Walking out of Nithy, Ace Detective (playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival), I overheard a grown-up talking to another, with about five kids between them: “That wasn’t what I was expecting. That was… that was certainly something.”
It’s a well-acted show with a lot of heart. But I have to say, as concerns the plot and thrust of it, I’m in about the same place.
I do want to get that strong acting front and centre: Kanika Ambrose (who mostly plays figures of authority) and Christopher Fowler (who seems to get all the fun parts) play off each other very well, and conjure up an array of characters — parents, teachers, classmates — for Zena Driver’s Nithy to bounce off. I especially liked Ambrose’s detective Wendy, who she plays as Eartha Kitt in a trenchcoat. And Driver’s also turning in solid work, especially good at playing heartfelt without it becoming cloying or comic.
But this is such an Axe Cop script, so complicated and convoluted and leaving so many plot points unresolved as we whir by them at high speed. Moments which were meant to turn upon drama and tension mostly just seemed to fizzle.
This was most visible, and most heartbreaking, at the climax: we’re at a funeral, and this is clearly meant to be tremendously solemn and significant — and I could barely hear the actors over the noise of disinterested kids squeaking and bouncing in their seats. (One young person, to their grown-up: “But why is she sad? I don’t understand.”)
Many of the individual vignettes are strong: I would have loved to see an hour-long show set in that tiny two-bedroom apartment, or that classroom, or that therapist’s office. Pick one and stick with it.
I also felt this one was almost a little too much about the grown-ups: it’s bold, in many ways, to decide to show adults being vulnerable and as unsure of the world as the younger characters, but when a show focuses this much on its older characters, you start to wonder who it’s really for.
- Nithy, Ace Detective 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.
- Friday July 7th, 10:30 am
- Sunday July 9th, 01:30 pm
- Monday July 10th, 03:00 pm
- Wednesday July 12th, 11:45 am
- Thursday July 13th, 01:15 pm
- Friday July 14th, 01:15 pm
- Saturday July 15th, 04:45 pm
Photograph of Zena Driver by Matthew Gorman.