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Ottawa’s Children’s Festival offers magical joy

By Alejandro Bustos on May 9, 2015




Video of Les Parfaits Inconnus courtesy of YouTube

My daughter’s eyes sparkled — her mouth open in disbelief — as she witnessed the remarkable acrobatic routine that was taking place on stage.

With five chairs stacked like a game of Jenga beneath him, the performer used his impressive strength to balance himself like an Olympic gymnast.  Adults and children alike were gobsmacked by the amazing display of skill by the Quebec circus arts ensemble Les Parfaits Inconnus, which combine music, acrobatics, juggling and comedy to produce one mightily impressive show.

Welcome to the Ottawa International Children’s Festival, where the magic of the performing arts offers children aged four to 15 the opportunity to let their imagination soar.

This year marks the 30 anniversary of the festival, which brings together some of the best children’s performers from across Canada and around the world.

While the programme’s festival technically started on May 4 — Alice in Wonderland played from May 4 to 6 — the real opening was on Friday, when the festival grounds at Lebreton Flats next to the Canadian War Museum opened.

I attended two shows on Friday with my daughter: the aforementioned acrobatic performance by Les Parfaits Inconnus which was excellent, and a retelling of the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel by Denmark’s Teatret Gruppe 38.

While both shows were quite good, parents should be aware that Hansel and Gretel is aimed at children eight years and older, as some parts can be quite scary for kids who are younger.  Les Parfait Inconnus, on the other hand, is for all ages.

Jack and the Bean

Jack and the Bean

In a ceremony on Friday, Catherine O’Grady, the festival’s artistic producer, was awarded a special certificate by Mayor Jim Watson that recognised all of her decades of hard work. Watching the joy on the children’s faces as they saw the live performances, it was clear how important O’Grady’s contribution has been to our community.

Among the great programming at this year’s festival is the world premiere of Wolf Child by Ottawa’s Mi Casa Theatre, Jack and the Bean by Vancouver’s Presentation House Theatre, and the music group Bon Débarras from Quebec.  Performances are available in English and French.

In addition, there are numerous activities on the grounds, from face painting to the scientists in school tent to the Pentalum Luminaria , in which children can walk through a fantasy world of light and colour.

If you have children and want to have a memorable family experience, then I would strongly recommend that you visit the festival this weekend.

The Ottawa International Children’s Festival runs until May 13.  Admission to the festival grounds is free, while tickets to a single show is $13 or $33 for a three-show package.