An edited of this review was published by Apt613.
Brace yourself for a tough look at the scars left behind by a cruel adolescence in Small Creatures Such as We, a well written yet painful to watch at times offering by Angels in the Rafters productions.
An unassuming set with a sofa to stage left and a kitchen/bar to stage right provide a simple and effective method for time travel as the actors shift between their 14 and 16 year old selves on the sofa to their present day incarnations a decade later. As the performance unfolds layers past and present are progressively bared, as Kit (Vishesh Abeyratne) and Joanna (Meagan McDonald) travel back and forth between the two “rooms” gradually uncovering achievements, setbacks, fears and their most intimate trials and betrayals.
Kit has Joanna on his mind and, after a 10 year gap without contact he tracks her down for a visit. Reunited after a decade the lifestyle contrast is marked; he’s an accomplished actor while her life is in neutral, stalled, held back by her past and unseen damage. Kit is tea-total “1 year sober” he tells Joanna as she pours herself strong drinks in quick succession. For Kit the time has passed quickly while Joanna “has felt every minute.”
The memory scenes coupled with a strong chemistry between the actors creates a believably convincing bond that begs the question as to why they’ve kept their distance. Touching language mimics emotions: “I’ve been looking out for you” says Joanna while Kit confesses that during tours “I’d look out for you.”
A gradual and thoughtful build up to complexity of the piece swells the audience’s insight as the performance moves back and forth in time exposing glimpses of childhood and adolescence constructing a solid and compelling base that makes the viciousness that unfolds all the more tragic.
At times Fringe works aim for shock value however in Small Creatures Such as We the jolts are miles away from gratuitous; rather there is a sense of universality like exposing a disturbing truth or buried memories. The authenticity is partially due to attentive crafting; thoughtfully constructed complex characters out of what could easily be unsympathetic personalities. It is also largely down to the sincere, never-overwrought, performances put in by McDonald and Abeyratne who bring an attentive realism to their roles.
There are improvements that should be considered, including a desperately needed redaction of the final line, but the writing in the whole is so very good, the subject matter admirably handled and the performances so true that it really should deserve a spot on the must-see Fringe list.
Ottawa Fringe Festival 2016
Small Creatures Such as We
Academic Hall 133 Séraphin-Marion
June 15-26, 2016