Tales of Foreign Lands and People produced by Jazz Haz Productions playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival is a delightful introduction to creator and performer Anthony Audain’s work. Audain’s opening resonated with me as I am very interested in my ancestors and their stories, both “real and imagined”, as Audain would say.
The three stories touched on bullying, being different, turning accidents into positives, and the power of working together. In the first tale, an old, blind woman named Edith is teased by three boys. This story, though rich with material, would benefit from a more compelling climax but children will enjoy Audian’s characterizations of each part.
The root of the second tale, a young girl turning an accident into something wonderful, is another story point that children can relate to, as are the aforementioned themes. I particularly enjoyed the description of the the young girl having “big ambitions,” like many children do.
The third is a tale of a fisherman and his grandson, and has a strong folklore feeling to it that I think the previous stories could have benefited from. Two key aspects are the lighting to depict the forest, and the use of a drum as a child’s voice.
The simple rotating set was a nice addition for all of the tales. Throughout the three pieces Audain blends audience participation in at just the right moments, which helps keep the pacing joyful. That said, some of the dialogue and lyrics are too didactic and children would most likely enjoy hearing more of the musical instruments.
Tales of Foreign Lands and People could have benefited from stronger material — for example more dramatic climaxes for each story– but Audain is nevertheless a wonderful storyteller for children and adults. Engaging and compelling, Audain has a kindness and joy that radiates throughout his performance.
- Tales of Foreign Lands and People plays at the George Ignatieff Theatre. (15 Devonshire Pl.)
- Tickets for Kidsfest shows are $5 for kids (age 12 and younger); adults pay $13.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Festival Box Office at Scadding Court (707 Dundas St. W.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- The George Ignatieff Theatre is wheelchair-accessible, and has wide aisles for easy mid-show exits.
- Don’t miss the Kidsfest club located on the lawn adjacent to the venue! Free activities for children (3-12) and caregivers run every day of the festival: see website for details.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Wednesday July 4th, 6:00 pm
- Friday July 6th, 3:30 pm
- Sunday July 8th, 12:15 pm
- Tuesday July 10th, 3:15 pm
- Wednesday July 11th, 1:30 pm
- Friday July 13th, 10:00 am
- Saturday July 14th, 11:45 am
Photo of Anthony Audain provided by Jazz Haz Productions.