Friday, June 8, 2007


ITSAZOO's production of Grimm Tales continues until
June 16th at Mt. Douglas Park. Showtimes are 7pm
with 2pm matinees on June 9th and 16th. Tickets are
available at 858-2733.

1. So what is it like seeing a show at Mt. Doug park?

As Robert Frost once said, "The woods are lovely, dark and deep". It's a real thrill seeing a theatre production in such a beautiful natural setting, specially seeing modern versions of traditional fairy tales that were gathered by the Grimm brothers in the woods and villages of Europe in the 1800's, thereby keeping these oral stories alive for future generations. When we enter the woods off the main parking lot at Mt. Doug park we can see a few hundred meters in every direction where actors are already in role as characters who we might not meet for quite a while. Yet we know they are there and look forward to encountering them where they have created a stage space in front of a tree or between two fallen logs, or even, at one point, literally on the edge of a cliff. You do need to be prepared for the chill coming down as the show goes on (dress warmly) and for some bugs, but the walking is minimal and level and really doesn't move much beyond the main parking lot and its immediate environs.

2. Tell us a little bit about this new theatre company ITSAZOO that has been founded by University of Victoria theatre students. What are they trying to do?

This group of very talented and committed young people are interested in working in unconventional theatre spaces and drawing new audiences to see new works, or new versions of older works, as in this case. Two prior ITSAZOO productions were mounted in UVic's Finnerty Gardens and were very successful - Midsummer Night's Dream and Alice in Wonderland. They also produced resident playwright Sebastian Archibald's Death of a Clown last summer at the Victoria Fringe Festival, to great acclaim. This adaptation of a number of Grimm Brothers' fairy tales is written by Archibald and very cleverly directed by Chelsea Haberlin in an effective blend of the original stories with contemporary references. We see the spoiled princess of the Frog Prince, for example, as a Paris Hilton clone with a daddy who over-indulges her. We also see a Prince Charming who has found a career on reality TV and who is not all that willing to settle down to "happily ever after"! Yet all these modern interventions into the traditional tales does not diminish their original plot or underlying messages.

3. What are the highlights of this production?

Two of the main pleasures of this show are our tour guides throughout, Hansel and Gretel, played complete with cheesy German accents by Anne-Marie Giroday and Colby Wilson. These two are hilarious and are able to both deliver their scripted lines and to improvise with the audience whenever they need to as they move the group of about 30 people from setting to setting. I thought production designer Ingrid Hansen did an outstanding job on what must have been a minimal budget to create very effective costumes, my favorite by far of which is a king's robe fashioned out of stuffed teddy bears. One other aspect of the show which worked very well was that we are accompanied throughout the 90 minute show by four musicians (the Bremen Town Musicians, of course) who create a soundscape for every story and location. Very effective.

4. Any future stars to watch out for?

There are quite a number of new faces in this show and the cast is large with 15 actors in all. Of course, Victoria favorite Gina McIntosh is always a treat and when we see her as the quintessential evil stepmother we are ready to boo her straight into the oven. But I was delighted to see Phoenix newcomers like Marina Lagace and Katie Takefman who shone in their respective roles. And Chris Wilson and Kaitlin Williams play their roles as Prince Charming and Princess Becky and Briar Rose with lots of self-mocking delight. But is really an ensemble piece where a lot of people are working literally behind the next tree getting themselves and others in and out of costumes. And kudos to Peter Carlone who plays the all-important doors that lead us from one story into another simply by holding onto a doorknob with a sign around his neck.

5. This seems like a children's theatre production and yet you say the audience was mostly adults. What's in it for grown-ups?

There were a few children in the audience last night, and they seemed to be very engaged in the show (sometimes a bit TOO engaged...children need clear guidelines when it comes to participating in a theatre production). But, similar to the Shrek phenomenon, Grimm Tales is full of clever asides that are really intended for an adult audience. We are constantly told by our tour guides Hansel and Gretel that the Enchanted Forest is plagued by famine and war, and we see glimpses of these problems throughout. We are presented with princesses who only care about shopping and princes who only care about how they look on TV. Yet, even in these contemporary updates of these stories, we are reminded of their great power as cautionary tales (Don't be too greedy...Be careful what you wish for...Look before you leap...) that function just as effectively today as they did two hundred years ago or more. A fine production from this up and coming company and lots of fun.

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