Toad of Toad Hall - Review

December 8th, 2009 by Wil Knoll

Towards the end of the performance of Toad of Toad Hall, children’s eyes in the first row were wide, fixed, and bright. Why? Because Toad of Toad hall is bright, vivid, and packed with movement.  It’s also packed with fun.

There were times when I was worried that the language was a bit too dense. But none of the children’s faces looked lost and I had to remember how smart kids really are. There were times when I thought it was a bit flamboyant.  But every child had a smile on their face after the joke. ToTH really was a bit of an education for me. I had forgotten how open and intelligent kids are.

And this is not to say that I did not enjoy it myself.  It’s really quite a smart show that gives kids credit for the size and scope of the ideas their imagination can run with. It’s a huge story. Morals, family, prison time, an insurrection, and an epic battle ends the night. The adults in the audience all had smiles as well, with the playwright dropping in little winks and nudges at just the right time.

So, it’s a kids show that doesn’t patronize kids. It’s good clean family fun. But it’s also a tightly produced and performed show as well.

Big credit must be given to the ensemble who do a fantastically physical show. Doug McKeag commits fully to a physical character that does truly look and move like a Toad. It’s not just the long legged action and the lateral movements, but his face as well. He does an amazing job distending his frown to give us a positively froggy face that looks like it’s smile goes from ear to ear.

The entire ensemble puts in solid work. Personal pick’s were Duval Lang and Ksneia Thurgood. Lang’s Badger seems a bit more lucid then granddad’s ranting at the Thanksgiving dinner table, but is just as gruff. Thurgood’s voice is clear and strong and gorgeous when she tells tales, picking details out of the air with clear eyes and intention. The whole team puts in a high energy and animated performance.

Those performances are strongly complemented by a tech heavy but well orchestrated production. Every location is not just hinted at, but completely built with a great use of all the amenities that the Martha Cohen Theatre has to offer. The use of the space is fantastic. Almost no part of the stage is unused with action creating strong arcs between the wings, the audience, the aisles and the deck. The lighting design by Kevin LaMotte is massive and detailed, gorgeous in its slow transitions of time and great environmental feel.

It’s like the car that Toad wishes to buy at the beginning of the show.  It’s well engineered, and all of it’s cylinders are firing. It’s fast, it moves, it’s bright and fun. Bundle up the kids and check out Toad of Toad Hall. They’ll love the fun. The professionalism and commitment to the craft by the production team will make you love the theatre.

Toad of Toad Hall
By Philip Goulding
Runs through December 27, 2021
Alberta Theatre Projects [tix and info]
Martha Cohen Theatre

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