Love the Gorey bits

A young company makes a spectacular debut with Gorey Story

GOREY STORY created by Matthew Romantini, Christine Horne, Erika Batdorf and the company, based on Edward Gorey’s The Gashlycrumb Tinies, directed by Batdorf (Thistle Project). At Artists’ Play Studio (290 Carlaw, suite 101). To November 30. Pwyc-$20. 1-888-222-6608. See Continuing, page 134. Rating: NNNN

A is for awestruck. That’s what you’ll feel watching this confident debut production by the Thistle Project , a nastily clever and impeccably staged adaptation of Edward Gorey ‘s macabre Gashlycrumb Tinies .

Gorey Story uses the author’s ABC book chronicling the deaths of 26 children as a jumping-off point. The performers, clad mostly in a sea of white and grey, with charcoal markings on their clothes and the occasional prop, re-enact those deaths with ghoulish glee.

But this isn’t a mere recounting of the alphabet. Episodes bleed into each other. Images and characters occasionally recur, and the theme of haughty or careless children and absent-minded parents provides a disturbing undertow.

Director Erika Batdorf gets maximum effect from the Artists’ Play Studio space. In one sequence set at a circus, the performers look offstage while they witness a child’s gruesome death (unseen by us) by awl.

In another sequence, several performers scurry behind us and traverse the perimeter of the playing area, creating a palpable sense of anxiety, fitting for a tense scene about a boy wandering alone on the train tracks.

Music and movement play key roles. Sound designer Tom Kerr plunks out everything from mournful Satie-esque melodies to Christmas carols to help change moods, while co-creator/performer Matthew Romantini ‘s choreography adds vivid life, notably in a sequence in which a beach-playing girl is swept out to sea to the seductive strains of Bali Hai.

Many of the performers are barely out of university, which makes this show one of the best of 2006 all the more impressive.

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