Mice at Centre Ice (Benny The Bullet Productions) 2019 Toronto Fringe Review

Photo of the Cast of Mice at Centre Ice

Mice at Centre Ice, a family-fun, 45-minute comedy presented at the George Ignatieff Theatre as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival, exhibits teachable moments in sportsmanship, but falls short as stand alone theatre piece.

The premise of the show follows Benny the Bullet and the Mouse Hockey Leaguers who yearn to get the Cheddar Cup back from the Rink Rats. It is based on a beloved, best-selling children’s novel by Estelle Salata that also became an animated film.

I’m typically a fan of theatre that derives its source material from existing literature. It means that the story was so powerful that it extends beyond the pages. I came into the audience with high hopes, knowing that the story of Mice at Centre Ice is portrayed in a book and as an animated feature film.

The prompting for audience participation at the start of the scene made me believe that this would be an interactive piece, as many Theatre for Young Audiences pieces are, but as the performance continued, I was surprised that the actors tended to stay in the confines of their stage world and hardly broke the fourth wall.

While watching, I yearned from more physicalization from the actors; the majority of the piece was executed in dialogue. In my opinion, while dialogue may work in written literature, much more physicalization is needed to capture the attention of young audience members.

I’m accustomed to a strong physical presence when presenting artistic pieces to children. (Very similar to my writing teacher’s advice to “show, not tell.”) Effective pieces often include performers who have the ability to alter their voice to create character voices, roll on the floor, showcase acrobatic skills, or explore exaggerated facial expressions. These tactics tend to capture the attention and energy of a little one. I kept looking for these moments of intensity, but the few moments got lost in each scene.

Notable actors include Janice Peters Gibson as Benny ‘the Bullet’ III. Gibson is both commanding and earnest as Benny. Her portrayal is a wonderful example of what a great leader should be. Peppy Le Pierre, played by Santinder Besrai, had some wonderfully cheesy puns and jokes that allowed the piece to have some moments for adults to laugh and enjoy. I only wish that the character of Peppy had more “cheesy” moments to shine.

The simplistic costumes were charming. The Mouse Hockey League Players’ Creed exhibiting good sportsmanship adorned on the program and within the script were particularly useful. The Creed outlines teachable moments that adults can extend to their children, even after viewing the show.

For me, Mice at Centre Ice is not strong enough a piece to attract audiences on its own as a piece of theatre. I think it would be more effective as complementary piece, perhaps before or after reading the book.

Details

  • Mice at Centre Ice 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 (275 Bathurst St.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
  • Content Warning: audience participation.
  • 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.

The Toronto Fringe Festival is scent-free: please do not wear perfumes, colognes, or other strongly-scented products.

Photo of cast provided by the company

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