The Secret Life of Walter Manny (Trent Arterberry) 2013 Toronto Fringe Review

Walter Manny-Pic1

The Secret Life of Walter Manny is playing at the Palmerston Library and is part of FringeKids!  This is the second exceptional kids show I’ve seen at Toronto Fringe this year.  Trent Arterberry’s one-man show is a fast-paced and high-energy adventure which both parents and their children will find fun and poignant.

The story is about the Walter Manny of the title, and the many adventures he has in his own mind—thanks to his very active and vivid imagination.  The show is about imagination—how much fun it is, and how it can sometimes get us into trouble.

As befits a show about imagination, the stage is bare except for Trent Arterberry.  And he is more than enough to fill it! His has such an intense and inviting presence that you can’t help but be immediately sucked in.  He is a perfect children’s performer and creates a goofy and exciting atmosphere.  He can have kids in awe one moment, then suddenly reduce them to fits of giggles with a single glance.

His polished and inventive mime work allows children to use their imaginations to create the fantastic scenes that play out in Walter Manny’s mind.

He drives racecars, goes on secret missions, and fights fires!  Afterwards, he often finds himself having to face irritated adults (his Gran and his teacher) and the mockery of fellow classmates who do not understand his antics.  Everyone wants him to focus on the real world, and get his imagination “under control.”

But, Walter Manny takes this in stride. He tries to remain calm, and is always open to the possibility of making friends, but never quite connects functionally to the real world. That is, until his imaginary adventures come in handy.

A fire breaks out in the school and Manny must harness his imagination to save a friend by creatively employing objects within the classroom that people would normally take for granted.

Having saved the day, Manny is applauded by his Gran and his Teacher, and accepted by the classmates who used to make fun of him.  Manny was able to focus his imagination and use it to his advantage in the real world.

The Secret Life of Walter Manny shows kids that their imaginations, and their playing, are important. They should follow their interests, and learn how to apply their ideas and skills to help make the world a better place.  And teachers and parents should try to channel that imagination, rather than stifle it.

Essentially, this is basic hero mythology—Walter Manny explores the dangerous unknown, battles chaos, and creates something orderly and safe as a result of the encounter. And so, the real world becomes a more understandable and benevolent place for him.

Arterberry’s persona is spirited, goofy and conspiratorial.  He captures the kids’ full attention from his entrance and they are completely with him until the end.

With his guileless persona, he forms a silent pact with them—sometimes adults just don’t seem to understand!  But, the story strives to show them that the people who love them want to understand; sometimes, they just need a little shove in the right direction!

The mimed adventure sequences are a treat.  They are polished and detailed, with a silliness that will appeal to youngsters.

This is exceptionally well-crafted children’s theatre!


  • The Secret Life of Walter Manny is playing at the Palmerston Library [FringeKids!] (560 Palmerston Ave.).
  • Performances:
    July 5 – 11:30am
    July 6 – 4:00pm
    July 8 – 6:15pm
    July 9 – 7:30pm
    July 10 – 1:00pm
    July 11 – 11:00am
    July 12 – 4:30pm
    July 14 – 12:00am
  • Individual Fringe tickets are available at the door for $10 ($5 for FringeKids), cash only. Late comers will not be permitted.
  • Advance tickets are $11 ($9 + $2 service charge) are available online at, by phone at 416-966-1062 ext 1,  or in person during the festival at the Festival Box Office in the parking lot behind Honest Ed’s (581 Bloor St W).
  • Value packs are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows

Photo of Trent Arterberry by Rob d’Estrube