CHILDREN OF GOD
Urban Ink, co-produced by Segal Centre, as part of the Talking Stick Festival, York Theatre, until Mar 10
My Two Pence
Corey Payette’s Children of God is vital theatre. It is not only theatre-with-purpose but it is also exceptionally entertaining and does away with the feeling of being didactic or laboursome. Set in a residential school and showcasing the life of the children in the school and how their experiences affect their adult lives, this musical is powerful, exciting and emotional.
Having originated at the York in 2017, the show has seen many developments and workshops since then – although I can not speak to the specifics of what has changed. The result is a polished piece technically with a broad range of talent from across Canada. It is always challenging to see adults play children on stage in a way that seems authentic and not as a characature. The cast for the most part achieves this very well. In the lead role of Tom, Dillan Chiblow shows a great range of emotion with a lot of skill – it is through his eyes that we really see the truth of what is played out on the stage. Cheyenne Scott is nuanced and sparkling in the role of his sister Julia, and Michelle St. John brings the house down as the mother in the final song. Michelle Bardach (Joanna) and Kaitlin Yott (Elizabeth) each find strong individuality in their characters. Aaron M. Wells (Wilson) and Jacob MacInnis (Vincent) tread a difficult line between offering some of the comic relief in the show as well as some brutal twists.
All of the technical elements come together very well. Mixing projection as well as smaller set pieces works perfectly to transform the space simply and effectively. There are a plethora of creative team names listed, including three for lighting design alone – indicating this truly is a piece which has been created, undated and adapted by many people over the years in these roles. However, the sheer fortitude of Corey Payette who is credited with writing the Book, Music and Lyrics and directing the show deserves to be brought to the forefront. It is people like Payette who are driving theatre forward in an important, purposeful direction. With a professional live band and the beautifully intricate harmonies and overlapping songs, it is unsurprising that Payette took the opportunity to record a cast album.
For me, an interesting choice in the show is the amount of stage time given to the Sister and the Father (played very well by Sarah Carlé and David W. Keeley). It felt sometimes as though sympathy was being sought, which is challenging and affronting. Although I applaud the decision to make all the characters fully developed, and not catagorized as ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ – I found listening to the Father’s admission of his own abuse at childhood as an excuse for his own abusive behavior left a metallic taste in my throat.
You no doubt have seen the multiple pull quotes about Children of God being ‘a must see show for all Canadians’, so here I’ll add to that. This is a must-see show for all Canadians. You heard it here last.
- Charlie Upton
Photo: Children of God a new musical written and directed by Corey Payette, Production Design by Marshall McMahen, Lighting Design by Jeff Harrison, actors David Keeley, Sarah Carlé, Michelle Bardach, Kaitlyn Yott, Cheyenne Scott, Dillan Chiblow, Aaron M. Wells, Jacob MacInnis, and Michelle St. John. An Urban Ink co-production with Segal Centre (Montreal). Photo by Emily Cooper Photography.