For Art’s Sake review
by Anna Fuerstenberg
If you have ever scribbled in the margins, held a brush in your hand or even imagined what it would be like to fling your innermost visions on a canvas, this play will touch you. It is a beautiful romp in the company of Art, a young boy of eleven, who is oft neglected by a workaholic mother. When she leaves him at the museum on his birthday, he befriends the delightful Franny who introduces him to her favourite paintings.
Franny opens the world of the imagination to the lonely boy and explains that every great artist started as a scribbler. She introduces him to the concept of creation for its own sake and the transmogrification of reality through the eyes of the creators.
With the help of Wazo, a paper bird and Scribble, a personification of Art’s first scribbled attempts at creating something, Franny convinces Art that he is capable of creating something worthy of hanging in a museum. She also aids him in the controlling of a huge imaginary monster made of all the rejected scraps of paper he has thrown out.
If you have not seen Julie Tamiko Manning perform, grab a child and head immediately to this terrific show. She waltzes through the play in four different roles and is utterly delightful in each. As the frazzled mother, she plays the cognitive dissonance of a single parent torn between earning a living and spending “quality time” with a lonely only child. She even manages to get our sympathy when she has to abandon poor Art on his birthday! Her Franny is a delightful feisty 13-year-old who convinces Art that she is the curator of the museum. Her passion for the paintings (brilliantly projected on a great set designed by James Lavoie) was utterly convincing. Her bird persona and Scribble were equally delightful and especially so when at odds with one another.
Jade Hassouné is terrific as the 11-year-old slowly and tentatively being led to his own creative imagination. He manages to sing and dance and animate the really fine music created for this show by veteran composer Nick Carpenter. The music was really effective and not a bit overly sweet, as children’s music sometimes is.
Amanda Kellog has made this delightful piece a joy for children and adults alike. The five- and seven-year-olds I consulted were really pleased and that was what finally convinced me that it had worked in spite of a rather sophisticated theme.
Through November 14 at Centaur Theatre (453 Saint-Francois-Xavier in Old Montreal). Weekend Family Matinee performances: Saturday & Sundays at 1 pm & 3 pm. Tickets from $14.50-$18. To purchase tickets, please call (514) 845-9810 or visit www.geordie.ca.