Ursula Calder and Stewart Legere in a scene from Tiny, by Bruce Barton, on view to Nov. 17. (Mel Hattie)
Tiny is a mesmerizing, multimedia experience of an historical, sci fi world within the old NSLC store at Scotia Square.
A co-production between Eastern Front Theatre and Zuppa Theatre, in association with Vertical City Performance and the Glenbow Museum, it was created by Calgary playwright Bruce Barton and Halifax’s Zuppa
Tiny combines the wonder of the Little Prince and Marvel Comics with the fear of the Atomic Bomb, the magic of exotic “supers” – one is a wheelchair-bound, spelling bee queen who died young – and the haunting feel of artifacts that once belonged to and were used by vital human beings.
People enter a purple-lit space, are given head phones and then walk through a swinging steel door to enter a museum-style exhibit on individual power – specifically on the four ages of superheroes or “supers” in an alternative narrative of the 20th century up until today.
Ben Stone, dressed in a tiny red cape with a glittering blue eye mask, is a guide like a carnival showman. He introduces dramatic scenes from the different ages that are staged in fully-detailled, museum dioramas titled “Domestic Conditions.”
In the first one, Shelley Thompson is a grandmother teaching her granddaughter to knit to give her lessons in patience, perseverance and about “becoming” while vaudeville music and harsh German voices come through on the console radio suggesting wartime. She has a story about a super.
It’s fun to see Stewart Legere play a young Cedric discovering the mysteries of sour dough baking and then reappear as Cedric the older, disappointed garage mechanic talking to a teen girl who is “special.” He shifts character convincingly with his hair and pitch of enthusiasm.
The dramatic, philosophical storytelling in Bruce Barton’s script represents the four ages, in each case with a child questioning an adult. The storytelling is oblique in its references to superheroes which is somewhat frustrating.
The pace is slow in terms of revelation yet the mystery, wonder and novelty of this theatrical experience are transfixing. It is hard to leave such a world with its ultimately optimistic message about inclusivity, hope and claiming small, individual power for positive change.
Tiny puts people in another world but one that is close enough to ours that it is kind of freaky. This world is almost funny, often true, sometimes sad.
Zuppa creates a bewitching veracity with its amazing attention to detail in the presentation and description of video and artifacts, fictional and true-to-life, from roller skates to the nail that a female blacksmith used to clean her teeth after breakfast at the Strachan Hotel in Chicago.
Tiny is a huge team effort with direction by Alex McLean, strong ensemble acting by Anika Riopel, Ben Stone, Shelley Thompson, Stewart Legere and Ursula Calder, key lighting and prop design by Jess Lewis, dramaturgy by Pil Hansen, video design by Anna Shepard, highly-accurate, costume design by Leesa Hamilton, very effective sound design and music by Stewart Legere and a big participation by artists.
Tiny runs to Nov. 17, 8 p.m., with a matinee Saturday at 2 p.m. The old NSLC store at the rear of the food court) is fully wheelchair and powerchair accessible. There is a cash bar open for evening shows. Tonight’s show (Nov. 13, 8 p.m.) show is ASL interpreted.
Tickets are on sale through Ticket Halifax.
Ben Stone as The Volunteer in Tiny. (Mel Hattie)