Little Dickens: The Daisy Theatre is anything but small

The Daisy Theatre’s Esme Massengill as Esme Scrooge in Little Dickens

The Cultch Historic Theatre is presenting an evening of marionette madness with Ronnie Burkett’s Little Dickens featuring the cast of The Daisy Theatre.  Starring Daisy Theatre’s past-her-prime diva Esmé Massengill in the Scrooge role, and a cavalcade of Daisy Theatre stars helping bring the Dickens story of A Christmas Carol to life…or to strings.

Toronto-based The Daisy Theatre is a one man, many marionette theatre company brilliantly performed and improvised by Ronnie Burkett.  In the introduction Burkett states that “anything can happen” and over the course of the two hour show, anything does happen.  The story loosely follows A Christmas Carol with a number of detours along the way to fit in some jazzy christmas carol sing-along numbers.  Joining Burkett and the marionettes on stage are some audience helpers;  Ava, William, Christopher and Caroline were ‘recruited’ throughout the performance to help out in various ways and roles.  Helping Burkett from the booth, Crystal helped cue the music and lights, and in a couple of spots prompting what comes next in the play.  Part of the fun of Little Dickens is not knowing what’s going to come out of the marionettes’ mouths and laughing along with Burkett when even he can’t believe that he said that.  Plenty of laugh out loud moments fill the camp over-the-top scenes, accompanied by inside jokes about the theatre scene and Vancouver itself.

The Daisy Theatre Schnitzel as Tiny Tim in Little Dickens

Even though we clearly know that Ronnie Burkett is pulling their strings the marionettes really do come to life and the audience buys into Esme’s character development, taking her from selfish, tacky, vain diva to charitable, tacky, slightly less vain diva.

Being an improvised show, anything really can happen and with the introduction of different audience members no two shows will be the same, so it’s a great treat to see over and over again during the pre-Christmas season.
Ronnie Burkett’s  Little Dickens : The Daisy Theatre runs until December 22, 2018 at The Cultch Historic Theatre.  Find showtimes, information and tickets online at thecultch.com

All My Friends Are Animals connects to your wild side

Take a walk on the wild side as Babelle Theatre and Axis Theatre join forces to present, All My Friends Are Animals, a family-friendly romp from the city and into the wild. .

About connecting with our inner wild selves, the two theatre companies, known for creative, experimental, physical theatre that appeals to young and the young at heart bring All My Friends Are Animals to Russian Hall from September 18 -23, 2018 for school and public audiences.

Loosely based on a true story of a bear’s adventure into downtown Vancouver. When a bear wanders down from the mountains and into the city, the poles of wilderness and civilization are flipped, and young Jo is forced to navigate the city as a ‘wild human’ – spooking unsuspecting animals and outrunning agitated mobs of vertebrates – in order to get back home. It is through her interactions and encounters with other ‘civilized animals’ (raccoons, coyotes, mice, crows) that Jo learns what it means ‘to be human’ – the fact of our essential dependence on one another and our collective dependence upon nature.

All My Friends Are Animals is a show that examines our western colonial tendency to set Man apart from Nature and Mind apart from Body. Through a rich language of metaphor, it takes aims at Western European myths of individualism and technological independence.

To bring to life the surreal vision of Jo’s journey, Babelle will be working with puppets and shadow puppets designed by award-winning master puppeteer Jeny Cassady. Speaking about her approach for this production, director Marie Farsi says “For the past several weeks James and I have been working in collaboration with the other designers in order to create a visually rich storytelling experience.” Playwright James King adds, “The possibilities are enormous for puppetry – it can be very literal but it can also become very impressionistic, and I think we’re interested in finding the balance between the two.”

Aimed for audiences 10 years + All My Friends Are Animals runs September 18-23 with school performances Tuesday to Friday and two public performances each day, Saturday and Sunday.  Tickets for public performances are available via Eventbrite, from $10+ fees

Sleeping Beauty Dreams at Presentation House Theatre

This week, North Vancouver’s Presentation House Theatre debuted, Sleeping Beauty Dreams, its first collaboration with Mexico’s Marionetas de la Esquina.

Sleeping Beauty Dreams – The Princess Photo: Mariana Zappet and Emilano Leyva.

This production, running until February 4th, is the Canadian premiere of the work written my Marionetas de la Esquina’s Amaranta Leyva, whose team has translated the original work and instructed the Presentation House team on the art of working their puppets. The loose re-imagining of the classic fairy tale, as told as a bedtime story by Mom ( and Dad to their restless child. Brought to life by the one-of-a-kind mariottes, the story finds a sheltered princess hidden away by overprotective parents and a lonely boy whose single mother works all the time leaving him a latch-key kid, on a journey of self-discovery, independence and friendship. With a dose of parental guilt along the way the story finds a message for all ages under the surface of a production that appears aimed at children.

“We are excited to team with Presentation House Theatre to share this charming production with Vancouver audiences,” says Marionetas de la Esquina Master Puppeteer Lourdes Pérez Gay and Co-Director of Sleeping Beauty Dreams. “In reimagining this classic fairytale through the humour and honesty of puppetry, we see the princess trying to break free of her castle walls to find her true self. In essence, this is a fresh coming of age story.”

Sleeping Beauty Dreams ensemble
photo: Emily Cooper

Kim Selody, Artistic Director of Presentation House Theatre and Co-Director of Sleeping Beauty Dreams, adds, “While aimed at children five years of age and up, Sleeping Beauty Dreams has much to offer today’s parents. Here we have a boy largely left to his own devices and a girl whose parents keep her within their own four walls because they have been told if she pricks her finger, she’ll die. In many ways, it’s an examination of two parenting extremes as seen through the eyes of children: latch-key kids and helicopter parents.”

Watching the performance surrounded by families with young children brings something extra to the production as the children are more prone to audibly express their amazement during the show, helping us reserved adults to share in their joy.

If this first joint production between Presentation House Theatre and Marionetas de la Esquina is anything to go on, we are in for more unique and exciting works to come.

Sleeping Beauty Dreams is now playing at Presentation House Theatre, 333 Chesterfield Ave, North Vancouver, until February 4.  Find showtimes and purchase tickets online at phtheatre.org.

 

Avenue Q – On Tour

Avenue Q : The Musical – The Centre in Vancouver – February 1, 2011

The touring production of the long running Broadway and Off-Broadway hit has made its way to Vancouver for 6 shows only.  Opening tonight and running until Saturday February 5th (playing nightly plus matinee on Saturday) I highly recommend checking it out.

Set in a New York City where puppets and people live together in perfect harmony…ok, so at times not so harmoniously…in an apartment building on Avenue Q.  The tenants cover all walks of life; humans Brian and his Japanese fiancée Christmas Eve, Kate Monster (a puppet), Roommate puppets Rod & Nicky, Trekkie Monster (a bit of a reclusive porn addict) and newcomer Princeton (a fresh-faced college graduate puppet).  Watching over the tenants is Superintendent Gary Coleman, of Different Strokes child actor fame.  This character was presumably intended to mock the plight of the child star but since his passing has become more of homage.

Hilarious music and lyrics along with some ‘full puppet nudity’ lift this musical about real-life situations into an extraordinary fun filled two hours. You’ll never look at puppets the same way again!

Although this opening night production had a couple of small technical glitches it’s still very worth seeing…try to catch this unique musical before it’s gone.  Look for tickets from The Centre In Vancouver online.