Sunday the 23rd of November marked the end of the 13th edition of the Coups de Théâtre Festival of youth oriented theater. While I couldn’t make it to every production, I thought I could share my impressions of the ones I did see. Overall, I really enjoyed these productions and I’ve most certainly been challenged on my beliefs around what is meant to be funny for a child and how to explore difficult themes in an age and developmentally appropriate manner. Audiences were filled with grown ups, and as I have seen, we have just as much to gain from these productions as the younger audiences.
A Mano (6+):
I think this will go down as my overall favourite, and it happened to be the first I saw. This short piece marked the North American debut of this production by El Patio Teatro of Spain. With no words and using only their hands and modeling clay figures, Julián Sáenz-López and Izaskun Fernández created a magical world with an unbelievably sweet and sympathetic main character that you can’t help but root for. They set the scene in this imaginary world where the clay figure lives inside the shop window of a second hand store and hopes to be taken home. He makes friends with another item in the shop window and we experience their dream-like play together. The music of Edith Piaf accompanies the action and lends itself perfectly to the emotional tone of the piece. I felt immersed and delighted by this creative story of friendship, love and loss. What I took away from A Mano was also the universality of the feelings they expressed in the storytelling, crossing lines of language and without using words, they made us laugh with the silliness, imagine possibilities and feel the sadness at the loss of a friend.
Dans Ma Maison de Papier, J’ai des Poèmes sur le Feu (7+):
This was a moving piece both visually and in the themes explored. The main tag line is: “Every child is inside of an old person…they just don’t know it yet”. Initially, I thought that this might be a mistranslation, but no, it says exactly that in French, too. Philippe Dorin, of France, wrote this piece and it was put on by a local company Les Deux Mondes.
This story is set in an imaginary house inside the mind of the main character who “wakes” to suddenly find herself old. As an older woman, she negotiates with a mysterious gentleman, who has come to take her in death, to be able to search for the little girl inside her to return a pair of red shoes. With the symbolism, themes of aging, life, death, and the poetry of the language of this piece, I’m not sure it wouldn’t go over the heads of the youngest audiences. The set, costumes and casting were entirely perfect and it sure was lovely!
Out of New-Brunswick, Marc-André Charron and Mathieu Chouinard, co-created and star in Bouffe, as brother Chefs Mortadel and Basil. Before the show begins, they clown around with the audience and each other. The story even seems completely light hearted as they recount how they will prepare a meal with the pièce de résistance dessert, the “Tarte à Pomme à l’Ancienne de Papa”. Audience members are included in the feast as they are served real food, there’s slapstick, and well timed jokes, everyone is laughing. As the story progresses, we’re shown flashbacks to the boys’ childhood, which give us a glimpse into some of their quirks and their misguided (?) adoration for their Papa. Meant to explore themes of hunger, abundance, famine, food sources, it did. Where my glowing review was lost, and my feelings shifted was in the fact that I didn’t think the ten year olds in the audience needed to be privy to flashes that included verbal and physical abuse, shaming and a scene involving a comic-ish murder. For something that started out so clownish and lighthearted, I didn’t feel prepared for quite so violent a denouement.
This was a very interesting piece that worked well in a small space, it made the stories of the five characters seems that much more personal. L’Eau du Bain (Quebec) brought us Impatience, which featured five actors (three teenagers and two adults) on stage with sound proof earphones each playing different music that represents their teenage self. They remove the phones to speak to the audience, we’re told short bits about themselves, some true, some fictionalized. The youth share their fears and hopes for the future and the adults talk about where they are, how they felt as youth and shared some regrets. Mixed with music, atmospheric sounds and lights, I felt immersed for the duration of the show. I laughed, I reflected, I saw myself in their words. In this, a generation learning to communicate in 140 characters or less, Impatience made me appreciate how much story can be told in just a few sentences at a time.
Futur Intérieur (12+):
Three space adventurers, all named Robert, are aboard a ship in the future and enact stories of their adventures in a time when the artificial intelligence has acquired the ability to feel and an alien virus has caused them to speak poetically. This story starts out quite light, too. I particularly enjoyed the scenes inspired by Cpt. Chris Hadfield’s tech and communication filled journey to outer space, including a rendition of Space Oddity (Ground Control to Major Bob…), as well as taking live questions from children on Earth. It was a delightfully low tech set and props, but this made it that much more enjoyable to really imagine yourself there with them. The Roberts are funny, dramatic and great storytellers. You can still catch this show by Théâtre de la Pire Espèce.
Futur Intérieur plays Théâtre Aux Écuries (7285 rue Chabot) until December 13th. Tickets HERE.