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Saturday, July 20, 2024

Theatre review: Thunderfoot is a giant imaginative journey

Fairy tale and personal story could be more tightly woven

Aaron Malkin, known by many as one half of the comedic clown duo James & Jamesy, takes on a solo show in Thunderfoot. Using his incredible mime and physical theatre skills, Malkin tells the story of the death of his mother at a young age, through the parallel story of a young boy named Matthias.

Thunderfoot is a fairy tale of epic proportion. Young Matthias’ mother goes missing, and the same week a giant shakes up their town, creating storms and footprints in the streets. While they suspect that the giant has taken Matthias’ mother, it turns out that things are not always what they seem.

Malkin plays Matthias and all of the characters in the town, from the bookstore owner, to the mayor, to Matthias’ father. Each character has a distinct voice and exaggerated physical body. Malkin acknowledges when his characters’ voices blend such as when the bookstore owner becomes Scottish, or makes a joke about the fact that he is playing Matthias’ father as an old man.

The sense of play that Malkin brings to each character and to the setting of scenes is delightful to watch. He is a skilled mover and his specificity with miming means that no set is needed for this story, as he vividly creates all its locations. Malkin also plays with sounds and invites the audience to participate in some of them, like the “yay” of the children as they leave school. A highlight of the show is the sequence between the giant and Matthias, and the skilled way in which Malkin flips back and forth between them.

The show keeps the audience on its toes. Almost out of nowhere, Malkin begins to sing a song. Written by Patrick Kearns, this and a second song provide a strong heart to the show. The lyrics are sweet, honest, and Malkin’s voice is earnest.

Directed and co-written by Chloe Ziner, Thunderfoot is a touching tale about the stories that we tell children to hide dark truths. Through the performance we come to learn the truth about Malkin’s mother’s death, and the years it took for him to be told honestly about what happened to her. While this story is a personal and powerful one, it feels like it has not connected enough to the fairy tale that is told as a parallel to Malkin’s own.

Thunderfoot was a delight to watch. Malkin is an incredible performer and brings humour, playfulness, and specificity to everything he does. I only wish the fairy tale and Malkin’s personal story were more tightly woven.

Thunderfoot, written and performed by Aaron Malkin. Directed and co-written by Chloe Ziner. On stage at the Red Gate Revue Stage (1601 Johnston St, Granville Island, Vancouver) until April 28th. Visit for tickets and information.

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