On Saturday I was invited to Carousel Theatre’s presentation of Visible Fictions Jason and the Argonauts based on the Greek myth where the men sail off in search of the Golden Fleece. A tall tale wherein 40 men (or up to 55 depending what source you look at) board the ship Argos and overcome obstacles like the Clashing Rocks and a great dragon that guards the Golden Fleece. Visible Fictions take this myth and uses the convention of a merry band of two travelling storytellers complete with wooden cart and tickle trunk to tell us this tale.
The two actors – Simon Donaldson & Tim Settle – take on all the characters of this story including the Argonauts with the help of 5 or 6 plastic Ken dolls, a spiderman figurine and a great hulking figurine which is, as you can probably guess, is Hercules. The cleverest moment in the performance is when the wooden cart turns into a sailboat right in front of your very eyes. In the moment the actors joke about how they are up there sweating up a storm yet the set change gets all the applause. Well, all joking aside, this set reveal did deserve the applause it received. Designed by Robin Peoples this set piece is relatively simple and yet extremely imaginative. Later on towards the end of the performance the wooden cart – after it’s done being a sailboat – divides into two pieces where yet another set/prop/costume piece is revealed. The actor puts on the piece, turns a knob and suddenly there is air being blown into the piece creating a gigantic dragon’s tail.
The two actors not only played all the male roles but also the female roles such has Hera and Medea. One of the cutest moments of the afternoon came when one of the actors was playing Medea and I hear a voice shouting from behind me saying “but he’s a boy!!!” You can’t fool kids, right?! But this was the whole point from the beginning of the performance. The folks at Visible Fictions don’t try to fool the kids into thinking the actors are every character. Instead they set it up from the beginning that these men on stage – the actors – are storytellers and that they are there to tell us a tale.
And, this convention had the kids engaged. The little boy in front of kept giggling and laughing quite loudly and was on his feet at the end. I’m doubtful he knows what a “standing ovation” is so the fact that this little boy was so engaged he leapt to his feet at the end, well, that’s a cause for celebration.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I love to see kids engaged in theatre. When we’re talking about building future audiences and theatregoers it brings a smile to my face to see kids so engaged in theatre and storytelling.
Visible Fiction’s Jason and the Argonauts plays at the Watefront Theatre until April 28th. You can get more information or buy tickets at the Carousel Theatre website: www.carouseltheatre.ca