What, precisely, do zombies, Germans, and muppets have in common? After seeing My Big Fat German Puppet Show by Invisible Inc. playing at St. Vladimir’s Theatre as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival, I still can’t tell you. I can, however, say that if you are a fan of puppets, humour, and physics, this may be the show for you.
Frank Meschkuleit presides over the evening as a large German man who pontificates to his audience about life, zombies, and love through small puppet shows.
For the costume alone, this show is worth it. Meschkuleit’s fat suit opens to reveal a miniature stage for his puppets, operated by his hands. I really can’t do it justice with words. Needless to say, Meschkuleit demands praise at every reveal and the audience was more than happy to give it to him.
There is so much to love here: the puppets are all unique, sometimes with mouths that open, sometimes just bits of cloth with a head; the music is hilarious and unexpected; and Meschkuleit’s voice shines clearly through everything.
I don’t know what I would choose as my favourite part. Maybe it was the anti-muppet song that depicted the frustration and love we have for commercialized puppets. Or else it was a series of progressively terrible physics puns, or a zombie expressing himself.
The point is that Meschkuleit is an incredibly talented performer who took me by surprise at every turn just as I thought I’d seen everything. Always improvising, he continuously engaged with the audience, often encouraging call and response bits that even I, a passionate fourth wall lover, participated in with glee.
I stop short from giving this a perfect review for one reason. There were two jokes that I suspect were improvised that dealt with a racial stereotype. It took me right out of the show and, thankfully, I could hear some hesitation in the audience, too.
The material, overall, does push the boundaries of acceptable humour. For myself, I thought it was incredible clever minus what I mentioned above. At the same time, I’m going to trust my instincts and say approach some of the material with caution.
- My Big Fat German Puppet Show is playing until July 12 at St. Vladimir Theatre (620 Spadina)
- Tickets are $12 in advance, $10 at the door. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by phone (416-966-1062), from the festival box office down Honest Ed’s Alley (581 Bloor West), or from the venue box office starting one hour before the performance. Venue sales are cash-only.
- Be advised that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and latecomers are never admitted. Set your watch to CBC time, and arrive a few minutes early to avoid disappointment.
- Play deals with mature subject matter that may be offensive to some viewers.
July 04 at 04:00 PM
July 06 at 01:15 PM
July 08 at 11:15 PM
July 09 at 11:00 PM
July 10 at 08:00 PM
July 12 at 01:00 PM
Photo of Frank Meschkuleit courtesy Invisible Inc.