by Lynn on April 8, 2011

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People. Co-conceived by Florence Gibson and Shawn Byfield. Directed by Conrad Alexandrowicz. Choreographed by Shawn Byfield. Set and costume designed by Julia Tribe. Projection artist is Jacob Niedzwiecki. Lighting by Bradley A. Trenaman. Starring: Kyle Brown, Matthew G. Brown, David Cox, Melody Johnson, Tangara Jones, Jamie McRoberts, Tammy Nera, Jennifer Stewart, Tosh Sutherland.
Produced by the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People.

I Think I Can was a wonderful piece of theatre when I first saw it at the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People in 2007. It’s been tweaked here and there and has made a welcome return, and the results are generally still terrific.

It’s the story of friendship, bravery, and dealing with the dreaded schoolyard bully. One of the many beauties of the show is that it tells the story almost entirely through tap-dancing.

Biow is the bully who disrupts his classmates at play, but Tip is his main target. Tip is a sweet kid with a ‘wonky’ leg. Biow makes fun of him; steals his homework; and bedevils him at every turn even though Tip tries to stand up to him. Eventually the tables are turned and Biow is bullied and beaten up by older kids. It’s Tip and another young friend who save him. From then on Biow’s behaviour is changed when faced with true friendship and kindness.

There are two adults in the play: Tip’s supportive father who urges Tip to be strong and realize he can do anything, ‘wonky’ leg notwithstanding; and the science teacher. She is the only one who actually speaks. She is an insensitive, hardnosed woman who doesn’t see that Tip is the victim and Biow is the bully. But she loves science and tries to instill it in her class and eventually does. They present a science project that proves Einstein’s theory of relativity all through tap-dancing. Wonderful.

With this tap-dancing show we are drawn into the story by the intoxicating sound of the uniform sound of tapping that we hear from all over the theatre. The kids tap-dance into the school yard, each preoccupied in his/her own world. Eventually the kids join together to challenge dance or dance in unison. Even Tip is included. Each kid has a personality expressed in their dance. When Biow arrives he pushes into the group’s space, grimacing, challenging, and aggressive. It’s all in the body language and the dance. It’s an unspoken language, but we all understand what it means.

Now as then (2007) I love how Florence Gibson and Shawn Byfield don’t show why Biow is a bully, but that his behaviour is changed when he sees how brave and decent two of his classmates are when they save him from other bullies.

Since 2007 Shawn Byfield’s choreography has grown and is more complex and intricate at times. It better illuminates the tricky politics of the schoolyard and friendships. Julia Tribe’s set is simpler with clever use of projections instead of set pieces. The direction of Conrad Alexandrowicz is full of energy, wit and some intense moments. I detect that more dialogue has been added to the teacher’s part. She attempts to make jokes with a science motif and I don’t think it works that well. It tends to bog down the pace. It’s already been well established that she’s blind to the reality in her classroom; her deliberately lame jokes just slow the piece down.

The cast is hugely talented with David Cox as Biow and Tosh Sutherland as Tip doing dazzling foot work.

I Think I Can is an important work that deals with a serious subject in a provocative, compelling way and every kid, both victim and bully, should see it.

I Think I Can plays at the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People until May 5, 2011

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1 Lynn April 23, 2011 at 7:59 pm

thanks for this.