Theatre review: My Turquoise Years is more beige than greenish-blue

My Turquoise Years is more beige than greenish-blue.

In My Turquoise Years, author M.A.C. (Marion) Farrant has taken her 2004 memoir of life on Vancouver Island in the 1960s and adapted it for the stage.  But rather than creating a fresh new theatrical version of her text, it plays out more like a reading of the book.

At the age of two, Marion was abandoned by her birth mother Nancy who yearned for a life of glamour that tiny Cordova Bay on Vancouver Island could never give her.  Raised by her aunt and uncle, Marion gets word that Nancy is planning on paying her daughter a visit.  Sending everyone into a tizzy over that possibility, Marion is forced to finally realize who her family really is.

It is not a stretch to imagine why Farrant received the praise she did for her book when it was first published, as even on stage it captures the esthetic of a simpler time with obvious affection.  This stage version, however, fails to bring that story fully to life.

Farrant spends a great deal of the time having her characters simply recount the story of Nancy’s impending visit, often times directly to the audience.  Rather than helping us to achieve any deeper understanding of the story or its characters, it causes us to disconnect from what appears to be a collective group of eccentrics.  It is particularly problematic for the young Bridget Esler who plays the 13 year-old Marion as she finds it difficult to transition from talking to doing, and falls into a one-dimensional speech pattern that lacks variation; she may be masterfully at the innocence of her character, but is hampered by the words.

Farrant peppers her story with an eclectic group of characters, but never allows us the opportunity to get to know them and their presence tended towards distraction rather than enhancement; that I was more interested in the relationship between Maudie (Dawn Petten) and her son Kenny (Michael Rinaldi) is problematic.

The cast of the Arts Club Theatre Company production of My Turquoise Years.
The cast of the Arts Club Theatre Company production of My Turquoise Years. Photo by Emily Cooper.

The production is most successful when Farrant’s characters are not in “remembrance mode”.  As my partner said last night, it felt at times like there were two different plays on stage.

Set designer Alison Green captures the 60s vibe nicely with an eclectic mix of pieces that matches Farrant’s eclectic characters.  The fragmented nature of her design speaks volumes to how our mind remembers, but while it works well for design it doesn’t work so well when translated to the text.

My Turquoise Years captures the esthetic of the time, but ultimately plays out like the written memoir it is instead of the theatrical equivalent it should be.

2 1/2 of 5 Stars My Turquoise Years

By M.A.C. Farrant.  Directed by Rachel Ditor.  An Arts Club Theatre Company production.  On stage at the Arts Club Granville Island Stage through May 4, 2013.  Visit http://artsclub.com for tickets and information.

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