This funny, family friendly production of Charly in the Desert, which explores several serious topics, is sure to fascinate children.
It’s an age-old dilemma: how do you help children to accept change and get along in a blended family?
In Charly in the Desert, director Gabrielle Lalonde tackles this thorny issue on Shenkman Arts Centre’s main stage with this thoughtful and funny production.
“I was approached by Stéphane Guertin of Créations In Vivo. He and Ève Alexandre-Beaulieu had co-written a script about her adventures in Burkina Faso,” says Lalonde. “And Stéphane asked me to direct it.”
The characters – Charly and Inna – are played by life-sized puppets. As director, Lalonde works with the designers and the actors to bring her vision of the story to life, including what the stage looks like and how the puppets look.
“It’s interesting to watch Kiara-Lynn Néï and Sébastien Lajoie manipulate these puppets and become Charly and Inna through their actions and voice,” says Lalonde. “I think the children in the audience will find it fascinating.”
Working behind the scenes, literally, is a third puppeteer, Chloé Tremblay, who creates shadow puppetry to transform the stage as the adventure progresses.
Lalonde knows she’s exploring serious topics like tolerance, sharing and conflict. “We wanted to emphasize how kids at odds could learn to get along through play and cooperation. And Charly has a lot at stake here. He has to learn to live with his new step-sister Inna or his trip is cancelled,” she says. “So for Charly, it’s a dilemma.”
Despite the high stakes, she says using silliness and humour is key to helping Charly and Inna to deal with the conflicts they are feeling. “The characters must use objects in the room to create their adventure across the desert,” says Lalonde, “and they end up creating lots of silly voices, as well as having to find a solution to their predicament.” Some of the funniest parts of their adventure, she says, are provided by two talking Rastafarian slippers.
Although the target age is five to seven years, Lalonde believes the story will appeal to older kids as well. “I think children of any age will relate to Charly and Inna,” says Lalonde, “especially about family and relationships.
“Charly is missing his father and Inna must cope with the loss of her mother. Children do understand conflict and differences, but they have to do it through their own lens.”
Find out more about Charly in the Desert and get tickets at www.shenkmanarts.ca.