Silverwing by Kenneth Opel

Adapted for the Theatre by Kim Selody

Director Carol Higgins

Dates and Venue 1-30 December The Carousel Theatre (Granville Island)

Reviewer Jane Penistan

This is a perspicacious adaptation of the children’s book, Silverwing. The script manages to evoke all the adolescent behaviour of the younger members of the story, with the wisdom of the elders (who quarrel too) and the thrill of a great adventure. It is also a tale of courage, endurance and loyalty in the face of deception and bullying.

This is not to say that this is a moralistic presentation, but these elements are there throughout. Like all good fairy stories, the good win against the evil, who get their just reward. We are led to believe that everyone will live happily in the future.

Throughout there are spectacular backdrop projections of cityscapes, snow and rainstorms, cathedral and cave interiors, cloudy and sunrise skies. With the spare set comprising a leafy tiered raise on either side of the stage, these take us on the bats’ adventure filled migration. Jeff Tymoschuk’s sound and music deepen our sense of release from reality into the world of theatre magic.

Victor Mariano plays Shade, the despised youngster of the Tree Haven bat colony. The fatherless runt of the current spring newborns, he is bullied by the larger young bats and makes an enemy of one of the elders of the colony, Bathsheba (Corina Akeson). His mother Ariel (Tamara McCarthy) has faith in him and he is recognized as a gifted member of the colony by the matriarch Frieda, beautifully portrayed with dignity and grace by Lisa Bunting. He offends the owls by insisting on watching the sun rise, thus ending the truce of darkness between bats and owls. In retaliation, the owls set fire to the bat colony, necessitating an early migration to Hibernaculum, the bats’ winter home, many miles to the South.

On this journey Shade is separated by a storm from the rest of the colony. In his quest to find his way to Hibernaculum he encounters a variety of bats and birds. Some give him wise advice, but others are evil and seek to destroy him and Hibernaculum. Of course, Shade has to meet a girl bat Marina (Maria Jose Romo) who is also lost, so the two team up and ultimately reach their desired haven.

It is the villains of the piece who have the most fun. Johann Helf as Goth and Josue Laboucane as Throb are the comic monster bats, with cannibalistic intents. These two actors are also excruciatingly funny as a pair of soldier pigeons. The majority of the cast play multiple roles, slipping from good to evil, bat to bird with equal felicity.

This is great entertainment for families. Many who have read the books about bats will enjoy this adaptation which is close to the book Silverwing, and admirably brings the characters to life.

© 2006 Jane Penistan