AND BY THE WAY, MISS... created by the Urge Collective with the ensemble, performed by Lauren Brotman, Andrea Donaldson, Amber Godfrey, Diana Tso and Christina Sicoli. Presented by Theatre Direct Canada at the Harbourfront Centre Studio Theatre (235 Queen's Quay West). Runs to December 5, Thursday-Friday 4:30 pm, Saturday 1 and 4 pm, Sunday 2 pm. $12.25-$15. 416-973-4000. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
There's a marvellous sense of excitement in being in an audience of 12- to 14-year-old girls who are yelling with thrilled recognition at a performance, especially when you realize they're not worshipping a rock idol.
Those screams happened a number of times in And By The Way, Miss..., a piece created by the Urge Collective that looks with freshness and truth at what it means to grow up in today's multi-message world. An intentional collage, the hour-long work doesn't try to develop its five characters in detail but provides a fast-moving series of theatrical sound bites that touch on their concerns and feelings.
Developed by composer Linda C. Smith, vocalist Fides Krucker, performance artist Katherine Duncanson and dancer/choreographer Marie-Josée Chartier in collaboration with the ensemble of five energetic actors (Lauren Brotman, Andrea Donaldson, Amber Godfrey, Diana Tso and the very funny Christina Sicoli), the show uses text, stylized movement, jazzy vocals and storytelling to look at such basic themes as friendship, sexuality, attraction to boys and fashion fixations.
As one scene quickly morphs into another, we get snapshots of the characters dealing with each other at school and in social situations. It's a world of pre-class washroom rituals and sleepovers, where competitiveness seesaws with sympathy, where exclusion can send you into the dumps and inclusion give your life meaning.
Even talk of sex excites kids, so it's not surprising that the young female audience is delighted with the celebration of burgeoning breasts, a forthright presentation of new body hair and the protectiveness that happens when one young woman realizes she's having her period during school. The writing and performances in episodes like these are apt, direct and splendidly life-affirming.
Sometimes topics are touched on too briefly, but many of the school performances are followed by talkbacks and seminars to deal with the issues in greater detail. In the public performances, it's up to older audience members, probably parents, to continue conversations based on moments in the show. Those same adults will probably have their eyes opened to what a young teen woman's world encompasses.