This is my adaptation of Volker Ludwig’s classic Max und Milli, a play for younger children about fear of the night, fear of bullies, fear of parents. It is a very, very funny play, wise and truthful. I was privileged to direct the North American premiere at Young People’s Theatre in the Toronto, and an absolutely fine time was had by all.
“Bedtime, The Box, bullies and bust-ups: Dennis Foon has crammed these matters and more into Bedtimes And Bullies, his adaptation of the German classic tale about growing up and dealing with problems, which opened yesterday at Young People’s Theatre.
It’s a lively affair, the young patrons all a-giggle around me having no trouble reconciling biggish people playing little people in the show, which also contains five simple, direct songs—the best a fun rap about “Me TV,” another good one “Surf Suey” about what nasties might live underground—on issues of major import to the 5-years-and-up brigade at whom this entertainment is pitched.
The key vein tapped in the play is that it looks at situations from a youngster’s viewpoint. There were high-pitched roars of recognition as elementary schooler Kevin (Paul Braunstein) invented myriad reasons not to go to bed, get into bed, close his eyes, have the door closed or—Heaven forbid!—have the lights out.
And they were repeated as his kindergarten sister (Kim Renders) babbled jingles and scenes from kidshows on television.
Another benefit is the absence of any fairytale plot, though the childhood games are shot through with ghosts and fantasies and a contemporary take on families – Kevin and Kim’s mom (Patricia Vanstone) is separated and Peter (Derwin Jordan), who’s a bully because he feels unloved but at heart is a nice guy, has had difficulties adjusting to his new brother and sisters—dad (Robert Persichini) has remarried.
Yet this social conscience burden doesn’t squish the straightforward story and essential fun at the core of the production, which has two basic, airy sets—bedroom and park —that change at speed. There is a happy ending, not quite the sugary one you’d expect, but the warning messages that also seep through—about the shallowness of television, violent toys, materialism and even about adults whose rule-making is obsessive and who don’t listen to their kids—don’t disrupt the achievement.
That achievement is the neat balance portrayed between kid anxieties, kid honesty and resilient kids who hang tough when problems loom and who can co-exist, try to solve their own problems and play together without external factors telegraphing how it must be.
You can be sure that a theatre full of moppets is getting the message when its noise ebbs and flows with the humor and the more-serious bits, and when most of its members clearly identify with bedtime rituals, the possibilities of monsters, squabbling siblings, wild exaggerations, messing up shopping chores, massaging the true facts, sleepover follies and trying to stretch parental tolerance beyond reasonable limits.
The ‘kid’ cast acts with enough conviction to make their play world real to young viewers, though the parents have little chance to be more than ciphers. Yet it’s a play with universal themes that reflects realities, not such a frequent occurrence in these nervous ’90s.”
—Geoff Chapman, Toronto Star
Visit Playwrights Guild of Canada to order a copy.
Contact Michael Petrasek at Kensington Literary Representation for performance rights information.
Selected Production History:
Young People’s Theatre
Green Thumb Theatre