christopher o’neill, rachel hastings & jozel bennett

Luciana Fernandes brings a brand new fairy tale to the Atlantic Fringe Festival with a beautiful assortment of characters and a lot of creativity in Grumble.

The challenge here is streamlining these ideas into a narrative that speaks with immediacy, clarity and action for a young audience. Fernandes is a strong writer, she has some fantastic ideas and she is attempting to tackle some large themes about self discovery and living authentically. The problem is that the way a lot of it is currently being manifested is in a very heady, dialogue heavy, intellectual way that isn’t conducive for the audience that the story seems to be targeting.

I loved that the story centered on an unlikely family with the witch as the mother of the Ogre and the Fairy and that the conflict was how intrinsically different each one’s personality and entire essence was from one another and how they came to realize their own important place in that dynamic. I loved that as the story unfolded the Ogre realized the love and concern that he has for his sister and that the Witch begins to appreciate how her daughter’s differences contribute to making their family strong, unique and special. This, I think, is the through-line that will resonate the strongest and clearest with young children.

Christopher O’Neill gives a delightful and hilarious performance as the Ogre with fantastic physical comedy, a perfect external appearance and a real sense of magic, mischief and silliness, especially with his distinctive grumble speech pattern. Jozel Bennett brought energy reminiscent of Miss Piggy to the Fairy, a challenging role whose motivations are still not fully realized. Rachel Hastings has a similar journey with the Witch, her caustic attitude works well at the beginning, but it makes more sense for her to have a balance between her conventional wicked witchery and a tenderer and more empathetic way she relates to her children, especially as the play progresses. I think the roles of the woodland creatures played by Jill Thorpe could, again, be streamlined and simplified to help Fairy accomplish a very specific and clear journey, rooted in action instead of in words.

In all, I think Grumble, and most particularly Grumble’s Ogre, have great potential for future incarnations. I hope that Fernandes will keep honing this play and workshopping it for audiences of young people so that its full potential has the opportunity to be realized.

TWISI Rating:  3 and a half stars

Grumble plays at the Museum of Natural History (1747 Summer Street) at the following times:

 Tuesday, Sep 3 • 6:30
Wednesday, Sep 4 • 6:30
Sunday, Sep 8 • 2:00

Tickets are $8.00 and are available in advance online at this website or 30 minutes before each show at the venue on the day of the performance. All tickets bought in person must be purchased with either cash or credit. For more information please visit this website or call 902.422.7604 between 10:00am and 5:00pm. 

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