Review: YOU FANCY YOURSELF, Barrie, Ont.

by Lynn on August 12, 2021

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person in a private backyard in Barrie, Ont. until Aug. 14, 2021. Part of Talk Is Free Theatre’s Bees in the Bush Festival.

Written and performed by Maja Ardal

Directed by Mary Francis Moore

Maja Ardal’s timing is impeccable. The multi-talented-award-winning-actor-director-educator-curator proved how perfect and powerful that timing is with her recent performance of You Fancy Yourself as part of the Bees in the Bush Festival in Barrie, Ont.

She had just finished her wonderful performance, bowed several times to strong applause, left the playing space when it seemed she gave quiet instructions of “Ok, your turn” and the heavens opened up and it began to pour. This is not ‘Mother Nature’s doing. This is Maja Ardal knowing intensely how and when to deliver the best performance of her engaging show and then making nature wait before letting it take its course. And not a minute too soon either.

You Fancy Yourself is the story of Elsa and her journey through childhood as an immigrant kid. She tells of being sea-sick on the voyage from her native Iceland to Scotland (Edinburgh) so her father could join academia and the world of books. There were strict instructions from her Mother to speak English in public.

Elsa is a precocious, energetic, lively, sweet girl. She is curious, inquisitive, accommodating and good natured. She is hurt easily but tries not to let on. She is desperate to make friends and be accepted by the in-crowd at school. There is the snooty popular girl who looks down on Elsa for her simple clothes to her awkward ways. There is the snooty girl’s acolyte who endures the snooty girl’s bad behaviour, because she too, wants to be in the in-crowd.

But Elsa’s most endearing aspect is her kindness to those who are alone and solitary. There is Adele, the shy young girl who lives up the stairs with her sickly mother. There is David who people think is dumb (but isn’t), who is always wiping his runny nose on his sleeve. In both cases Elsa befriends them and tries to guide them until they both reveal talents no one knew they had. This kind of rankles Elsa but that seems a reasonable reaction from one who is young.

We met Elsa last summer (at the Plural of She Festival) when Maja Ardal performed The Cure For Everything which is part two of Elsa’s story, when she is 15 and still eager to be popular. You Fancy Yourself is the beginning of the story.

Maja Ardal is a wonderful writer, gifted in the quirky juxtaposition of words to capture the quick mind of a precocious girl with a vivid imagination. Ardal enters the backyard space wearing a loose top, a skirt and black comfortable shoes. She is eager to please and smiling. She flits effortlessly from character to character each with their own traits. Adele is hunched and keeps twirling her hair, speaking almost in a whisper. David keeps wiping his nose on his sleeve. There is the sharp-tongued Scots superintendent of the building Elsa lives in who is always reprimanding anybody who walks on her floor after she’s washed it.  There are the snooty members of the ‘in crowd’ to which Elsa longs to belong. All vivid, distinct and funny.  

Under Mary Francis Moore’s careful, fearless direction Ardal skillfully navigates the playing space, climbing onto and around a trunk and is used imaginatively to reveal the many adventures Elsa gets to.

You Fancy Yourself is a charmer of a show in which we will all see ourselves in one guise or another. That is one of this show’s many delights. Maja Ardal is the show’s biggest delight. And Mother Nature thinks so too.

Produced by Talk Is Free Theatre, Bees in the Bush Festvial.

Plays until: August 14, 2021.

Running time: 1 hour.

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