Review by Katy Pobjoy
Ogres. Witches. Magic. Is this just another fairy tale? No indeed! Arianna is not your typical fairy tale. The outdoor show, written by Thomas Morgan Jones, succeeded, not only in keeping the children's rapt attention, but in entertaining the adults and teens in the audience at the Confederation Centre Amphitheatre this summer. The latter found themselves impressed by the more realistic approach that does not have good triumphing over evil. And the children? I saw their eyes grow round and their smiles widen as they hummed along to the catchy songs and watched the energetic performances.
The main characters, Nathaniel, Sasha and Murphy, were played by Craig Fair, Fiona Vroom and Robert Laughton, three fresh-faced young actors who pulled off the roles of children with remarkable ease. In fact the entire cast appeared to enjoy performing as much as we enjoyed watching them. With roles from playful children to mislead ogres, student-less wizards to "Diva-Witches," brainless politicians to sorceresses with a fetish for freezing people's feet in place, the performances were as varied as they were entertaining.
In Arianna, evil does not manifest itself as the cloaked, ornery, villain we've come to recognise in children's stories. Rather, it comes in the form of a condition called "The Sleep," that is incurable and irreversible, and affects those who neglect their personal relationships and cease to care about life. Is this a gentle metaphor for teaching children about life's sad realities? Perhaps.
The only consolation the protagonists receive from the play's namesake sorceress, Arianna, is to never stop thinking of the ones lost but to keep them in our hearts and minds.
As the show came to a close, I found myself surprised; the conclusion manages to pull at your heart strings without using cheesy cliches. "We are gone, lost but not forgotten," sing the magic folk as Sasha comes to terms with the fact that she has lost her parents for good. Murphy discovers that his mentor, the mayor, has been taken. Nathaniel realises that he has lost his father forever, and perhaps his mother as well. The final scene brought a tingle of goose bumps to my arms and a sad smile to my lips.
Composed by Jean-Francois Poulin and directed by Julia Grey, this performance, with its strong voices, characters that effortlessly bring a smile to your face and an ease that pulls you in, was a gift to tourists and Islanders alike.