What an exciting piece of news for the Ottawa theatre community: Once Upon a Kingdom Theatre will be representing North America at the 15th World Festival of Children’s Theatre in Lingen, Germany in June 2018. As over 80 theatres all over the world competed for a chance to participate and only 18 were selected, this surely calls for a celebration! Let me introduce you to this extraordinary children’s theatre group.
Founded by director Ekaterina Vetrov in 2008, they have been producing highly imaginative and artistic programs which attract children and adults alike. It combines diverse cultural backgrounds and artistic experiences into unique performances. Of course, such a success is not possible without hard work and a cohesive vision. These young and talented artists are truly hard workers, and Ms. Vetrov, the artistic director, manages to bring her very ambitious vision to life through educating young talents in all aspects of theatre: kids learn acting, dance, music, set design, costume design, make-up design, lighting design, stage management, and theatre criticism. The results are nothing short of miraculous, which is also the best word to describe their latest show, Lucid Dreams, which is the one that will represent North America in Europe.
Lucid Dreams are just that–dreams. There is no typical storyline–it is not about what happens but about the unreal world of dreams. It is based on the 8-month long research of the participants. The actors were tasked to write about people’s dreams. So, they talked to family and friends about it, noted what they said, drew pictures, and at the end, a scenario for the play was ready to hit the stage.
It is a non-verbal, abstract piece, heavily dependent on dance movements, facial expressions, masks, and the audience’s participation. Too much to demand of actors who are just children, right? Wrong! Rarely have I been as completely immersed in a show as in this one. It all started with a girl sitting on the floor in front of me and looking at me. As a rule, I do not enjoy interactive shows but this was different. The girl’s eyes looked at me with such a natural honesty, that I had to smile back. I felt a connection with the actress and with the performance from the very first moment of the play, and it kept me emotionally engaged until the end.
For about 40 minutes, the show explores dreams, their impact on people and, above all, the desire to, as Ms. Vetrov said, “find that ‘electricity’ that brings people together.” The audience was carried from one scene to another, witnessing the surreal visions that felt very real in their outlandish world. The very stage felt alive so that it seemed like it was moving in perfect rhythm with the show while charging the atmosphere with love and that long lost “electricity” among people.
Although playful and dreamy, the work has a firm structure. In the wake of world theatre tradition;
it is light in its execution but deep in its meaning. It feels very natural and honest and its credibility is undeniable. The only unreal aspect in this play is the maturity of young actors, and their ability to connect with audiences of any age! Beautiful performance, excellent actors/dancers, and exquisite direction! Good luck in Germany!
This article originally appeared in Capital Critics’ Circle on June 5, 2018, and has been reposted with permission.