I set my hopes high when I heard that Arts Club’s was putting on a 60’s coming-of-age story; a relatable theme set in an era immersed in iconic rock n’ roll and beehives. Although I felt myself rooting for the plays success, my hopes slowly dwindled as I wondered, “when will the story begin?” Farrant’s memoir turned play, My Turquoise Years, may have the backdrop of a colourful set and vibrant sixties hair and wardrobe but the most important aspect is lacking, the story line.
The play focuses on Marion, a thirteen year old girl, raised in British Columbia’s own Cordova Bay. Marion, played by Bridget Esler, is abandoned by her globetrotting mother, Nancy, and left in the hands of her Aunt Elsie and Uncle Ernie. Marion struggles with this abandonment and the entire story centers around if, or when, Nancy will be visiting. Attempting to express the lifestyle of the 1960’s, My Turquoise Years also playfully incorporates feminist stand points with lines like, “Pot roast is the way to a man’s heart, not that they’re worth it”. Humor is an important part of Farrant’s production, but its ability to bond this humor with a solid plot is debatable.
The first act is tame in comparison to what follows. It seems that Farrant herself is aware of the audiences impending need for stimulation. By filling her second act with a medley of singing, dancing and SNL worthy characters, Ferrant brings up the energy level but further buries any hope of a significant story line. Although the entertainment value of the second act is vastly superior to that of the first I became frustrated with what this change in pace meant. What exactly three men dancing and thrusting their pelvis’s had to do with the plot? I overheard someone mention “the main part of the story doesn’t even appear”, referring to the way in which Nancy is constantly talked about but never presented.
Although lacking a solid story line, there are positive aspects as well as strong performances in this memoir. I particularly enjoyed the character of Aunt Elsie, played by Wendy Noel, and the way she effortlessly carries the first half of the play. In the second half, she engages in an entertaining subplot where the idea of her husband having an affair plagues her mind; thankfully she gets a pep talk from her hilarious, chain-smoking hairdresser Rae-Ella, played by Dawn Petten. Georgina Beaty’s energy as Marion’s geeky friend, Jenny, made me wish the play was focused more on her and Marion’s relationship. Every time the two would naively chat about boys and growing up, I couldn’t help but giggle along with them.
Overall, I was expecting more from My Turquoise Years. The story of Marion’s girlhood may not be an instant success, but with a little reworking it could become a hit. For now, My Turquoise Years will need to find its self a little more before becoming a Broadway hit.
My Turquoise Years is playing at Arts Club’s Granville Island Stage until May 4th. You can get your tickets here