When reviewing a play, it is important to observe the reaction of the audience that the play is meant for, which means children in the case of The Velveteen Rabbit. They are perhaps the harshest critics of all, but when I looked around the audience, The Velveteen Rabbit was met with something that is nearly impossible to obtain from children: rapt attention.
It’s a quiet play; delivered softly, just like the rabbit itself. Pictures of colourful paper-cut scenes make up the backdrop, and only a bed, a toy chest and some Christmas decorations occupy the stage. With no flashing lights or whirling parts, you’d think the tale of a beloved stuffed animal wouldn’t be stimulating enough for this generation, but it seems stuffies have endured despite the advent of the iPhone.
Playwright Chris Craddock stars in his own version of the classic children’s tale as our charming host and a lovably goofy father of three. He begins by explaining that while he has lost his cool factor with his two eldest, he’s still awesome in the eyes of his youngest daughter and he’s determined to take advantage of those precious years of awesomeness he still has left.
As he opens the pages of The Velveteen Rabbit to read to his daughter, he is more than willing to adapt the tale when his daughter finds it lacking. Therefore, this account has notably more robot-action than the original. His daughter also interjects when she has a question—a clever way to explain to these 21st-century children what scarlet fever is and why the boy in the book only has a nanny and seemingly no parents.
Craddock breaks up the retelling of the storybook with laughs for parents as well. But even as an adult, when the rabbit drops his head in despair as he shivers in the cold upon being left outside at night, it’s still worrisome. We all had that teddy or rabbit or elephant or monkey we thought was real and it would have been disastrous if it were lost to the elements.
At the end of the show the children are encouraged to come greet the puppets and marionettes. Though it’s a simple production, if you’ve forgot what “child-like wonder” looks like, watching children pet the Velveteen Rabbit and his friends will give you a refresher.
Until Tue, Dec 24
Directed by Dana Anderson
Capitol Theatre (Fort Edmonton Park), $12 – $28