Friday, October 18, 2013

Review: (Ottawa) You Fancy Yourself

The Joys and Heartache of Being a Child
by Robyn Lester

It was an exciting night at the Great Canadian Theatre Company for the opening of Maja Ardal’s You Fancy Yourself, which was originally slated for last year’s season and then unexpectedly delayed. The play, both written and performed by Ardal, is loosely based on her own childhood memories of friends, school, and trying to fit in as a foreigner. It weaves together a universal story of the confusion and alienation we all experience as children, and tells it through the eyes of a young Icelandic girl, Elsa, now living in Scotland.

Under the direction of Mary Francis Moore, Ardal brings to life several different characters, the majority of them children. I was struck by how well written these young characters were. All too often children are portrayed as these perfect and innocent creations. It was refreshing to see an honest portrayal of children. Each young character had flaws, quirks, and a capacity to be cruel. What played out on stage is the same thing that still plays out in playgrounds today; a desperation to fit in, and a willingness to make sacrifices in order to do so. Even if those sacrifices cause hurt to someone else. The message I got from this? There are no “good” or “bad” children. There are only a collection of young individuals struggling to feel secure amongst their peers and family.

Perhaps most striking was young Elsa’s way of interpreting the world around her with humour and a sense of fun. Even the bad things. The play was a perfect mix of childhood naiveté and imagination in a language that adults could relate to and respect. The set, a simple wooden trunk in the centre of an empty stage, quickly transformed into a neglected apartment, a crowded playground, an empty meadow, as Elsa narrated her story forcing us to examine reality from a child’s perspective. 
This play not only reminded me of my own childhood misconceptions and confusion, it also made me feel like I was a child again. It put me right back in the elementary school playground amongst a bunch of young oddballs. What Ardal has created is a play that deals with universal struggles that start when we’re young and continue to shape us as we grow. I hope Ardal is proud of what she created and I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to see it.
Run Date: Oct.15 – Nov.3
Run Time: 95 minutes, including intermission

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