Drawn together Animated short film follows young girl’s quixotic quest to be reunited with her mother
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/03/2022 (453 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Veterans of the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival may remember an early iteration of the play Places We Go from the 2017 edition of that much-missed fest. Co-writer Hazel Venzon performed the half-hour show largely in silhouette, backlit by the projected illustrations of her artist husband — and co-writer — David Oro. It was billed as a “live graphic novel.”
Places We Go
Written by Hazel Venzon and David Oro
● Streaming free at pte.mb.ca to March 31
● 30 minutes
● In Tagalog and English
★★★ out of five
Given the illustrative nature of the show, it was natural that it would be adapted to a filmed version to make it accessible to a wide audience, even in these days of relaxed pandemic measures.
The play uses Oro’s illustrations to create a largely monochromatic but evocative view of urban Manila as a backdrop. Venzon, who voices all the characters, mainly performs as eight-year-old Grace, again seen here in featureless silhouette.
Grace lives with her doting grandmother Lola and schemes to make money to pay for a flight home for her nanay — mother — who has been working as a home-care provider in Canada for the past three years. (Venzon loosely based Grace on a cousin who was similarly separated from her family for 10 consecutive years.)
Grace skips school one day and ventures into downtown Manila to find work that will pay enough to buy nanay a ticket back home.
The play is divided into nine episodes, which have been made available as serial offerings on PTE’s website. But it is best to view them all as a single 30-minute entity, which is how it will be offered as of Thursday.
For one thing, one individual episode — aptly titled Nightmare — sees Grace caught in a torrential downpour and apparently drowning. For a show targeted at younger viewers, that might be a little too upsetting.
Also, some episodes may seem redundant, as Grace goes to various businesses to seek work, only to be shot down again and again. (The fruit stand, she is told, is a family business. A convenience store barely allows its proprietor to eke out a living. And so on.)
It’s best taken in one sitting because the overall show does have a groove to it. With dialogue bouncing between English and Tagalog, it proceeds with the dream logic of a fairy tale, augmented by some lovely touches, including having a yellow bird following Grace from place to place as a kind of protector.
Manila can have a hard look, which is softened by Oro’s excellent, dreamy illustrations.
But the show doesn’t soften its harder truths pertaining to life in the Philippines, where parents are often cruelly separated from their children in a bid to allow them a better life. In effect, the fairy tale trappings allow kids to consider the subject of poverty: the real-world wolf at the door.
Places We Go plays free of charge on PTE’s website until March 31.
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In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.