by Lynn on September 7, 2011

in The Passionate Playgoer

l-r; Viv Moore as Duck, Lucy Rupert as Bird

At the Theatre Centre until September 11, 2011. Inspired by Sergei Prokofiev’s classic children’s tale. Created by the company. Directed and conceived by Allyson McMackon. Set and Costumes by Lindsay Anne Black. Lighting by Michelle Ramsay. Original music by Patric Caird.

Presented by Theatre Rusticle. Opening night, Tuesday, September 6, 2011.

The always inventive company, Theatre Rusticle, has made its name producing muscular, vivid theatrical productions that have dealt with such diverse subjects as Macbeth (Birnam Wood) and the sinking of the Titanic (April 14, 1912). The company uses story and physical theatre to convey what it wants to say.

For their latest work, they used Prokofiev’s children’s story, Peter and the Wolf, as a starting point. It’s the story of a young boy named Peter who had a difficult relationship with his grandfather, with whom he lived. The boy lives in a world full of fantasy, animals, birds and a grey wolf. His grandfather warns him about the dangerous wolf.

The wolf is caught and is about to be shot by hunters. They are convinced to save the wolf and send it to a zoo. In the end Peter and his grandfather manage to let the wolf escape before it has to live a horrible life in a zoo.

In this piece director Allyson McMackon and 15 actors, dancers, and musicians have created a work in which the old Peter is looking back on his life, just before he dies. The old wolf comes back to see Peter one more time and that rekindles all sorts of memories.

Rather than being an entertainment for young children, which was the company’s original intention, the piece is in fact a look into the dark world of what frightens us and why, innocence, hubris, compassion and the curiosity we have in the animal world, and what is worse, a wild animal or people acting savagely?

This is a work of great physicality with dancer William Yong playing a sensual, charismatic Wolf, Viv Moore dancing the part of a frisky, petulant Duck, and Wesley Connor as a coy, graceful Cat. As Young Peter, Matthew Romantini brings his fresh-faced sweetness to the part of this curious, young boy.

The ensemble work is very fine, as is the dancing and the melding of it all with the eight piece orchestra. This is a very ambitious project that McMackon has envisioned and she and her company deserve kudos for producing it.

However it’s not without its problems. If you are not familiar with the story of Peter and the Wolf, and there are more than a few of us who aren’t, then the story-telling here will be a bit hazy. We have bits and pieces of the original—thank heavens for Wikipedia—but it’s not clear how they fit into the whole. And you have to have read the press information first to know that now the story is told from the elderly Peter’s point of view just before he dies and not his grandfather’s point of view, and that the elderly Wolf has come back too.

Audiences aren’t privy to this press information. If they need that to clarify what’s going on, rather than the story doing its job, then there is a big problem.

However for a company not afraid of big challenges—and this challenge is huge—you might give Theatre Rusticle’s a look. Just be aware that the story is not as clear as it could, should be.

Peter and the Wolf plays at the Theatre Centre until September 11, 2011.

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