Sultans of the Street, playing at Toronto’s Young People’s Theatre, is an uplifting story perfect for parents and kids
When walking in for the Young People’s Theatre production of Sultans of the Street, the first offering for a young audience by playwright Anusree Roy, my show partner and I were immediately struck by the beauty of Camillia Koo’s set. Well, that and the buzzing energy that an audience full of school kids brings to a space.
On the surface, Sultans of the Street may seem like rather dark subject matter for a play aimed at kids as young as eight. It deals with a couple of orphaned kids living on the street, working for their “aunty” (Zorana Sadiq) and two other kids who are forced through blackmail to work for the same woman. But director Nina Lee Aquino handles it with grace, and, truthfully, I think kids can often deal with a lot more than we give them credit for.
Ultimately it is a story of survival, hope and the benefits of ‘doing the right thing’. The story of the orphaned brother and sister (Richard Lee and Mina James) is touching. The idea of what we will sacrifice to keep someone we love safe and happy came through really strongly for me. There were beautiful moments between these two under the ‘stars’, which Michelle Ramsay’s clever lighting design had put over the audience, so that the actors could still be looking into the audience while gazing at them. It was also lovely to see the kids in the audience discover the stars above them.
The two brothers, played by Ali Momen and Colin Doyle, who were blackmailed into working, despite coming from a ‘rich’ family also had a compelling and interesting relationship. There were a lot of interesting similarities there, too.
Visually this piece was a delight. Koo’s simple but elegant set design included huge rotating walls covered in different colours of fabrics and scarves was a sight to behold. The costumes of gods she designed for while the characters were working were very beautiful.
The visual feast mixed with some lovely flute playing, singing and chanting, and some knock-em down chases around the stage really held the attention of the kids in the audience. Sam, my show-partner, and I were talking afterwards about how lovely it is to be in an audience that is so open and unfiltered. The collective oooohs and aaahhhhs of the audience as things happened on stage combined with loud gasps and great caterwauling and hooting and hollering at the end were absolutely wonderful.
Too bad we adults filter all that out.
Sam and I really enjoyed the piece, but we’re both adults, and you’re probably pretty interested in what kids thought. Well, the kids that were there when we were, they seemed to love it. Not only were they intensely engaged while it was happening, but at the talk-back afterwards they were eager to participate, had great questions, were eager to answer when questions were asked of them, and generally seemed excited by the experience.
So, if you know someone in the grade three to eight range, this would be something that would be a lot of fun to check out with them.
- Sultans of the Street is playing at Young People’s Theatre (165 Front Street East) until May 15
- Performances Tuesday through Friday at 10:15 am, Tuesday and Thursday at 1 pm, Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm
- Ticket prices range from $15.00 to $24.00
- Tickets are available online, by phone at 416-862-2222 and in person at the box office
Photo of Richard Lee, Zorana Sadiq and Mina James by Cylla von Tiedemann