Tangled Web Theatre’s Toronto Fringe Festival debut of their inspiring FringeKids! show Handle With Care is remarkable theatre! When you first walk into the Palmerston Library stage you are greeted by a charming woodland scene. It was so much fun to see the children discover the flitting butterflies and the caterpillar inching its way along a branch!
And then the show begins, and you are swept away on a whimsical journey. Bonnie Thomson’s script is full of natural childlike banter, and the three cast members (Bonnie Thomson, Helen Juvonen and Tyler Seguin) are spirited as three kids who stumble upon a mysterious box labeled “Handle With Care.”
As they go through the attached instruction manual, and work as a team to discover the secrets within the box, we discover that it is a teaching aid to help illustrate the dangers of industrialization and the need to find sustainable alternatives. The script covers a lot of ground and deals with complex ideas such as compromise, the purpose of allegory, and the importance of paying attention.
The fluid and exciting script, and the enthusiastic performances alone are enough to carry the show, but this team goes even further! There is some truly inspired stagecraft: A kite flying up above the audience’s heads, an underwater scene of some mischievous fishes playing a prank on a fisherman, and an exceptional sequence in which a gust of wind appears to transform newspapers into animate forms that dance around in celebration of nature… and then there’s the puppets!
I am still amazed at how upbeat and effortless this production seems, especially considering how dense and intelligent the text is. The play works on several levels, and it does so without a misstep.
It is full of colour and movement, which gets the kids’ attention right away. It is about environmental issues, and illustrates them in a straightforward (but never pandering) manner. And then, in a brave gesture that shows outstanding confidence in the children’s intelligence, it explains how stories work, how they can be true without necessarily being real, how they are larger than life in order to teach us something about life.
I thoroughly enjoyed myself, especially watching how parents could share in something smart and fun with their children. As we were leaving the theatre, there was the ultimate proof that the play was a success; children were excitedly discussing with their parents what they had just experienced.
This is what theatre is all about—a show that takes you to a place you never expected and gives you something to talk about afterwards. Parents, this play is treat and definitely something you want to share with your children.
- Handle With Care is playing at the Palmerston Library [FringeKids!] (560 Palmerston Ave.)
July 5 – 7:45pm
July 6 – 2:30pm
July 8 – 1:15pm
July 10 – 6:00pm
July 11 – 3:45pm
July 13 – 1:00pm
July 14 – 6:45pm
- 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 Tyler Seguin (performing puppet) by Robin Munro