The UC Follies have never been a theatre company to shy away from a challenge. Their website state that their 2014-2015 season explores performances that “complicate the line between reality and imagination” — meaning that their upcoming adaptation of Jean Cocteau’s surrealist novel Les Enfants Terribles promises to be particularly enticing. 

Written in 1929, the novel follows the lives of Paul and Elisabeth, two young siblings whose codependence manifests in an inner world of their own creation. It’s a strange, intensely imaginative world, one which production designer Jess Shane has decided to bring to life through a number of multimedia techniques.

“We wanted to bring the audience into [Paul and Elisabeth’s] bedroom,” she said, explaining that the set will look like a child’s bedroom. Shane has decided to employ the use of live projection and puppetry to help bring the children’s inner world to life. After completing an exchange in Lyon, France, where she learned about the use of puppetry in theatre, she found herself excited about the idea of integrating it into the performance.

The puppets will portray the adults in the play, representing the physical supports which allow the children to stay alive, but never showing them directly. 

“The mind of the play is having these imaginary fantasies while the action is happening in a real, concrete realm,” explained Ariel Martz-Oberlander, the play’s director. “We never learn who buys [the children] groceries, and they have a maid who cleans but we never meet her… [Paul and Elisabeth] never acknowledge them, because they live in this fantasy.”

Surrealism and puppetry are not conventions one might expect in the same production, especially a student production, but both Martz-Oberlander and Shane believe they are up to the task.

This is Martz-Oberlander’s directorial debut, but she’s been involved in campus theatre previously. She’s “excited to do something on campus that [integrated] the elements of not only the acting, but also the production, the design and the tech production. I was really excited to try something that I’d never seen done before.” 

Shane, a visual studies student in her fourth year at the University of Toronto, is excited to “take on-campus theatre to a different level of integration of visual art and theatre” in this production.

The two began discussing the idea for this production two years ago, when they first became friends. “It was a very ephemeral, wispy little idea,” explained Martz-Oberlander. As their friendship grew, so did the idea of the production, taking many turns that neither expected. Now, two years later, the two students are roommates and Les Enfants Terribles is only a few days away from opening to the public.

Shane believes that the story is a universal one that will not only enthrall audiences, but also make them laugh. “The threat of being parted drives them to desperation…but also, there’s this humour element of the mischief they get up to,” she explained. 

“I think it resonates with anyone who has ever felt dependent on anyone else,” added Martz-Oberlander. “I think it is sort of a manifestation [of codependence] if you go all the way down that road. I feel that so often, whether it’s falling in love, or being admiring of someone…With Paul and Elisabeth, they have never known any other way of being.”

Les Enfants Terribles runs from November 13 to 15 in UC Junior Common Room. Doors are at 8:00 pm.

Correction: This article previously stated that Jess Shane completed an exchange in Leon, Spain instead of Lyon, France.