Remember Thumbelina, the thumb-sized girl from folklore who suffered harassment from various garden creatures before flying away with a fairy prince? Ever wondered what followed “happily ever after”? Well, according to The Trial of Thumbelina—Gord Rand’s postmodern, post-apocalyptic take on the fairy tale—our little nymph heroine would go on to suffer all kinds of slings and arrows over the centuries, only to end up at the Hague awaiting her trial for crimes against humanity.
It’s a promising premise, but Rand fails in keeping his one-woman play focused enough to hold our interest. He allows Thumbelina’s tale to go on all sorts of wild tangents that make no qualms about leaving the audience behind. Buried somewhere in Thumbelina’s adventures is a message about our threatened ecosystem and humanity’s penchant for destruction, but it’s lost in a sea of secondary characters and side stories.
Jeanie Calleja gives an energetic and assured performance as Thumbelina. However, the sprite-like nature of her character requires her to speak rapidly, and often she doesn’t enunciate clearly enough for the audience to follow what she’s saying. She seems more concerned with zipping through a speech as fast as possible than making sure she’s conveying the right ideas or emotions to the audience. Thumbelina’s story is convoluted enough as it is, flying from the court of Hungary to the Peruvian Cloud Forest, and it doesn’t help that Calleja shoots out the narrative in slurred rapid fire.
The last third of the play does try to pare the messy story down to its essentials, and the pace slows down to something more manageable. By that time, however, you’re wondering why Rand and Calleja weren’t able to recreate the magic from their last joint theatre project, 2004’s Pond Life.
The Trial of Thumbelina continues at the Tarragon Mainspace: Friday, August 10 at 4:30pm; Saturday, August 11 at 3:00 p.m.; and Sunday August 12 at 12:00 p.m. Photo courtesy of SummerWorks.