A Midsummer Night’s Dream…A Puppet Epic! (Shakey-Shake and Friends) 2013 Toronto Fringe Review

A Midsummer Night's Dream...A Puppet Epic. Shakey and Zip

A Midsummer Night’s Dream…A Puppet Epic! Put on by Shakey-Shake and Friends at The Palmerston Library Theatre as part of FringeKids, combined my love of both Shakespeare and puppets. I have been working with puppets for the past year and have fallen in love with these furry and odd creatures. To see new ones of different shapes, sizes and colours, created by Tom McGee, was like meeting new friends. Walking into the theatre I was surrounded by very young children and their parents. I sat beside a wonderful little girl wearing pink hippo rain boots, quite darling.

This play, as mentioned before, is performed using puppets who are telling the story of one of my favourite Shakespeare works, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, for their friends Shakey-Shake and Anne as a wedding surprise. I also enjoyed the little references they threw in for the adults in the audience. I personally enjoyed the sad Charlie Brown walk-off music.

The three performances that stood out for me were Scott Farley, Michael Man and Merritt Crews. Farley plays Paris, a furry wolf who portrays the role of Demetrius. He is a very goofy character, the majority of the children in the room sat up straight when he walked out onto the stage and were giddy when he said hello to them walking through the aisle. Farley exuded energy and a nice light bubbly comedy about him that livened up the stage. Michael Man took charge of the puppet Len who played Lysander.

Both of these men engaged the children and parents in the audience, they were constantly changing the humor of their characters with wonderful comedic timing. I’m not an expert on the techniques of puppetry. However, I feel I have a good eye for it from watching puppetry coaching sessions and countless rehearsals and performances. In my opinion these two became one with their puppets, they were the most natural and comfortable puppeteers on the stage. I found some of the puppeteering from other cast members to be very distracting with lack of humanism and technique.

Merritt Crews, playing Anne who is in the role of Titania, also has polished puppet movement skills and had a great energy and child-like quality. She seemed to really enjoy her time on the stage and had bursts of energy when she connected with a child in the audience.

However, I found that the play lost the attention of many younger children when they began to use Shakespeare’s actual script. The little girl in the pink hippo boots beside me was asking both her father and myself what was going on, the majority of the children seemed to get very restless and would lose attention. Having said that, the moment they began to explain and play again the children were on the edge of their seats enjoying the humorous lines and especially the physical comedy.

I would definitely recommend taking your children to see this puppet epic, especially those of an older age. I found it to be a very cute and enjoyable time.

Details:

A Midsummer Night’s Dream…A Puppet Epic! being performed at The Palmerston Library Theatre (560 Palmerston Ave.).

Performances:

Running time: 55 minutes
Friday, July 5, 2013 – 1:00pm
Saturday, July 6, 2013 – 5:30pm
Sunday, July 7, 2013 – 7:30pm
Tuesday, July 9, 2013 – 2:30pm
Wednesday, July 10, 2013 – 11:15am
Thursday, July 11, 2013 – 7:00pm
Saturday, July 13, 2013 – 6:00pm
Sunday, July 14, 2013 – 1:30pm

Tickets:

  • 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 fringetoronto.com, 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