by Lynn on November 25, 2022

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at Young People’s Theater, Toronto, Ont. until Jan. 7, 2023.

Recommended for those ages 6-106.

Photo by Dahlia Katz: l-r: Amanda Cordner, Ken Hall

Originally written by The Brothers Grimm

Adapted by Greg Banks

Directed by Aurora Browne

Music composed by Victor Zupanc

Music director, Raha Javanfar

Set by Brandon Kleiman

Costumes by Laura Gardner

Lighting by Siobhán Sleath

Sound by Emily Porter

Cast: Herbie Barnes

Amanda Cordner

Ken Hall

JD Leslie

These are interesting and difficult times to do theatre. Theatres are recovering from being closed for 18 months by the pandemic. Many companies are eager to jump back in with big productions to make back the money it lost.

Not Young People’s Theatre (YPT). Artistic director, Herbie Barnes and his stalwart troop at Young People’s Theatre are both cautious and bold. They are presenting the much-loved Snow White, originally by the Brothers Grimm, but adapted here by Greg Banks, and with a twist. Rather than present the story with a large cast of actors playing Snow White, her evil step-mother-queen, the seven dwarfs, the hunter, the prince, and who knows how many others in crowds etc. YPT is presenting the classic in which two actors play all the parts including the politically astute, but firmly truthful mirror who tells the self-absorbed evil step-mother-queen who is the fairest in the land (and generally it ain’t you, sister. But I digress).

YPT is presenting Snow White as the true story of what really happened. Snow White’s evil step-mother-queen is so jealous of the beautiful child that she orders a huntsman to take the kid into the woods (lovely set of trees by Brandon Kleiman), kill her and bring the evil step-mother-queen the child’s heart and liver, just to make sure the deed is done. The huntsman can’t bring himself to do the terrible deed. With some clever maneuvers the huntsman brings the evil-queen what she thinks are the organs of the dead child. But he let the kid go to escape into the woods where she finds the home of the seven dwarfs. She knocks to see if they are home, but they aren’t, so she falls asleep in one of their beds. She is found when the dwarfs come home. Both are shocked to see the other, but soon Snow White and her new friends settle in to a life of mutual respect and happiness. Until the evil-step-mother-queen realizes that Snow White is still alive.

Jealousy is a terrible thing when one is totally self-absorbed. Especially when the honesty of the mirror kicks in and tells the evil-queen who IS the fairest of the land. In classic tales and life honesty, respect, tenacity, diligence, faith and love win out. Narcissism, not so much.

Greg Banks has adapted the Brothers Grimm story into a compact, bracing and very funny story. In her directorial debut Aurora Browne has used her comedic-improv background to wonderful use and created a production rich in humour, both silly and breathlessly physical. The audience is incorporated into the action by the gifted cast of two, listening carefully if they shout out and reacting effortlessly. The cast of two urges the audience to engage and they do, both young and older.

Most important about this adaptation and the production is that assumptions and perceptions of how characters should look and act are turned on their ear or upside-down. One assumes that because of her name, Snow White is, er, well “white”. But as the gleeful Amanda Cordner (Snow White) says, “Not anymore!!”

There is also an assumption of what the dwarfs should look like. Not anymore if Ken Hall has anything to do with it. He plays dwarf four, they don’t use the ‘usual’ names perhaps because the original names were too pejorative and one must be sensitive to such things. So the dwarfs are listed by number. Ken Hall plays all of them and indicates who and what number they are with just a twist of his hat and a change of voice and body language.

Both Amanda Cordner and Ken Hall play all the parts at a breathless, hilarious pace. The two actors segue smoothly from character to character with a shift and change of a cape, a hat, a jacket etc. (bravo to Laura Gardner for her colourful costumes). They bring out all the humour in the text and in the direction. More important than anything is that both gifted actors bring out the humanity, kindness, compassion, respect, love and open-hearted-generosity of Snow White and her seven friends. That’s the best take away from this modern adaptation.

Amanda Cordner and Ken Hall alternate performances with JD Leslie and Herbie Barnes who play all the parts in their performances. I will try and check them out too. A joyous time in the theatre.

Young People’s Theatre presents:

Plays until: January 7, 2023.

Running Time: 80 minutes.

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