Review: Children of War, La Boite indie and The Danger Ensemble in association with the Vanguard Youth Theatre

Image: Courtesy La Boite Theatre

I like the concept. Take a group of young characters pulled out of the myths surrounding the Trojan War and make them the seniors of 2012, complete with impending formal. Writer Chris Beckey and director/designer Steven Mitchell Wright have offered up a media-infused collision of old and new that seeks to highlight that it’s all just a little bit of history repeating itself when it comes to growing up in a war zone. The Danger Ensemble collaborated with the Vanguard Youth Theatre to develop and perform the work, and the cast of eight young actors grab the show with both hands (and at times their bared teeth) and run with it.

Enter the Greeks. We have familiar folks such as Patroclus (Patrick O’Connor), Polyxena (Elle Mickel), Briseis (Jordan Kadell), Electra (Taryn Allen) and Iphigenia (Eva Rae Smith), along with the lesser-known characters of Telemachos (Sam Barnett), Ascanius (Charlie Schache) and Helen ‘junior’ (Sam Lara). Each character gives us their story through a series of short monologues and, gradually, we experience how their schoolyard tales collide.

These children of war play in a beautifully envisioned yet coldly unforgiving oversized playground, backed and flanked by projection screens. Complete with adult-sized slide and swing, this space was both stagnant and transformative, primarily due to Ben Hughes’s lighting design and Dane Alexander’s occasionally eerie, occasionally heart-thumping soundscape.

The cast showed an endearing commitment to their roles and an obvious connection to what was, at times, difficult text. They are no doubt headed for great things, and what a fabulous opportunity to have their work seen on a main stage such as the roundhouse!

On paper, Children of War ticked all the boxes but, in reality, it left me wanting. I tend not to be a fan of the dramatic monologue. Unless there’s a bucket-load of context and a brilliant actor at work lengthy speeches dwelling on feelings leave me searching for my watch in the dark. I’d rather have seen the characters interact with each other. The brief moments of connection they did have were a joy to watch and it was in these moments that I felt true empathy.

Children of War is playing at La Boite until December 1.