Review: Gregori’s Pfantastik Big Time Show! (Dutch Uncle Puppetry)

James Insell’s set for Ride The Cyclone was aglow. The performance that evening had finished.

But a bulb onstage was blazing.

And it lent a sanguine hue to the balcony above. A space that was otherwise quite dark, where Gregori’s Pfantastik Big Time Show! was to go on.

Casting my eyes upward for a moment before the show began, I saw hanging from the ceiling a laboratory of sorts. An upside-down mélange of instruments for lighting that were aimed at the bigger stage, far below…

Now this, I thought grandly to myself, is a theatre.

“It must be a bitch to heat,” a man I had struck up a conversation with concluded, after we exchanged our impressions of the place.

Yeah. I guess that’s true, too.

Directly ahead of us was a big sheet of – what I’m guessing was – heavy white canvas, hanging down from a wooden frame, maybe three feet over the stage.

This because Gregori, our host (and aspiring joke teller), is a puppet. As are the other, ten or so characters that star in Gregori’s Pfantastik Big Time Show!

Helping hands, so to speak, behind the canvas belong to Dutch Uncle PuppetryAviva Armour-Astroff, Daniel Briere, Erin Fleck and Marcus Jamin.

They’re a company I’ve been following for a couple of years.

The first time I saw Dutch Uncle Puppetry was at Buzz, Theatre Passe Muraille’s festival of work-in-development, where they presented the crowd pleasing Everyboy.

The craftsmanship of the puppets, and humor of the text, instantly hooked me. So I was looking forward to this show.

Because Gregori’s Pfantastik Big Time Show! is a work-in-development though, presented by Buzz, as part of After Hours @ TPM, I’m going to hold off saying too much about what I saw.

But I can safely report the following.

Gregori’s Pfantastik Big Time Show! largely consists of alternating episodes of two stories – one titled Science Isn’t Fair, and the other, Dangerous Game.

Punctuating the episodes, are interludes of Puppet Poetry, which is, as one might guess, puppets reciting poems they have written.

The puppets vary in size.

The affable Gregori, for example, is quite small with a mouth that moves. Another character, a hothead named “Ace” appeared a bit larger than Gregori and had no moving parts. While Susie, an adolescent and something of a nerd, was substantially larger.

This means that each story in the show has a distinct look to it.

And much to my surprise – and delight – Dutch Uncle Puppetry has also ventured into shadow puppetry.

Based on what I saw, I am definitely going to attend future performances which are scheduled for February 24th and April 20th 2012.

 Details

Gregori’s Pfantastik Big Time Show! played at Theartre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson Ave., just before Bathurst, off of Queen Street West), on Friday, November 18th at 10:00pm
– Admission was PWYC
– Future performances are scheduled for Febraury 24 and April 20, 2012.