By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca
Win the Warrior, Vanta Group Outdoor Stage
The 12-year-old heroine of Ellen Chorley’s new play Win The Warrior: A King Arthur Tale, for kids and the adults they tend to bring with them, has a particularly tricky modern challenge. How to satisfy her appetite for heroic action when her video game device melts down (the horror, the horror!) on a trip abroad with her professor dad. Is a book, a gift copy of the Arthurian Chronicles, a worthy replacement?
Judging by the look on her face when she sees the book Arwen (Katie Yoner) has her doubts. We all have our doubts. But never underestimate the magic of location location (as real estate agents in every period, including the medieval, have always known). The kid’s in Arthurian country.
Soon she has imagined herself into the world of young Arthur, the magus Merlin, and the knights of the round table. Captivated, she’s taken on the cause, and the persona, of the boy who pulled the sword from the stone and landed a major royal gig. And she’s entered full-throttle into the sword-fighting and duels, in demanding sequences designed by fight choreographer Janine Waddell for Elizabeth Hobbs’ production.
Curiously, Arwen is only momentarily taken aback, along with us, by the implications of the Lancelot-Guinevere story for her own life; they’re inserted rather out of the blue into the play. I guess she’s taking the magnanimous Arthurian position on the relationship she discovers between her dad (Aaron Refugio) and his research assistant (Kristin Unruh).
There are acting challenges for the trio in this enterprise. Prime among them is how to portray kid energy and enthusiasm without making the audience want to hand you over to the Lady in the Lake for storage underwater. Yoner is delightful throughout, exuberant in her physical choices, and judicious in her “kid” vocal inflections and gestures. The counterpart to the cliche “kid role” is the cliche “dad role,” the dad who actually uses the term “quality time” with no irony to describe his parenting goal on the research trip. Refugio doesn’t overdo it. Both he and Unruh (who has fun with accents and sword-wielding) have multiple assignments in the storytelling, and rise to them with confidence and humour.
The framing of the play, between real life situations and Arthurian legend doesn’t really hold together. But it’s lively, full of action; the kid wins; there’s a book in it. And there’s this: Win the Warrior: A King Arthur Tale will be the only play of this Fringe, possibly any Fringe, with the line “I found Excalibur! I found Excalibur! I have to go find Dad!”