by Lynn on February 9, 2016

in The Passionate Playgoer

kotik-baby-01At Young People’s Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

A Collective Collaboration by Maja Ardal, Audrey Dwyer, Mary Francis Moore and Julia Tribe.
Original concept by Maja Ardal
Directed by Mary Francis Moore
Cast: Maja Ardal
Audrey Dwyer
Julia Tribe

Truly a life changing experience in the theatre because of the brilliance of the creators of the concept and the production.

NOTE: This show is for babies aged 3 to 12 months but is suitable for up to 24 months. Although there was a baby 10 weeks old at my performance. I checked with the administration and they said I was young enough to attend.

The Production. The audience of parents and infants sit on the floor on pillows or blankets. Older folks can sit on chairs. Initially the audience is expected to sit in their space but for the duration of the show’s 30 minutes. Following the show parents and babies are invited to come up and play with the performers and use the props.

There are black panels on the stage. Bubbly Audrey Dwyer wonders where her friends are so she goes to look for them behind one of the panels. Maja Ardal’s face slowly pops up behind the black panel stage left. She smiles, makes a sound like ‘boo or boop’, then slowly sinks down, out of site. Julia Tribe’s smiling face slowly comes up behind another panel stage right, quietly makes the ‘boop’ sound and slowly sinks down and disappears behind the panel. Centre stage behind another panel, Audrey Dwyer slowly appears, smiles and says “boop,” and disappears. This sequence is repeated just enough to engage the baby, then the group goes to another part of the performance. A small colourful ball is tossed in the air behind a black panel. Then a bigger ball is tossed up and disappears. Then a colourful beach ball is tossed up and disappears. And repeated.

The three performers come out from behind the black panels holding long poles on the end of which are colourful strips of silk. The performers wave the sticks so that the silk floats, circles and zigzags in the air.

A chute of silk is formed with one performer holding one end of a swath of colourful silk while standing and another performer holds the other end while kneeling. Then one colourful ball is placed at the top of the chute and it roles down. Then two balls are placed on the chute and rolls down. Then a bucket of colourful balls roll down.

I notice something startling. The whole audience is silent, except for one wee soul who has hiccups. They are all rapt with attention to the action. I have never heard such silence in a very long time. There are the babies looking forward, their mouths open, heads looking up, behind them, their smiling mothers and in a few cases their fathers. Magic.

The performers bring out a huge swath of blue silk and with performers on either side of the audience they float the silk slowly over the heads of the audience. One baby near me puts his arm up to reach and touch it. The sounds the performers make is a kind of ‘woooooow’ sound. The material is floated over the audience again, and back.

Sound is a big part of this piece. Either a drum is banged quietly, or finger cymbals are clinked; or a box of something is rattled. The sounds, the colours of the balls and silk and images and the repetition of all this just grips the babies.

As one thing leads slowly to another—there is no sense of being rushed—Maja Ardal pretends to water the earth. Then two sunflowers appear to be growing on either side of a black panel. Two strands of silk are attached under the two sunflowers, creating a smiling face with two sunflower eyes.

There is a method to this show, starting slowly with the appearing and disappearing faces and building from there, adding the balls in the air, and the silks and the flowers, all accompanied by sound, rattles and shaking bits in a box. There is no dialogue but these babies know exactly what is happening.

Maja Ardal, Audrey Dwyer and Julia Tribe are the engaging performers. Mary Francis Moore is the smart director. Perhaps in adult theatre there is a rush to go from one thing to another. Not in this kind of theatre. Here there is time to spend to engage the young audience, to repeat, to continue to engage and perhaps repeat and then move on to the next moment. The thought and care that went into this wonderful piece of theatre is astonishing, as is the result. And when it’s finished the babies and their parents are invited to come to the stage side of the space and play with the props and ‘meet’ the performers.

Comment. I don’t want to see babies in the theatre. Except here (at Young People’s Theatre). I don’t want people ‘eating’ in the theatre. Except here, when babies are hungry they should be fed and their mothers have a natural supply of milk. I want total silence in the theatre. And I got a silence here so profound I was startled. Every baby was facing forward, mesmerized by what they were seeing, hearing and sensing. No parent was reading a cell phone. No parent needed to point out any moment to her/his child. It was a bonding of parent and baby watching theatre. Woow.

This production of One Thing Leads to Another is startling in its artistry and thinking. Creator Maja Ardal did two years of research on baby psychology and development in her preparation for the show. The creators have put this together in a rigorous way to engage the young audience and their parents in so many ways. It’s brilliant.

Presented by Young People’s Theatre

Opened: February 8, 2016.
Closes: February 21, 2016.
Cast: 3 brilliant women
Running Time: 30 minutes plus 30 minutes playtime.

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1 Debra Wren March 5, 2016 at 12:44 am

I saw this show with my 9 month old granddaughter. I felt skeptical about going to live theatre geared to infants. But, my daughter and daughter-in-law assured me that it was amazing (it was their second time seeing it with their daughter). After seeing it myself, I couldn’t have agreed more. I was so impressed with this performance. It was developmentally appropriate for the little ones, and kept them engaged for the entire 20 minutes. Well done you brilliant women!!