Created and performed by the Soulpepper Creation Ensemble. Written by Dennis Lee. Young Centre for the Performing Arts, to Dec. 2.
Combine the high energy and makeshift percussion of Stomp with the beloved children’s verse of Dennis Lee and you have the recipe for Soulpepper Theatre’s Alligator Pie. The company’s new, five-member Creation Ensemble has whipped up a scrumptious showcase for Lee’s poems, singing and reciting them to the rowdy accompaniment of an assortment of instruments, from ukulele and clarinet to staplers and bubble wrap. Lee’s writing has always boasted irresistible rhythms alongside its infectious rhymes, and this production makes the most of them.
Popping forth from inside the stage like so many jack-in-the-boxes, the performers cavort on its paint-splashed surface with the abandon of kids at recess. Plucking costumes and props from cardboard boxes, they act out a slew of favourites picked from the title collection and other Lee books, including Nicholas Knock and Garbage Delight. Raquel Duffy turns “The Bratty Brother” into a sister’s country-and-western lament; Ins Choi, radiating toddler attitude, raps his way through “Tricking” as a smug three-year-old who thinks he’s got his parents sussed; Ken MacKenzie recounts the delightfully nonsensical doings of “Psychapoo,” backed by the doo-wop chorus of Duffy, Choi, Mike Ross, and Gregory Prest.*
The recurring theme is friendship, most imaginatively expressed in the longer poem “The Cat and the Wizard,” which serves as the centrepiece of the hour-long show. The Young Centre’s Michael Young Theatre has been reconfigured for an in-the-round staging, making the already intimate space even cozier. All the better for kids and adults to bond over Lee’s funny, clever, irreverent poetry, which generations of Canadians have read (and have had read to them) since Alligator Pie was first published almost 40 years ago.
CORRECTION, NOVEMBER 14, 2012: The original version of this review misidentified the singers of “Psychapoo”; the article has been revised with the correct information.