Theatre review: Jason and The Argonauts are ready to take your kids on an adventure

How do you even begin to think about telling a story as grand as Jason and the Argonauts on stage with only two actors?  Why, you look for inspiration from the master of stop-motion animation of course.

Long before the advent of computer-generated imagery (CGI) in the films we see today, Ray Harryhausen pioneered the combination of live action and stop-motion animation using realistic miniature models.  Considered by many as his best work, the 1963 film Jason and the Argonauts was so ground-breaking it inspired a host of contemporary filmmakers including Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Tim Burton.  After seeing the Carousel Theatre presentation of this Greek myth it is a safe bet you can add Scottish playwright Robert Forrest to that list as he uses Ken dolls and action-figures, in addition to his two actors, to help tell this epic tale.

Not only clever in helping to create the multitudes of heroes that accompany Jason in his pursuit of the golden fleece, the use of the dolls and action-figures is just one of a number of devices used to make the show appealing to a wide range of ages. If dolls and action-figures aren’t your thing don’t worry, there is some physical comedy.  If physical comedy isn’t your thing, then there are loud noises, bickering actors, Spiderman (I kid you not!) and even a dragon to keep you engaged.  Not to be forgotten though, for the story is indeed the thing, the older kids (and adults in the audience) are regaled with the wonderfully complex tale of Jason’s quest, told by two master storytellers.

Tim Settle and Simon Donaldson in the Carousel Theatre presentation of Visible Fictions' Jason and the Argonauts.
Tim Settle and Simon Donaldson in the Carousel Theatre presentation of Visible Fictions’ Jason and the Argonauts.

Playing the multitude of roles in this massive myth are Simon Donaldson and Tim Settle.  The duo brought such energy and playfulness to their performances that it captured and held even the shortest of attention spans.  Even as the complex story at times may have been lost on some of the younger audience members, they sat in rapt attention always with tha anticipation that something new, something more daring and inventive was always just around the corner.  And rarely were they (and I) disappointed.  From the transformation of a large wooden wagon into the sailing ship Argo, to the creation of the dragon Jason must slay, the creativity was at times astonishing and seemingly endless.

So turn off the television, put away the Xboxes and get your kids (ages 7+) down to the Waterfront Theatre.  Jason and his Argonauts are ready to take you on an adventure.

4 Out of 5 Stars Jason and the Argonauts

Written by Robert Forrest.  A Carousel Theatre presentation of a Visible Fictions production.  On stage at Granville Island’s Watefront Theatre through April 29, 2012.  Visit http://www.carouseltheatre.com for tickets and information.

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