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More International Children's Festival reviews

The International Children’s Festival of the Arts is in full swing with plenty to see and do for kids of all ages.
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The International Children’s Festival of the Arts is in full swing with plenty to see and do for kids of all ages.

Check out the roving artists, the vast network of workshops and of course, the six mainstage shows filled with superb internationally renowned performances.

With 55,000 visitors expected to attend the six-day event, which runs until Sunday, June 2, there can be an overwhelming diversity of activities.

Gazette reviewers have checked out a few of the mainstage shows and below are our reviews.

Mainstage shows and workshops are $15 each. However, special packages are available at reduced rates. Tickets can be purchased at the Arden Theatre box office in person, at 780-459-1542 or at www.ticketmaster.ca.

Paper Planet

Polyglot Theatre
Runs until Sunday June 2
École Father Jan
15 Mission Ave
All ages

Paper Planet is unlike anything the children’s festival has imported. In fact, it’s a Canadian first.

An Australian creation by four inventive artists, Paper Planet provides a framework to build a fantasy world out of paper, tape and the limitless power of the imagination.

It’s immersive theatre and basically it’s the same process as building a movie or theatre set from scratch.

Groups enter École Father Jan’s gymnasium through a specially constructed entryway resembling a secret passage. Once inside, 15 pillars constructed of brown paper boxes almost touch the ceiling.

They represent a framework for Canada’s great forests. Participants are encouraged to create something from paper and attach it to the trees.

Massive mountain ranges, again built from brown paper, cover the walls and a huge paper waterfall cascades from above a basketball hoop. The rippling paper invites giggling children paddling voyageur canoes to run under the fall.

Vines are strung from tree to tree. Children scurry about wearing masks, rabbit ears and deer horns they’ve made from paper. Bats hang upside down from trees and an owl stares at the crowd.

In one corner, a paper hammock filled with odds and ends is stretched between two trees forming a bridge, a silent invitation for kids to slide under it.

In this installation, kids have permission to scream and run about and they take full advantage of the freedom.

Day by day the installation grows and each group’s contribution is added to build a one-of-a-kind creation.

Although it is billed as an all ages experience, babies and toddlers may be overwhelmed by the mayhem.

– Anna Borowiecki

Honk! Jr.

St. Albert Children’s Theatre
St. Albert Curling Club
Runs until June 2
All ages

St. Albert Children’s Theatre has hatched an egg-celllent production with Honk! Jr. in this shortened but still amazing production of George Stiles and Anthony Drewe’s award-winning family musical extravaganza.

The children’s company first mounted it 15 years ago, and it’s a show that remains more relevant than ever.

Honk! is basically an adaptation of the famous Hans Christian Andersen story, The Ugly Duckling – the chick that is so ugly he goes into hiding and emerges as a swan. In a nutshell, an overly large egg hatches in the middle of a brace of ducks. He is different and is rejected and treated as an outcast, facing bullying and rejection from the barnyard birds including his father and siblings.

Only his mother treats him with love and tenderness. Oh yes, and then there’s the sharply clawed, fiendish cat licking her lips at the thought of cooking up a tasty morsel of duck à l’orange.

This is a well produced, splendidly cast and fun show with one delightful musical number after another, starting with Poultry Tale and ending with Look At Him.

But scratching below the surface, four deeper themes emerge. They range from the pain of bullying and how adversity can be positive to the power of love and that it’s OK to be different.

At times, a few actors’ voices cracked while hitting high notes, but the 90-minute show is a quacking good time.

– Anna Borowiecki

Nimihitowin!

Cornerstone Hall
Runs until Sunday June 2
All ages

Cree hoop dancer Jessica McMann is the driving force behind Nimihitowin!, an Indigenous dance show where ancient and contemporary narratives collide.

The Calgary-based classically trained dancer/flautist, whose heritage encompasses Blackfoot, Cree and Métis, is the driving force creating songs, dances and stories told by a troupe of eight.

This show is storytelling through dance. It pushes the boundaries of traditional hoop dance to create a contemporary art style that takes your breath away.

In this production, we are introduced to a variety of dances such as a fierce warrior dance, a gentle healing dance, a sweeping shawl dance and a jingle dance that sounds like droplets of rain.

The fancy bustle dance was incredibly high-energy with jumps, air splits and cartwheels leaving beads of perspiration on dancers' foreheads.

Seeing the spectacular regalia alone is worth the price of admission. Each outfit is a striking rainbow of fabrics, furs, fringe, feathers and sparkling beadwork. The feathered headwear was especially jaw-dropping and on occasion elicted gasps from the audience.

While regalia accentuate arm and leg movement, it also embodies a spiritual connection and the designs have a special meaning to the dancer.

McMann’s closing remarks said it all: “From my heart to yours.”

– Anna Borowiecki




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Anna Borowiecki

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