Kid +1 Review: Tea at the Palace (Puppetmongers Theatre)

Tea at the Palace

This great piece of puppet theatre is perfect for adults and kids alike, playing at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre

This afternoon Max (almost five), his mum, his mum’s best friend, and I (his grandmother) went to see Tea at the Palace at Tarragon Theatre. This Puppetmongers Theatre production has been a holiday tradition for 24 years. This is the last year that it will be produced in Toronto; it’s being retired from the Toronto repertoire.

Don’t despair, there are two more shows so you can still see it.

Usually after a show I ask the person who came with me what they liked best, what they liked least, and what was their favourite part of the evening – or afternoon as the case may be. His mum ‘interviewed’ Max. Sometimes almost five year-olds are a tough interview.

Max said:

He liked the whole thing.
There wasn’t anything he didn’t like.
Avery would like it. The whole thing would be her favourite part too. (Avery is his best friend.)
He plans to tell his friends at the Y about it.

An all round positive review if a tad non-specific.

And the adults? All three of us loved the set. There is a wooden chair that looks a bit like a throne and a wooden table that looks like a table. A lid gets flipped and suddenly the chair is a table and the both the table and chair are a peasant village. They were like big wooden pop-up books and were beautiful. After the show we went down to the stage to get a closer look.

The Tsar’s palace was also lovely and transformed in surprising ways. One of the children in the audience asked quite loudly “How does that thing on the top go around?”

Ann Powell and David Powell founded Puppetmongers in 1974 and are the puppeteers. They are on stage with the puppets and provide the narrative as well as the puppet’s voices. This is the first time that I’ve seen these kinds of puppets. They’re like marionettes without strings. The Powells hold the puppets and move them so they’re hand puppets but not the Punch and Judy kind. They ranged in size from very tiny to life-sized and were delightful.

No Punch and Judy violence either. The story was easy enough for children to understand and funny enough for adults to appreciate.

The highlight of the show was unscripted. The Tsar asked the peasant girl to marry him and a child in the audience said “eeewww” in a completely disgusted tone of voice.

All three adults thought that the show felt a bit long and were surprised to learn it ran for less than an hour. We talked about why it felt longer and decided it was likely more a reflection of how hot it was in the theatre, rather than a reflection of the piece itself. Unfortunately after days of no electricity, it was probably difficult to get the heat back to a nice moderate temperature in the space, I’m sure that will be resolved soon.

There are two shows left in the run and if you can go I recommend it. You don’t even have to take a child; there were a lot of adults in the audience who didn’t have children with them. If you are planning to taker a child the show is recommended for ages five and up.


  • Tea at the Palace is playing at Tarragon Theatre Extra Space (30 Bridgman Ave) until December 29th
  • Performances are at 2 pm
  • Tickets are $20 – $25 and a family four-pack is $75
  • Tickets are available online, by phone at 416-531-1827, or at the box office

Photo of Ann and David Powell