Eleven-year-old Aviv Cohen, star of Fables From Faraway Lands as part of the 2017 Toronto Fringe Festival, is a smallish human with a lot – like, several people’s worth – of performance charm. As the lead of Fables From Faraway Lands, she carries the performance on her slight shoulders. It’s a lot for her, but she carries it with just a few stumbles.
Fables From Faraway Lands is a fantastical retelling of a few classic Aesop’s Fables, set play-within-a-play style into a narrative of two kids being unkind to one another because they have misunderstood each other’s intentions. When Aviv’s book is destroyed by Brandon in a fit of pique, Boris The Bookworm swoops (do worms swoop? slithers, perhaps) in to help set things right. As Aviv travels through the Land of Fables, she meets characters from her favorites and finds herself wound into their narratives.
The cast is generally strong, including Cohen, Bookworm (and Ant, and also Lyricist/Composer) Lindsay van Der Grinten, Ant/Hare/Lion Alene Degian, and Ant/Tortoise/Mouse Brandon Knox. The two women have strong, smooth voices and a jazzy style; they seem like the senior versions of Cohen’s vibe and they have strong chemistry on the stage. Unfortunately, even in the second row I found that Cohen and van der Grinten were really difficult to hear, especially while singing. Knox, the fella of the group, struggled to find his note but brought some solid acting talent to the proceedings.
(Kid +1 note: my seven-year-old theatre companion was upset and uncomfortable at the very realistic angry yelling Knox did at Cohen, especially given their size difference. They’re both playing eleven-year-olds, but Knox is an XL-sized grown man and Cohen is a slight eleven. 7yo found it too much for FringeKids, and I agree.)
This set is really complex for a Fringe show and, though it’s charming, it is not remotely necessary and is frequently distracting. On the other hands, everyone can dance and – also in the plus column – the imaginings of the fable animals as characters were imaginative. Fables From Faraway Lands was totally fine, and I think will really benefit from shaking off its first-performance jitters.
- Fables From Far Away Lands plays at the George Ignatieff Theatre. (15 Devonshire Pl.)
- Tickets for Kidsfest shows are $5 for kids (age 12 and younger); adults pay $12.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Scadding Court, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- 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
- Thursday July 6th, 04:15 pm
- Saturday July 8th, 12:15 pm
- Sunday July 9th, 10:00 am
- Tuesday July 11th, 03:15 pm
- Wednesday July 12th, 01:30 pm
- Friday July 14th, 11:30 am
- Sunday July 16th, 03:00 pm
photo provided by the company