Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Review: (Edmonton) African Folk Tales (Fringe)

The Art of the Story
by Rebecca Edgewood
Ah, South Africa. The country where zebras all drive SUVs, Giraffes have short legs and short necks, and where Tockalosh (whatever it/he/she is) runs just out of sight, day and night. It’s also the homeland of expert storysmith Erik De Waal, and the setting for his yearly hour of children’s fare: African Folktales with Erik De Waal. This is a superb bit of theatre from a master storyteller.  It is located at the Theatre for Young Audience venue and is advertised as a childrens’ show, but the adults in the audience were equally rapt.  De Waal is the ideal kids performer. He doesn’t patronize or oversimplify, and his accent adds a delicious flavour to his narrative.  

Barefoot, dressed in street clothes with puppets in hands, De Waal fully commits to the stories he tells.  At the few points in the show where the children became unruly (particularly one child, who seemed to feel that it was a solo dance show and that she was the star), De Waal handled the audience with aplomb. The stories themselves are simple – one is a legend, one teaches a lesson – but simple is best with children – the characters De Waal portrays are richly developed, and as for set and scene… that’s what the imagination is for. At the end of the show, De Waal promised a return to Edmonton next year with more African Folk Tales, and I look forward to hearing them!   

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