by Lynn on May 7, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

At Young People’s Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Created by Michelle Olson and Quelemia Sparrow

Written and directed by Quelemia Sparrow

Choreographed by Michelle Olson

Set by Shizuka Kai

Costumes by Jessica Oostergo

Lighting by Bradley A. Trenaman

Puppet design by Tamara Unroe

Composed by Wayne Lavallee

Sound by Kate de Lorme

Cast: Gloria May Eshkibok

Tasha Faye-Evans

Taran Kootenhayoo

Jeanette Kotowich

Donna Soares

A worthy play and production that deals with the environment through Indigenous stories.

The Story.  Margie is a lively, energetic young girl who learns the value of clean water, air, a salmon’s journey and being careful with the environment. She deliberately throws her plastic wrapped sandwich into the river. This starts a chain reaction when she meets Staqwi, a salmon who is going to teach her to be more respectful. They are guided by the all-knowing, kindly Grandmother River who tells them ancient stories to instruct them on their way.

 The Production. Shizuka Kai has designed a beautiful, evocative set with a multi-blue-hewed sheet flowing down from a rock structure that spreads on the ground, thus suggesting the river. A circular disk suspends from the flies, stage left. Various fish silhouettes will be projected on the disk as will the silhouette of the Grandmother River.

Maggie, portrayed with playful enthusiasm by Donna Soares, meets Staqwi a salmon, played with energy and sweetness by Taran Kootenhayoo. For Maggie to actually know the trials and tribulations of the salmon and its journey in the river to the ocean, Maggie is transformed into a salmon. Jessica Oostergo’s costumes for the salmon, of linking silvery disks on its back suggests the scales of the fish and the result is inspired.

What Maggie does when she throws her plastic wrapped sandwich into the river, is brought home when she, Staqwi and two water spirits see a huge pod of floating plastic that is polluting waterways. It traps birds, fish and insects and kills them. The eco system is compromised.

Director Quelemia Sparrow and choreographer Michelle Olson have captured the spirituality of the world of Indigenous folk tales. There is a magical, ethereal sense to the telling that gets the audience into that world. And of course the lesson regarding plastic and pollution is obvious.

It is good to hear Gloria May Eshkibok’s kindly, smoky voice as Grandmother River. I would love to have seen that actress back on a stage but we only have her voice and a projection of her cartoon silhouette. It is still effective.

 Comment. Salmon Girl  tells an important story regarding pollution, nature and the environment. And it tells it to those who could make a difference in our future—children.

Presented by Young People’s Theatre.

Opened: May 3, 2018.

Closes: May 12, 2018.

Running Time: 55 minutes.

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