The Little Years

A thoughtful and touching exploration of human potential

Presented by Tarragon Theatre
Written by John Mighton
Directed by Chris Abraham

Bethany Jillard and Chick Reid. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

Time is of the essence in The Little Years, John Mighton’s acclaimed play about a brilliant mind gone to waste, now playing at the Tarragon Theatre. Originally produced by the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in 2011, Chris Abraham’s production returns with cast members Bethany Jillard, Irene Poole and Chick Reid reprising their roles, along with a fresh ensemble of talented performers.

The play follows the life of Kate, a woman who loses her way after her dreams are crushed as a young girl. Growing up in the 1950s, young Kate (Bethany Jillard) is a bright math enthusiast, fascinated by space and time, but her interests are regarded as unrealistic and unattractive by her mother Alice (Chick Reid), and she is transferred to a vocational school where her talents are overlooked. Meanwhile, she is haunted by the enormous literary success of her brother William, an ever-present character who never appears in the play.

As time passes, we meet the adult Kate (Irene Poole), a negative and repressed woman who struggles to adapt socially, despite the best efforts of her sister-in-law Grace (Pamela Sinha), who attempts to introduce Kate to her artist friend Roger (Ari Cohen) at a party (with unexpected results). Kate’s life becomes unmanageable and she is eventually institutionalized. When we meet her again in middle age is almost unrecognizable, looking and sounding nothing like the curious young girl we met at the beginning of the play.

Time touches all of the characters in the story, but none so much as Kate, a woman whose flame was extinguished in her early years. However, when we meet Grace’s gifted daughter Tanya (also played by Jillard) at the end of the play, it becomes clear that Kate’s life made a big impression on her niece, and that the young woman sees her as an inspiration—a revelation that comes as an overwhelming surprise to her aunt.

Featuring a beautiful modern set and costumes by Julie Fox, exquisite lighting by Kimberley Purtell and effective sound design by Thomas Ryder Payne, The Little Years is a compelling and elegantly staged production. The pacing is a bit uneven at times, with the action slowing down during a romantic encounter between Grace and Roger—a scene that takes us unnecessarily out of the story for a time. However, director Chris Abraham gets terrific performances out of the cast, particularly the female leads: Jillard shines as both young Kate and Tanya; Sinha’s Grace is well-balanced and compassionate; Reid is glorious in her role as the disapproving, mean-spirited Alice; and Poole delivers a complex performance as the tormented Kate.

The Little Years is a memorable and thought-provoking theatre experience. Catch it until Decembmer 16 at the Tarragon Theatre. Visit for more information and to buy tickets.

Show Dates: 
Wed, 2012-11-14 - Sun, 2012-12-16
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