Puppet show brings joy across Canada
By Julia Siedlanowska, Staff Writer
Ronnie Burkett’s theatre is characterized by compassion, humour, Canadianisms, and dirty jokes. Although I was critical at first of a one-man show that receives so much funding, this individual’s talent—and more specifically his marionettes—have won me over.
The Daisy Theatre is an eclectic collection of heart-warming characters from Burkett’s past shows along with some debutants. On a stage built specifically for his little actors, there is only just enough room for these huge personalities: an old librarian who shows us how to twerk, a flamboyant homosexual cow, an Albertan “silly bitty,” and the “star of the show,” the most memorable one of all.
The characters go on stage to perform mostly solos in a sort of variety show, and often interact with the audience. This is part puppet show, part stand-up comedy, and there are plenty of jokes at the audience’s expense.
Burkett manipulates the audience just as he does the puppets, and we love it. At one point he had a man lying on the stage with a puppet stroking his “man parts.” The audience was in stitches, and succumbed to the puppet master’s every demand.
Through the character of a washed-up diva, the audience was trained to greet her with a high-pitched “Could it be!? Could it be!? It is! It is!” To which the diva replied, “Only when I sit down do you reluctantly stop clapping”—and, sure enough, the audience was reluctant to stop.
Burkett combined politics and humour with a kind of gentle profundity and humanity that was touching. Most loveable of all was his smallest puppet, a little “fairy” who wanted to get his wings. With the double meaning of fairy being the butt of quite a few jokes, Burkett’s stance on pushing the boundaries of heteronormativity is evident. As the tiny puppet climbs to meet his master and falls without gaining his wings, we are on his side completely. The metaphor of the giant puppet master above all of us is an archetypal image made relatively poignant through this endearing character’s struggle.
Part of Burkett’s success relies on the show’s ability to appeal to multiple demographics. He has an extensive knowledge of the micro-cultures within Canada’s regions and successfully plays up to them. His character of an Edmonton old “bitty” is a specific stereotype; however, as she reveals the struggles of an ageing woman, we are moved to tears through a universality that hits home.
Burkett’s ability to make fun of the theatre scene is also impressive and hilarious. His honesty is what makes him so funny and enjoyable. As General Fuqwar comes on to complain about the last bawdy puppet who did a hilariously impressive and lifelike striptease, he plays on the traditions of the Vancouver theatre scene.
“You want good, clean, boring, innocuous, Canadian entertainment… like Mary f-ing Poppins!” he says.
There’s a reason why Alberta-born Burkett is a Canadian legend.
A self-described “nerdy puppet-boy,” his skills at manipulating and channeling his characters are dizzying. Each individual puppet is a beautiful piece of art. The voices he comes up with for each of his countless marionettes are fantastic, and the creativity that flows through each is compelling to watch.
His improvisational skills are evident when he interacts with the audience. The show had me laughing and crying with a sort of mundane profundity that makes up life. Burkett’s compassion is evident throughout. The Daisy Theatre is a show with a universal beauty and charm that is sure to provide entertainment for all.
The Daisy Theatre will be playing until December 15 at The Cultch. Tickets are $33 at tickets.thecultch.com