children are wise and do listen to story and don’t need to be spoon fed.

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