Review: The Daisy Theatre (Ronnie Burkett Theatre of Marionettes, Luminato)

Daisy Theatre

Fun and puppetry in Toronto with The Daisy Theatre

If you haven’t ever seen a Ronnie Burkett puppet show (marionette show?) this is your chance. His new show, The Daisy Theatre, opened on Friday evening as part of the Luminato Festival and is running for the full two weeks of Luminato.

The Daisy Theatre is “inspired by the illegal underground “daisy” puppet shows of Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. And it’s not really new, Burkett developed the idea in Calgary 20 years ago. This is a new incarnation, a blend of music hall, cabaret, political commentary, audience participation and improvisation. Lots of improvisation.

Burkett asked ten Canadian playwrights to provide short playlets for the show. Last night the play was by Anusree Roy and she read one of the parts while Burkett read the other and worked the puppets. It just occurred to me that she read the male part and he read the female part; I didn’t notice that at the time.

There’s a puppet stage on the stage and we can see Burkett working the puppets, but in some magical way I forget that he’s there. I forget that without him the puppets are just lifeless pieces of wood. It’s the puppets I watch. They come alive for me. Schnitzel, the small puppet with funny ears and a daisy growing out of the top of his head, is endearing and adorable. Edna Rural, sitting in an armchair and telling us about her new life in Toronto, is a brave, naive old lady.

When Burkett wants someone from the audience to ‘help’ him with something he just goes and grabs them – in a nice way. It’s audience conscription rather than audience participation. Tonight he had a man come up and work a puppet that was playing the piano. He was very good.

Each show is going to be different but one thing that I hope doesn’t change is John Alcorn singing. How have I never heard him before. He’s wonderful. It was a quiet jazz number and when I glanced at Edna Rural – the puppet on the stage for that part of the show – she was slowly tapping her foot in time to the music. It was so subtle.

There was nothing very subtle about the rest of the show. It was lively, funny and a bit bawdy. If it was a bit weak in a couple of places it didn’t matter because Burkett was having so much fun. And, more importantly, so were the audience. The Daisy Theatre is definitely worth seeing.

Details:

  • The Daisy Theatre is playing at Berkeley Street Theatre Downstairs (26 Berkeley Street) until Sunday, June 23
  • Performances are at 9.30 pm and run til 10.45 pm with no intermission
  • Tickets are $35 (Orchestra), $25 (Balcony)
  • Tickets are available online, at the Luminato box office in David Pecaut Square or by phone at 416-368-4849