Hat Trick is based on three books by celebrated Canadian author Jon Klassen: We Found a Hat, I Want My Hat Back and This Is Not My Hat. This show will be an exciting collaboration between Rag & Bone and 234 Strings, a classical violin and cello duo.
The three books were initially recommended to us by librarians all across Ottawa for our staged reading series, Snippets. And no wonder. Darkly subversive, with deadpan humour, and rising tension that builds to almost scandalous twists at the end, each book also resonates profoundly on universally human (and childish) dilemmas about lying, stealing, injustice, revenge and ultimately, friendship, loyalty, joy and love.
The stories are funny. Actions and visuals belie the words. Audiences know more than the characters. We see the characters deceive themselves and others, but we don’t judge them. A tiny fish who thinks he can get away with stealing a hat from a whale is defying the laws of nature, but not evil.
We have used two of the books in several staged reading events, with minimal props and costumes, audience participation, and guest readers. But ever since we first read them, we have wanted to stage them in a full production. The visuals, the dialogue and the themes leave lots of openings for amazing music, puppetry and humour that carry the audience into new worlds of imagination.
Live, classical music played on cello and violin transport the audience even deeper into the atmosphere and mood of each story. Vocals and other eclectic instrumentation are provided by our regular musical collaborator, Russell Levia.
The design of the show will be inspired by the artwork in the three books, which is as delightful as the sparse dialogue and deadpan delivery. In the first, the world is underwater, with collaged aquatic plants against a slightly ominous black background, and streams of bubbles that indicate movement. The woods in the second book are more minimal, almost monochromatic with sudden splashes of colour. But the third book is radiant with desert sunsets, and the aforementioned sky full of stars.
I Want My Hat Back, This Is Not My Hat, and We Found a Hat. Adapted by Kathy MacLellan. From the books by Jon Klassen, illustrated by Jon Klassen. Published by Candlewick Press.
In This is Not My Hat, a bold and gleeful little fish steals a hat from a much larger fish. He thinks he’ll get away with it – but the big fish opens his eyes, the chase is on, and justice prevails.
In the second story, I Want My Hat Back, a big bear politely asks other animals if they have seen his hat. The rabbit’s answer is suspicious: "I did not steal a hat." Once again, the chase is on, and the bear recovers his hat in a dark but hilarious way.
Finally, in We Found a Hat, two turtles find one hat. “But there is only one hat, and there are two of us.” Will the hat destroy their friendship?
“The tenderness in this [last] book (with its uplifting ending) is just as surprising as the black humor in the earlier ones. While the book is richer in the context of the two previous volumes, Klassen leaves enough space for uninitiated readers to make their own meaning out of this story about a hat—but, here, also about an enduring and precious friendship.”—Horn Book (starred review)
“Klassen considers the instant at which a decision to act can break either way, depending on who's tempted and whether anyone else is watching. In contrast to the first two books, which relied on a certain conspiratorial menace, this [last] one ends with a moment of grace and a sky full of stars. All three stories are about justice. It's just that justice doesn't always mean the same thing.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)