De­light­ful ad­ven­ture leaves ’em Zmil­ing

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Kevin Prokosh

SCOT­LAND’S Vis­i­ble Fic­tions proves its low-tech sto­ry­telling style pos­sesses enough swash and buckle to thrill an au­di­ence of kids raised on 3D movies and com­puter ac­tion games.

The glo­be­trot­ting the­atre com­pany, which last vis­ited Man­i­toba The­atre for Young Peo­ple in 2010 with a rol­lick­ing retelling of the Greek myth about Ja­son and the Arg­onauts, re­turns with an­other tale of an old-school heroic tale, The Mark of Zorro, this time writ­ten by Davey An­der­son. The young au­di­ence at a school per­for­mance this week de­lighted in the sim­ple but in­ven­tive stag­ing that was part pop-up book, comic book and table­top the­atre. They cheered Zorro’s van­quish­ing of the vil­lain and of course jeered his vic­tory kiss with the be­sot­ted Is­abella.

Zorro, cre­ated by New York-based pulp writer John­ston McCul­ley in 1919, is the se­cret iden­tity of Don Diego de la Vega who, in early 19th-cen­tury Cal­i­for­nia, wit­nesses the mur­der of his no­ble­man fa­ther, who cau­tions his griev­ing son be­fore he dies: “Don’t fight for vengeance, fight only for jus­tice.”

When the cor­rupt Es­ta­ban, the cap­tain of the royal guard, al­lows his sol­diers to rob the peas­ants and then kid­naps Is­abella’s fa­ther, the gov­er­nor, the all-in-black Zorro rides like the Man­i­toba The­atre for Young Peo­ple To March 9 Tick­ets: $15.50 at 204-942-8898

out of five wind on his stal­lion to the res­cue. Although he has no su­per­pow­ers, Zorro strikes fear into the hearts of bad guys with the snap of his whip and ac­cu­racy of his rapier that with three swipes leaves his feared mark.

The real heroes of the eventful 70-minute ad­ven­ture are cast mem­bers Denise Hoey, Neil Thomas and Tim Set­tle, who nar­rate and bring the sim­ple fun to The Mark of Zorro, geared for chil­dren seven and up. The trio make it look like child’s play with card­board pup­pets lit­er­ally pulled out of an over-sized sto­ry­book. The horses are played by per­form­ers who hold a large car­toon head in one hand, a tail in the other. They earned chuck­les from the pre­teen au­di­ence when a few nuggets were dropped to rep­re­sent horse buns.

The in­ge­nu­ity in the telling ex­tends to the use of large swath of mask­ing tape as a stand in for a road that gets blown up by a draw­ing of an old-fash­ioned fused bomb and a sign that reads “boom.” Zorro leaves his mark on his vic­tims, in­clud­ing Hoey, who pulls opens her blouse to re­veal a T-shirt em­bla­zoned with a Z.

The ef­fect on the par­ents watch­ing is a pow­er­ful de­sire to be a kid at play again.

Also ver­sa­tile and ef­fec­tive is Robin Peo­ples’ set-in-a-box, or what looks like a news­pa­per kiosk. It flips open ev­ery which way, comes apart and re-assem­bles into ev­ery­thing from a dun­geon to a rooftop and a church. Di­rec­tor Davey An­der­son keeps the ac­tion mov­ing at a gal­lop, aided by David Trou­ton’s sound­scape, which sounds vaguely like theme mu­sic from TV west­erns.

The 1880s caped cru­sader wins the day in The Mark of Zorro but ev­ery young per­son wins who learns its lessons about jus­tice and hero­ism.

DOU­GLAS ROBERT­SON PHOTO

The cast mem­bers are the real heroes of Mark of Zorro.

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