At the Arts Club Granville Island Stage until May 4
Posted on April 12, 2013
Written by Vancouver Island writer Marion Farrant, My Turquoise Years will be a blast from the past – especially for women who grew up in the 50s and 60s. Remember hearing, “Boys are only after one thing”, “If you get boobs early you turn into a slut” or “Girls don’t carry beer. It looks cheap”. And, oh, what about being constantly warned about getting hit by a bus and someone discovering you’re wearing less than snowy white underwear?
In the world of Farrant’s character Marion, “having everything turquoise makes us modern” and so teenaged Marion wears turquoise all the time: turquoise pedal pushers, turquoise two-piece bathing suit, turquoise coat and pyjamas. So when a late 13th birthday gift arrives from Nancy, the sexy, see-through lingerie trimmed in marabou feathers is not only completely inappropriate but it’s not turquoise. Wrong on all counts.
Nancy, we soon discover, is the cocktail-drinking, “life-of-the-party” mother who abandoned Marion eight years ago and took off to Australia, leaving Marion to be raised by her Aunt Elsie and Uncle Ernie in Cordova Bay near Victoria.
And so, along with the references to slutty girls, Elvis, bean salad and pixie cuts, there runs a river of abandonment; it is this that draws us into My Turquoise Years but with a touch as light as the feathers on that sexy, un-turquoise lingerie.
Under direction of dramaturge/director Rachel Ditor, this world premiere features a remarkable young actor in the very demanding central role. While she’s no stranger to the stage (High Society, Fiddler on the Roof, The Sound of Music and more) this is a huge role for Bridget Esler, an eighth grader at Little Flower Academy. Her performance is so straightforward and un-actorly, it would be easy to think she’s not acting at all. But like clowns in rodeos, it’s not as easy as it looks. She makes Marion the unvarnished real deal: a young girl on the cusp of womanhood.
It’s wonderful to see actor Wendy Noel back on the boards; last time out she was the naked one behind the teapot in Calendar Girls. Noel always brings a female-ness (as opposed to femininity which smacks of pearl nail polish and lip gloss) to the stage. As Elsie, she’s a nag but Elsie’s nagging covers a whole lot of love.
Peter Anderson is Marion’s Uncle Ernie in pants that are too short in the leg and too high on the waist. Anderson and Esler have a sweet scene together in which Ernie tells Marion life is like “fishing”. It all starts off calm and then a big wave swamps the boat and you find yourself in the water struggling to stay afloat. There are he says, “calm times but they don’t last.”
Dawn Petten is Maudie (the hang-wringing, over-anxious mother of Kenny, played by Michael Rinaldi); she also plays the hairdresser Marion calls “Godzilla”. It’s a cigarette smoking, tough-talking performance that gets the audiences laughing; it does, however, feel out of sync with the rest of the style of this production. Also out of sync is a choreographed number featuring Rinaldi, David Marr (Marion’s father Billy) and Anderson. At least it’s fun.
Georgina Beaty nicely doubles as Marion’s cousin Doreen and Marion’s best friend Jenny.
Set design by Alison Green is haphazard – much like Marion’s life and so, in a way, it’s appropriate. Some of the elements, however, could go – the fur-trimmed coat and suitcase hanging from the flies, for example – because they’re simply distracting.
My Turquoise Years is as comfortable and safe and sweet as a cup of warm cocoa. It might take your mind off your troubles for a couple of hours and that might be a good thing.