SLIPPERY or YOU CAN'T GET THERE FROM HERE
This is a children’s play commissioned by the Grand Theatre in 1993 as part of their London 200 celebrations to mark the bicentennial of London’s founding when Colonel John Graves Simcoe showed up at the forks of the Thames and determined it to be an ideal site for establishing the capital of Upper Canada. (That plan didn’t unfold exactly as Simcoe hoped but his perhaps reckless pronouncement meant that this area got a head start when the process of British colonization really got underway a few years later.) The hero of the play is Slippery, a California sea lion who was imported here, quite against his will, in 1958 as one of the main attractions at our new children’s zoo and fantasy theme park, Storybook Gardens. Unfortunately they over-filled his pool and hadn’t joined up all the sections of exterior fencing when Slippery made a run for it a few days before the park was due to open, slipping into the Thames River and making it as far Maumee, Ohio before he was captured and brought back to town as the star of his own parade that drew more Londoners than the royal visit of 1939. - Herman Goodden
“The art of good acting requires that the audience believes in the characters being portrayed. Being a convincing person is one thing, but being a convincing sea lion is quite another. The actors in this premiere performance are very believable animals. Simon Richards moves, sounds and looks like a sea lion. So does Lani Ashenhurst, though she makes a wonderful seagull too. Phi Bulani and Tony Martin slip in and out of other roles with dizzying alacrity at the touch of a Velcro fastening. The costuming deserves special mention: Paddy Richardson has done a marvelous job of making legs and feet into tails. And the gull’s aviation gear with long scarf and helmet is a riot. The sea lion pool set is simple and yet very effective with wonderful watery effects provided by different kinds of lighting.
“Herman Goodden’s play is funny, sad and thought provoking and director Charlie Tomlinson has presented it well for young audiences. School age crowds have the opportunity of asking questions following the show. Most of the youngsters ask the actors technical questions such as, ‘Is it dark in the sea lion house?’ and ‘How is snow made?’ Reportedly, it’s when they have follow-up discussions back in the classroom that they ponder the deeper issues raised here of freedom and captivity, exploitation and profit.”
- Sheila Martindale, Scene
Slippery or You Can’t Get There from Here was produced at the McManus Studio of the Grand Theatre in March of 1993. Simon Richard played Slippery and Lani Ashenhurst, Phi Bulani, Tony Martin and Laurie Rice played other sea lions, otters, seagulls and miscellaneous humans. Set and lighting design by Craig Blackley and costumes designed by Paddy Richardson. Directed by Charlie Tomlinson.