Red Sky Steals the Show
Innovative performance group makes simple story something special in new play
By John Coulbourn, Stage
Toronto Sun, October 10, 2007
Meteorologically speaking, a red sky is a good thing only at night, at least if the wisdom of the old salts who insisted that a red sky at night was a sailor’s delight, but that a red sky in morning was an occasion for sailors to take warning, is to be believed.
If you’re setting sail on your imagination as opposed to a sea vessel, however, it seems that Red Sky may be a good thing any old time at all.
Since its founding less than a decade ago, Red Sky Performance has garnered a lot of positive attention both internationally and locally for the way it has managed, under the stewardship of artistic director and founder Sandra Laronde, to blend Aboriginal traditions with a contemporary theatrical sensibility in a way that happily never seems to diminish either while simultaneously enhancing both.
So it is good news indeed to find that Red Sky has set up shop in the Studio Space at the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People.
Its show, which opened yesterday, is titled Raven Stole the Sun, and it is based on a traditional story of the West Coast Tlingit Nation, a story recounted by Sháa Tláa Maria Williams and interpreted for the stage by Drew Hayden Taylor.
Like many tales of creation and recreation, this is a simple story.
As the title suggests, it is driven principally by the Raven, a mischievous white bird with an ability to shift his shape whenever the spirit moves him.
Living in a world of constant darkness, the Raven, played by Michael Dufays, stumbles across the home of an aging widower (Carlos Rivera) one day and becomes obsessed with what might be in the three boxes the old man guards so jealously.
Unable to satisfy his curiosity, he befriends the old man’s daughter (Laronde) and discovers that the only way he can gain access to the home and hence the boxes is to become the old man’s grandson.
Being reborn into the old man’s family not only ultimately sheds light on the content of the boxes but establishes the reason for the raven’s now-inky colouring.
In bringing the story to the stage, Hayden Taylor cleaves to the innocence of the tale, only occasionally spicing things up with a bit of hip-hop or some other minor contemporary infusion.
It’s a blend that sits well with the younger set, ages 5 to 11, for whom this show is intended, while more mature members of the audience can revel in the simple beauty of designer Cheryl Lalonde’s traditional sets and costumes, the beauty of Donald Quan’s music and the lovely open-hearted approach of the players under Laronde’s direction.
Under her aegis, all of the performers lose no time in opening the lines of communication with their audience, lines that not only invite us into the tale but encourage us to become part of it as well.
As a performer, Laronde seems to have a natural gift, while Dufays blends a mercurial wit and quicksilver physicality and bounces it off Rivera’s more stately gravitas to maximum effect.
Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann