Oni (Mochinosha Puppet Company) 2014 Toronto Fringe Review


A modern adaptation of the popular Japanese folktale Issun-BoshiMochinosha Puppet Company’s Oni at the the Toronto Fringe Festival delivers a visual delight with Japanese shadow lantern puppets that inspires.

The entire play is narrated by storytellers Daniel Wishes and Seri Yanai, who simultaneously work a variety of paper puppets, control their lighting, and occasionally accompany dancing puppets with recorder renditions of popular theme songs.

Although Issun-Boshi was the primary folktale, Wishes and Yanai noted that there are several other folktales embedded within Oni, and they made sure to both integrate historical aspects into the story as well as contemporary humour. While the dirty jokes, improv, and light-hearted story are entertaining, the narrative tends to meander in places, often losing its thread. Occasionally this meant that it was difficult to follow what exactly was going on.

But I was still one-hundred percent invested.

Part of my investment stems from Yanai and Wishes, who remained good-humoured despite technical difficulties. They were charming, improvising unexpectedly hilarious lines with equally unexpected gags. Their teamwork in bringing the puppets to life was was endlessly interesting to watch, including the use of their own bodies to create various scenes.

Visually, I think Oni is incredibly unique, and it uses this strength to its advantage. As an adult puppet show, it never fell into convention. Instead, it used both historical imagery and less conventional hand-drawn pictures for some of the dirtiest scenes I have ever seen. Trust me, I laughed the whole time.

Oni is a feast for the eyes. Every little cut on the paper puppets translated into an amazing detail in shadow. Despite what I found to be a weaker story, the complicated puppeteering process was fascinating to watch. I firmly believe Oni has something to show people, and I think it is something people should want to see.


Oni plays at the Robert Gill Hall Theatre (214 College St., located in the Koeffler Centre on the 3rd floor).

July 05 at 09:45 PM
July 06 at 01:45 PM
July 07 at 01:15 PM
July 08 at 05:00 PM
July 09 at 11:15 PM
July 12 at 07:00 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.

 To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.