CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 11 . . . . January 25, 2008
The beginning of Matthew and Stephen presents the reader with a perplexing opening. The boys are 12-years-old; on the cover of the script, there is a picture of two boys around the age of three, and the play has been produced on stage with 20-year-old actors in the roles as children. As one reads on, the possibilities of this ‘every age’ theory become a bit clearer.
Matthew’s mother is dead, and his father is away on a ‘trip.’ Matthew lives with his guardians across the street from Stephen who has just moved to town. Stephen did not want to move and is angry over the move. From the moment the boys meet, they share their philosophies on life through their arguing where personal narratives are highlighted among their disagreements. Their imaginations are full of ideas, magic tricks, evil formulas, and thoughts on friendship, adults, illness, and death to name a few. Matthew even starts to help Stephen plan how to return to his old home and how to divorce his parents. Then Stephen goes to school and finds out why no one will play with Matthew. Matthew is sick, and people are afraid he will make other children sick too. In the end, there is only one boy sitting on the porch talking about having lots of time to do all the things the two boys planned together.
It is hard to determine whether this is a play about children for children or a play about children for adults, but, if it is for children, the focus is around a child who is dying and that issue, itself, is a sensitive topic. Some of the references are outdated, such as the one where Stephen returns to his house to get his Zorro comic. Zorro is for the most part a pop culture icon of the 60’s and 70’s, and one most children today may never have heard of. Also, in many ways, the two boys act more like 10-year-olds than 12-year-olds.
Having said that, Matthew and Stephen, as mentioned before, has been staged with adults in the main roles, and, with such sensitive subject matter, perhaps this is with good reason and why the play may need to be approached by having younger students view and discuss it with adults.
The play was awarded the Theatre Jeuness de Radio France prize, and the English production opened on Broadway.
Staging a production of this play with students or studying it in a classroom setting would require additional research and discussion of the subject matter.
Recommended with reservations.
Jocelyn A. Dimm is a sessional instructor and PhD Candidate at the University of Victoria where she teaches drama education and young adult literature in the Faculty of Education.
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