delilah - heartwarming and humourous
Written by Jamie-Lee Wilson, April 4, 2013
For The Beat Magazine, London, ON

A Premier Production
Written By Len Cuthbert
Directed by Desiree Baker
Played by Tammy Vink (Jade), Heather May (Delilah), Ryan Cole (Mick), Ellena Grant (Dee-J)
YFC London Youth Centre Theatre, 254 Adelaide St. S.
April 3rd, 5th, and 6that 7 p.m., matinee on April 6th at 2 p.m.

delilah, now playing at the YFC London Youth Centre Theatre, is the full-length version of the London Fringe Festival play which received a nomination for Best Original Script from both the DISH Awards and The Brickendens. And a really great script it is! Issues of child abuse and neglect, the meaning of ‘family’, coming of age and the difficulties often associated, the right to live as one chooses, and the right to die as one chooses are just some of the serious themes dealt with in this sensitive, heart-warming, and often humorous story.

The story centers on Jade, a young woman who was abandoned by her own mother at 12 and consequently entered into the foster care system. Despite having spent only one year with her foster brother Mick’s family, they have remained close, and Jade occasionally helps her orphaned foster brother with the responsibilities of being guardian to his 12-year-old sister, Dee-J (Mick’s parents died 9 years previously leaving him to raise Dee-J on his own). The story opens at Dee-J’s twelfth birthday party, and is also attended by Jade’s roommate and best friend, Delilah, whom Jade met when she was 12.

The character of Jade is the best developed, and Tammy Vink does an outstanding job of reprising the role (Vink played Jade in the Fringe 2012 and LOAF 2011 versions). With a winning combination of toughness, vulnerability, flawed but fierce love (the best kind) for her friends and family, and corny chicken jokes, Vink plays Jade with humanity and leaves us feeling that we can all hope to triumph over despair. Her body language speaks volumes as she kicks at the ground with her hands stuffed in her pockets, and immediately follows her humble stance with a flourish of action and open palmed, imploring persuasion – a positive force of nature.

Mick (Ryan Cole) is the long-suffering brother doing his best to raise a girl on the brink of so much –that he just has no experience with, and does not know how to handle. Cole’s tense shoulders, jerky movements, and often clipped speech, attest to his discomfort with a role he has accepted, but certainly never asked for.

Ellena Grant plays the mutinous Dee-J with credibility, and a lack of over-sentimentality – which would be easy to fall into with this role.

Delilah is an oddly underdeveloped character. Although she is integral to the plot, she seems very much like a sideline to the relationships that turn on her involvement like a linchpin. She is more a device than a character, despite a heart-wrenching performance from Heather May in the second act.

The lighting and sound were very well done. YFC London Youth Centre Theatre is a hidden gem of a venue, far enough off the (downtown) beaten path that it would benefit greatly from more signage and advertising. I hope to see more production companies take advantage of this great space.

3*/ 4