Kid + 1 Review: Salmon Girl (Young People’s Theatre/Raven Spirit Dance)

Toronto’s Young People’s Theatre presents Raven Spirit Dance’s play Salmon Girl

You think you understand kids, and then they surprise you – or at least they surprised me at Salmon Girl, presented at Young People’s Theatre and created by the folks at Raven Spirit Dance. While there were some mis-steps in the production, it has solid bones and there were parts of the show where my young companions, two enthusiastic second-graders, were literally motionless with interest and attention.

The primary story is simple to understand: Margie, an excellent young fisher of her village, is fishing and falls in to the water. When she does, Grandmother River turns her into a fish so that she can learn about the experience from the side of her cousins, the salmon.

The show succeeded best when it stayed in the place of gravitas. The movement sequences, choreographed by Michelle Olson, were incredibly beautiful and perfectly paced – there wasn’t too much going on, and it was easy for even the youngest kids to grasp the meaning in the movement.

Gloria May Eshkibok played Grandmother River as a projection rather than live on stage which felt like a perfect choice, and the children gave her words and voice more attention than they did anything else. It was clear that they valued the idea of listening to one’s grandparents and valuing the teachings they offered (and of course Eshkibok has a splendid voice, which only made it all the nicer).

Writer and Director Quelemia Sparrow brings a great ear for pacing a story and returning to the central themes over and over.

Some of the things I liked less were the comedic bits that were clearly included to make it more “fun” for the young audience, but ended up feeling superfluous and distracting – not just to me, but to the 7 and 8 year olds I brought as my guests. They weren’t really into the Siri jokes or some of the other gags. Admittedly my pair of youngsters are super into stories anyway, but I also have the Seat-Kicking Index to gauge by. When the play was engrossing, the kid sitting behind me hardly kicked my seat at all, and her places of interest matched ours pretty well.

There’s also one other particular magic in Salmon Girl that I cannot fail to mention: there’s a moment when the salmon and their mink friends arrive back upstream to the spawning grounds and find it full of salmon eggs. They all retrieve and dance with caches of eggs, bundles of luminescent orbs the they hold like treasure. The visual effect was completely stunning and totally legible – even the littlest kids knew they were eggs – and we all marveled at it.

Details:

  • Salmon Girl is playing until May 12, 2018 at Young People’s Theatre (165 Front Street East).
  • Shows run Monday – Sunday at various times. See the website for the full performance schedule.
  • Relaxed Performances are available. See here for details.
  • Tickets range from $10-$34 +HST and can be purchased online or by calling the box office at 416-862-2222, ext. 2.

Photo of Donna Soares, Tasha Faye Evans and Taran Kootenayo by Chris Randle.