Laughing it up with the tots 

DuffleBag Theatre returns to Whistler with pantomime performance of Sleeping Beauty

click to enlarge Silly Souls DuffleBag Theatre comes to town with their adaptation of Sleeping Beauty. Photo by Luke Mattar.
  • Silly Souls DuffleBag Theatre comes to town with their adaptation of Sleeping Beauty. Photo by Luke Mattar.

What: Sleeping Beauty

When: Saturday, March 29, 7 p.m.

Where: MY Millennium Place

Tickets: $14 adult, $9.99 child

Tired of the Disneyfied version of Sleeping Beauty? You need look no further than Millennium Place for a new spin on your favourite childhood fairytale.

DuffleBag Theatre, a production company based out of Ontario, is coming to Whistler to stage a children’s pantomime performance of the classic tale, using laughter and the audience to shake things up a bit.

The company has been around since 1992, and now performs over 500 shows each year, with witty, original adaptations of Shakespearean classics and fairy tales, like Beauty and the Beast, 
Dracula, Peter Pan, 
Robin Hood and Rumpelstiltskin.

This isn’t the first time DuffleBag has come to town – they brought their production of Peter Pan to the area a few years ago, which was met with resounding approval from the audience.

Whistler Arts Council (WAC) is bringing DuffleBag Theatre back to Whistler as part of their ongoing performance series, which aims to include at least one show for children.

“It’s just such a hit with all the kids,” says Ali Richmond, marketing coordinator for the WAC, “All the kids love pantomime.”

Richmond says the performance helps lead into the children’s art festival, which is coming up during the summer months, and adds that they may consider trying to bring DuffleBag back to the area during that time.

“We have a main stage for the children’s art festival, so this is just sort of incorporating it and also bringing awareness to the 25 th anniversary (of WAC).”

Marcus Lundgren, the artistic director and an actor for DuffleBag Theatre, attributes the popularity of their storytelling theatre in part to the inclusion of children and adults from the audience into their performance.

“One of the things we do is we take fairy tales that everyone is familiar with and we pull people out of the audience to play main parts,” Lundgren explains.

“…A lot of times, it’s a kid’s first experience with the performing arts, because television and film and stuff like that is two-dimensional – they can’t interact with it. Whereas with us, we hear everything they say, and on some occasions they shout out things and we try and incorporate them into the show.” Though the show is geared towards ages four and up, their performances appeal to all age groups.

“I know people who bring their three-year-old and say, ‘Oh my God, he was completely captivated.’”

The inclusion of the audience also really helps to hold the focus of the entire audience, not just the children in the crowd.

“Ironically, it also helps to keep the adults’ attention span too, because I know there are an awful lot of parents who sluggishly take their kids to these kind of experiences thinking, ‘well, the kids need this,’ but they really don’t want to be there themselves,” adds Lundgren. “But in our case, we really appeal to everybody.”

The upcoming performance will feature four DuffleBag actors, and as many audience actors as they need.

“There’s so much spontaneity and improv involved, because they’re not rehearsed ahead of time,” says Lundgren, adding that no two shows are ever the same.

“Based on what they do that’s spontaneous, that’s where a lot of the extra fun and humour comes from.”

Some of the reactions they get from audience members range from ‘my cheeks hurt from laughing so much’ to ‘we just had the most amazing family experience that anyone could have asked for an afternoon,’ which Lundgren says makes his job extremely gratifying.

“People who’ve seen us before come back to see our other shows because they know they’re guaranteed to have an absolutely riotous time.”

While Lundgren says he doesn’t have a favourite story to perform, Sleeping Beauty would be near the top of his list.

“Its very fun to watch what happens when the prince and they princess’s spell is broken ... just to see what the little guy does is usually quite entertaining,” Lundgren says with a laugh, “It runs the gambit from, ‘no way,’ to some of them will actually kiss, which is really adorable.”


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