In Utero Out (Drawing With Knives experimental shadow puppetry co.) 2016 SummerWorks Review

Photo of In Utero Out from the 2016 SummerWorks Festival.

In Utero Out, presented by Drawing With Knives experimental shadow puppetry co. as part of the 2016 SummerWorks Performance Festival,  is a lush exploration of reproductive justice in the form of an exquisitely-crafted shadow puppet show. While I doubt my grasp of all the intricacies in this show, I was certainly moved by what I saw.

In Utero Out explores the act and meaning of reproduction through three stories about birth and family. These stories include a non-English description of early women’s maternal healthcare, the surprise birth of twins under the watch of the Catholic Church, and the experience of growing up in an adopted family of a different skin. The specific sources of the stories were not identified in the program but the narration sounds like it was woven from prerecorded interviews.

Do not go into In Utero Out expecting a straightforward narrative. Seemingly linear narrations are sometimes disrupted with repetitions or layering and, while most of the time what I saw on screen complimented the soundscape and vice versa, there were a few moments when it took me longer to fully comprehend what I was seeing or hearing. Even now I am still not sure if I really understood everything that happened in each story.

This is not to say the show purposefully sought to obfuscate, only that the company is confident in their audience’s ability to make their own connections. As befits an “experimental” company, Drawing With Knives is unafraid to push and play with the relationship between image and sound onstage.

I was also impressed by the innovation of shadow puppet artistry on display. The company was able to create an incredible amount of depth by having projectors both in front of and behind the screen and they constantly infused their images with many interesting textures through by using a variety of materials and coloured light sources.

Some of the projections looked like they could have been taken straight from a medical documentary and another highlight was when a projection of cells (or ova?) seamlessly faded into a breathtakingly realistic pondscape.

I did have a few minor technical quibbles – sometimes the sound was too fuzzy or too quiet and there were a couple of jarring transitions where the lights were turned off before there was enough time to digest the previous image – but the overall experience was still quite enthralling.

All in all, In Utero Out offers a fresh perspective on creation, reproduction, family, and identity in a beautifully rendered form. Go see it.


In Utero Out plays at The Drake Underground (1150 Queen Street West).

Show times:

  • Saturday August 6th, 8:30 PM – 9:15 PM
  • Sunday August 7th, 8:30 PM – 9:15 PM
  • Monday August 8th, 6:15 PM – 7:00 PM
  • Tuesday August 9th, 8:00 PM – 8:45 PM
  • Wednesday August 10th, 8:00 PM – 8:45 PM
  • Thursday August 11th, 7:30 PM – 8:15 PM

Individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at, by phone at 416-320-5779 and in person at the SummerWorks Central Box Office – located at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst St). Open August 2-14 from 10am-7pm. Cash and credit accepted. (Advance tickets are $15 + service fee.)

Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows.

Warnings: Not suitable for children.

Image provided by SummerWorks.