The power of imag­i­na­tion

Charm­ing pro­duc­tion chan­nels power of imag­i­na­tion into a grand ad­ven­ture

Winnipeg Free Press - Section E - - FRONT PAGE - By Ran­dall King ran­dall.king@freep­ress.mb.ca

FOR Prairie kids here in land-locked Win­nipeg, the no­tion of spend­ing your life on a boat, sail­ing the ocean, is a be­guil­ing fan­tasy all on its own.

For Peg (Jen­nifer Balen), the hero­ine of the kids’ play Peg and the Yeti, life on the sea is ev­ery­day life. She spends most of her days on a fish­ing boat with her lov­ing par­ents.

But she’s a girl with a vivid imag­i­na­tion, and she dreams of go­ing from the “bot­tom of the world” to the very top, climb­ing Mount Ever­est.

Play­wright Mon­ica Du­fault adapted Ken­neth Op­pel’s much-loved chil­dren’s book of the same name and added a premise that ac­knowl­edges Peg’s ad­ven­ture as an ex­er­cise in fan­tasy.

To re­al­ize her dream, Mom (Ntara Curry) and Dad (Mark Crawford) are re­quired to play along, as­sist­ing Peg by pack­ing for her mis­sion, and even pep­per­ing Peg’s dream with the ad­di­tion of a gi­ant abom­inable snow­man mon­ster — the Yeti — who be­comes markedly less abom­inable when bribed with de­li­cious “pork scrun­cheons” from Peg’s back­pack.

The sec­ond play in MTYP’s sea­son, Peg and the Yeti is tar­geted to kids be­tween the ages of three and seven and, judg­ing by a Thurs­day morn­ing school per­for­mance, it plays to them beau­ti­fully. The theatre em­ploys a rarely used “al­ley” stage con­fig­u­ra­tion with seats on either side of the fish­ing boat set in the cen­tre of the theatre.

The kids in the au­di­ence are pre­sumed to be Peg’s friends, who come along for the ride. A few of them may be en­listed to help when Peg uses some sails to repli­cate the ef­fects of an avalanche, a scene that qual­i­fies as the play’s lovely, vivid cen­tre­piece.

By its very premise, Peg and the Yeti serves as an ex­cel­lent in­tro­duc­tion to theatre as an elab­o­rate ex­er­cise in “pre­tend.” The use of props is es­pe­cially in­ge­nious, as when a ta­ble, a box and a lad­der are em­ployed to serve as a lo­co­mo­tive, or when three lad­ders of dif­fer­ent heights con­sti­tute the treach­er­ous moun­tain ter­rain of the Hi­malayas.

Even so, it’s not all fun and games. In a scene pre­ced­ing an avalanche, the over­tired Peg suf­fers a bit of a melt­down when she ex­presses dis­sat­is­fac­tion with how the game is go­ing. (The Bri­tish have the best word to de­scribe a child in this state of ex­hausted bel­liger­ence: stroppy.)

If kids are able to rec­og­nize this kind of be­hav­iour in them­selves, they also get to see the heal­ing prop­er­ties of a sin­cere apol­ogy and a hug in ac­tion.

For an ac­tress on the other side of 20, Balen makes for an en­gag­ing eight-year-old, with a big voice and big ges­tures that still feel nat­u­ral.

Curry and Crawford have to ex­er­cise more del­i­cacy play­ing mom and dad, demon­strat­ing bound­less love for their off­spring, but also set­ting lim­its in a way that doesn’t alien­ate them from Peg’s “friends” in the theatre seats.

When you see them work­ing as a syn­chro­nized unit to play the gi­ant Yeti, it be­comes es­pe­cially clear why di­rec­tor Pablo Felices-Luna cast Curry, a sea­soned dancer, as Mom.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WIN­NIPEG FREE PRESS

From top, Mark Crawford, Ntara Curry and Jen­nifer Balen set sail on an imag­i­na­tion-fu­elled jour­ney to Mount Ever­est in Peg and the Yeti.

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