Raunchy and quick-witted, puppeteer Ronnie Burkett brings a colourful cast of characters to life at this ever-changing performance.
I'll be honest: going to a puppet show has never been high on my to-do list. But after what must have been a theatre-high after seeing The Cultch's Elbow Room Café: The Musical earlier this month, I was inspired to try something new. And the opening night of Daisy Theatre—the raunchy, in-your-face improv show (on World Puppetry Day, no less)—did not disappoint. "We could be here for two hours or you'll be back home watching Netflix within the hour," Ronnie Burkett joked as he climbed onto the bridge—the raised platform from where he has access to over forty marionettes—at the beginning of the March 21 show. Burkett had the audience laughing with quips like this long before the show began, during the housekeeping notes (and before), but it's this line that delivers the impetus behind Daisy Theatre. While each marionette offers its own brand of quirky, some of which are long standing crowd-pleasers ("This one's my favourite," the woman next to me whispered to her partner as the precious fairy child Schnitzel returned to the stage to sing a lullaby to his teddy bear, Donald), it's clear from the beginning that the joy of seeing the show again and again (no two shows are the same) comes from the amalgamation of its colourful characters, Burkett's off-the-cuff wit and improvisation, and audience participation ("Just don't steal the show," Burkett wryly warned one guest). In the form of comedic, and sometimes tender, vignettes, a small collection of Burkett's marionettes are brought to life each night—depending on what Burkett's improvisation and how the audience responds. Right after one marionette offers scathing commentary of a certain orange president, the Albertan widow, Mrs. Edna Rural, regales the audience with how her knitting group, the Knit Wits, put their skills to good use during January's Women's March on Washington. Then there's the quieter moments, like when half the Vaudeville team falls asleep, leaving Little Wooden Linden to question his own existence, or odd-ball Schnitzel's quest for self-acceptance even though he doesn't fit in with the other marionettes. Though not every joke hits home ("All the biblical scholars stayed home tonight," Burkett joked self -deprecatingly after his Jesus Christ marionette took the stage), the delightful mix of light hearted moments and hard-hitting truths, along with Burkett's ability to shine both through his own improvisation and his skilled puppeteering, proves that just one evening with the Daisy Theatre isn't quite enough. And since each show is unique, it never has to be.
The Daisy Theatre
March 21 to 26 and March 28 to 31 April 1 to 2 and April 4 to 9 8:00 p.m., 90-120 minutes Tickets from $20 thecultch.ca