Monday, May 21, 2018

Machine de Cirque at the OICF

I was delighted to be invited for the fourth year in a row to bring my family to a show at the Ottawa International Children's Festival. This year was the 33rd for the festival, which celebrates the best in live performing arts for children.

In addition to the myriad activities for kids on the grounds, the variety of top-notch shows from around the world makes the festival second to none. This year we saw Machine de Cirque, a five-man acrobatic troupe from Qu├ębec City. The premise of the show is that they are the only people left in a post-apocalyptic world and have to survive on ingenuity and spare parts. The set includes a two-storey high scaffold equipped with trap doors, sliding panels, pulleys and trapezes. There are poles, cycles and a teeterboard as well.



The performers climbed, flipped and held each other up like it was effortless. So many times I was thinking "I don't know where to look" because there were so many acrobatic feats being performed at once. The crowd would burst out in laughter, and I'd realized I'd missed something.

Other times I was thinking of the precision and coordination required; how any one performer's high-risk act required the other four to be exactly on cue in order to avoid catastrophe, which was stunning on its own. One false move and someone's on his face.



Thirdly, I had remind myself every so often that the accompanying music wasn't a pre-recorded sound track, but was actually being played by one of the performers using items like tubes, drums (with juggling pins for sticks), buckets, a keyboard (I think?) and a giant pan flute he whacked with a paddle, often while simultaneously contributing to the visual comedy. The music added to the suspense and humour.

And humourous it was. The kids' minds were blown every time they thought the consecutive unicycles couldn't get any taller, but they DID. There was also a mock date scene that involved bringing my neighbour up on stage, and let's just say I've never seen people play the roles of the stage props quite like this. (You had to be there, I think)
Oh yes, there's an even taller unicycle. 

And then, of course, the famous towel scene. The guys all end up in nothing but bath towels, and there are a bunch of really close calls as they flip the towels, drop them, trade them and trip over each other, all while in a state of faux-panic about staying decent. I had to shush my kids from enthusiastic commentary and questions, but luckily the crowd's roars of laughter drowned them out for the most part.
3 towels vs. 1 towel

It's mostly a nonverbal show, except for the odd outburst in French or the little "Tout nu, tout nu, Tout NU!" song they sing while conga-ing around in aforementioned towels. That gem stuck with my kids and is a favourite song here at home this week. Just one of the many ways these performances inspire our youth, y'know?

The show was 90 minutes long, and it held everyone's attention until the very end with its impressive acrobatics and comedic visuals. We were all so wired on the way home from the show raving about our favourite parts, I didn't know if the kids would be able to get to sleep. Another memorable year at the OICF!



Friday, May 04, 2018

Being a Xennial Parent- Also, a Contest!

I'm apparently of the "Xennial" micro-generation (Finally, I've felt so lost without a designation for years), which means that I was born in the late-70s-early-80s range. Not quite Gen X, not quite Millennial. We grew up with an analog childhood and a digital adulthood (Atari and Super Mario Bros doesn't count, I guess? Pfft). It's true, I suppose; I didn't get an e-mail account until I was in university. My teenage life was free of ICQ and Instagram.

So, being the nostalgia fiend that I am, I sometimes I like to blow my kids' minds with stories of life back in Stranger Things times: Home phone lines! No Googling! Cameras with no view screen and 24-exposure film and photo counters! Renting movies from an actual store! Having to rent a giant camcorder from Ron's TV and Video once a year to record home movies!

And how about: Having to plan ahead to watch a show "when it's on"!

In our house, we don't have cable (I know it still exists), so the kids don't know what it's like to come home on Friday afternoon and know your choice of after-school show is The Monchhichis or nothing. The kids are only used to YouTube and Netflix, and all the choice and instant gratification that comes with it, they had a bit of a culture shock when we stayed at a hotel with old-fashioned cable TV:



The humanity. At least it wasn't the Monchhichis, but I'm sure they wonder how we managed.

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CONTEST: Win a Family Pass to a show at the Children's Festival!

The Ottawa International Children's Festival is coming up once again, May 11-15! My family and I have been the past 3 years and are delighted to have been invited to go and review the experience once again. 


It's "an extravaganza of the finest quality theatre, dance and music for young audiences" and "the only annual festival of its kind in Ontario to offer international, live performing arts for families". There are always lots of activities to do onsite as well, including a rock-climbing wall and Instrument petting zoo. 


This year, Fred Penner will be performing, for all you fellow Xennial parents nostalgic to see a childhood favourite. Will he sing "Sandwiches"? Check out the rest of the program here.

Want to win a family pass to a show at the OICF? Comment below and tell us what show you'd take your family to... or, tell me about your "generation gap" experience with your kids, whether or not you're a Xennial. One winner will be picked on May 7.