My Big Fat German Puppet Show is, well, a German puppet show. Playing at this year’s Next Stage Theatre Festival in the Factory Studio, playwright and puppeteer Frank Meschkuleit performs an adults-only cabaret of musical puppetry and stand-up that is sometimes funny but still mostly entertaining.
While the jokes weren’t always to my taste, there is no doubt that Meschkuleit is an impressive puppeteer and performer, as confirmed by his extensive bio in the program. He was ably charismatic as the exaggeratedly corpulent German host of the evening, and his extensive experience in puppetry and voice work was on great display as he brought to life a varied cast of puppet (including one Muppet) characters, all with distinctive voices and nimble mannerisms.
As a real fat person, I was also happy to hear him keep the fat jokes mostly at a minimum. However, there was a series of “Yo mamma is so fat” jokes that seemed like it was suppose to be absurd (as it was coming from a puppet Stephen Hawking) but really just made me wince. Similarly, there were a couple of random references to Chinese people that I found puzzling and needless. Alas, my opinion on the comedy seemed to be in the minority as my friend and much of the audience could not stop laughing throughout.
This is not to say that I did not find other aspects of the show entertaining. There were many wonderfully whimsical elements in the production that really played up the idea of theatre magic. Puppets appeared and disappeared, and the puppet stage emerged from the stomach of the host. Even Meschkuleit’s deft maneuvering of the limbs of his puppet characters is extraordinary in and of itself — how did he get the cheeks to puff out while keeping the arms and legs moving?
I particularly enjoyed two of the puppetry segments: one, a zombie magic show that would later turn into a groaning divatastic musical performance. It was gruesome and ridiculous but, most of all, incredibly hilarious. The other a sweet loving tribute to his wife where a puppet version of Meschkuleit (that looks strangely like a Draco Malfoy figurine) sings a love song as he strokes her framed photograph.
I may not have fallen out of my seat laughing, but I certainly enjoyed the experience and most of the people around me laughed themselves silly. And really, what more do you need?
- All Next Stage Theatre Festival performances are being held at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst St.)
- Tickets for Mainstage and Studio shows are $15 and $10 for Ante-chamber performances
- Showtimes and ticket information are available at fringetoronto.com/next-stage-festival/
Photo of Frank Meschkuleit provided by the company.