I took my grandsons – Max, eight, and Desmond, almost six – to see Death Meets Harlequin produced by Unspoken Theatre Company playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival. They both really enjoyed it although during the show I would have bet that Desmond didn’t like it at all. He used my hand to hide his eyes for at least half of the performance. You never can tell with kids.
Their friend Avery was also at the show and she really enjoyed it too. Part of the reason she enjoyed it was because when Harlequin’s father told him to stop looking at pretty girls he pointed at Avery.
Part of the reason Max enjoyed it was because he had called out to tell the Doctor where to look for his son Harlequin – played by Tom Beattie – and at the end of the play Thomas Gough, who played the doctor, asked if it was Max who called out and then said to him “You’re going to be a comedian”. Max was beyond thrilled.
In a nutshell Harlequin is a young man who avoids his chores and spends his time chasing butterflies, playing his guitar, and writing songs that he doesn’t finish. His father, the Doctor, finds meaning in his work and is frustrated with his son. He still misses his wife who died when Harlequin was born.
They are both visited by a beautiful young woman named Butterfly – played by Aleksandra Maslennikova – who changes their lives.
Neither boy picked up on the fact that Butterfly told Harlequin that one of her names was Death. Desmond thought that she was Harlequin’s mother. I mention it because the press release describes the play as ” …family friendly comedy that integrates music, Commedia dell’Arte, symbolism, and archetype to explore themes of family, love, loss and transformation.” Personally I find the description a bit high-flown for a play aimed at children.
I really didn’t connect with the play at all. Harlequin’s cheerful dancing around seemingly without a clue about life just annoyed me. The Doctor’s yelling at Harlequin bothered me a lot. Did it really have to be that loud? Avery’s mother also thought that the yelling was too loud.
I get that Harlequin and the doctor are supposed to be exaggerated characters and that they are ‘redeemed’ by Butterfly’s visit. It’s just not my kind of theatre. For the record, I also don’t like clowns.
But here’s the thing, This is part of Kidsfest and the kids who were with me enjoyed it, so ignore me. Max said that he would tell his friends that they should go see it. That’s high praise.
- Death Meets Harlequin plays at the George Ignatieff Theatre. (15 Devonshire Pl.)
- Tickets for Kidsfest shows are $5 for kids (age 12 and younger); adults pay $12.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Scadding Court, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- The George Ignatieff Theatre is wheelchair-accessible, and has wide aisles for easy mid-show exits.
- Don’t miss the Kidsfest club located on the lawn adjacent to the venue! Free activities for children (3-12) and caregivers run every day of the festival: see website for details.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Wednesday July 5th, 04:15 pm
- Friday July 7th, 01:45 pm
- Sunday July 9th, 11:45 am
- Tuesday July 11th, 01:15 pm
- Thursday July 13th, 04:30 pm
- Saturday July 15th, 10:00 am
- Sunday July 16th, 11:45 am
Photo of Thomas Gough and Tom Beattie by Nina Kaye