String Theory

At its most subversive, theatre is a way to say the unsayable. By staging things, we give ourselves permission to try on new meanings, new realities. Certainly that’s a reason to pay entrance into puppet master Ronnie Burkett‘s world, where marvellous marionettes play out dark and very adult themes while Burkett himself hovers in full view above them, somehow only partly implicated in the dramas unfolding below. Burkett’s genius has always been in making visible the line (or string, in his case) between a staged fantasy and the solid reality behind things. That tension comes to bear in The Daisy Theatre (Nov. 26 to Dec. 15 at The Cultch), inspired by the illegal underground puppet shows of Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. Nine top Canadian playwrights (including Brad Fraser, Joan MacLeod, and Daniel MacIvor) were commissioned to create playlets that will be performed by Burkett-and his more than 30 marionettes-in repertory. Meanwhile, Yayoi Theatre Movement takes the highly stylized format of Japan’s Noh theatre (replete with traditional masks and regimented roles) and uses it to tell an unlikely story: Medea (Nov. 7 to 9 at the Orpheum Annex), the Euripides tragedy of twisted vengeance. This deep cultural transgression cross-pollinates traditions from different continents and different times. Perhaps it highlights strange similarities, too: the ruthlessness of Medea-wherein a “barbarian” mother murders her children to take revenge on a cheating husband-wouldn’t be so odd in the Noh canon, after all.