The Wishes Mystical Theatre Company production of The Devil’s Circus at the Toronto Fringe Festival is an endearing love story with spectacle to spare. The hour-long puppet show is a retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, blended with the Christian story of The Fall of Man, and set in a circus. In this fractured fairy tale, Orpheus the tightrope walker drops Eurydice to her death, where she meets and falls in love with the devil.
Although it sounds like a bizarre concept, the play’s humour and immense heart should win over even the most cynical audience member.
Surprisingly, the romantic hero of this story is Satan rather than Orpheus. The play rewrites the story of The Fall of Man to be Satan’s tragic back-story. He once was in love with Eve, but God sets Eve up with Adam instead, since “humans should date humans.” This makes the romance between Satan and Eurydice, ironically, more human.
Like the rest of the play, I found the flashback to the Garden of Eden equal parts sympathetic and hilarious. God is played as Satan’s jerk-wad boss who shows favour to corporate suck-up Adam by giving him Eve as his wife and it is uproariously funny.
As puppeteer Daniel Wishes’ gruff-voiced, schmoozy Satan grows into a to romantic hero, his Orpheus – the lover – becomes bumbling, self-obsessed, self-important comedic antagonist. This surprise switch is pleasant and makes the plot a whole lot more comanding.
I also found having the puppet show set in a circus made it even more compelling. Part of what makes puppetry so special is the spectacle of seeing a puppet imitate a person. In a circus, people perform spectacular stunts that leave the audience’s collective mind blown. Seeing puppets imitating things that are spectacular when performed by real people actually intensified the experience for me.
The skill it takes to make a puppet flip upside-down to hang by its feet from the trapeze is seriously impressive. I was just as awe-struck watching the puppet perform the trick as I would have been seeing it performed by a real person.
Wishes and his co-puppeteer Seri Yanai secure their statuses as master puppeteers by having their puppets to do spot-on impersonations of Ertha Kitt, Elvis Presley, and Mick Jagger. Watching the Ertha Kitt puppet was particularly fascinating, since I felt like I was watching a little wooden Audra McDonald play the part.
Every aspect of this production coheres to make for an entertaining and surprisingly touching hour of theatre. I’m glad it was part of the Fringe Festival because I’m not sure I’d have seen it otherwise. If you’ve got $12 – because I suggest you buy your ticket in advance for this one, it may very well be selling out – and love comedy, romance, and spectacle, I’d suggest you go see it too.
July 02 at 07:00 PM
July 05 at 03:30 PM
July 06 at 06:30 PM
July 09 at 02:15 PM
July 10 at 11:30 PM
July 11 at 05:45 PM
July 12 at 02:15 PM
Tickets for all mainstage productions are $10 at the door, cash only. Advance tickets are $12, and can be purchased online, by phone (416-966-1062), or from the festival box office at the Fringe Club. (Rear of Honest Ed’s, 581 Bloor St. West). Money-saving value packs are also available if you are going to at least five shows; see website for details.
LATECOMERS ARE NEVER ADMITTED TO FRINGE SHOWS. To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.
Photo of The Devil and Daniel Wishes by Seri Yanai.