I’ve just had the most fun while hanging out at a bar at a Fringe show. I mean sure, there’s that birthday karaoke show which sounds like a hoot but Bendy Sign Tavern, playing at this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival, has puppets. And everyone loves puppets.
In Bendy Sign Tavern, we meet Joan (Kaitlin Morrow), bartender at Bendy Sign Tavern who bursts into song as she walks in, for this is her final shift before she and her band take off for the open road and follow their dreams! …Until she learns that the band has fired her. Her coworkers, fellow bartender Bob (Conor Bradbury), the server Weeds (Daniel Paget), owner Sal (Seann Murray) and other bar locals — including the resident bar fly Bill (Julian Frid) — do their best to welcome her back to her old stomping grounds.
This is a show all about life behind the bar, where the regulars are regular and new people had better tip. It will ring true for anyone who has ever had to sling beers for the paying or have sat around to hear the horror stories of those who have. This is also a show that will speak to the young at heart; to anyone who remembers fondly the late night shows with The Muppets or even the characters from Sesame Street, as even the familiar letters and numbers also make an appearance. (Which number is the loneliest number? And who’s gonna give it to ya?)
Bendy Sign Tavern takes up residence at The Paddock Tavern, which serves as the best venue for this show. The L-shaped bar allows for ample space for the puppets and actors, and they’ll make their way from the entrance to the back and through the crowd. If you fancy a bevvy during the show, Weeds will be happy to take your order — so long as you tip. The only problem I found with the L-shaped bar, as I wound up sitting at the back of the long arm of the L, it can be hard to see all the action. So do your best to show up early and find a good seat up front.
The execution and choreography of this show is incredible. The writing is smart, snappy, and razor blade sharp. Each actor mans multiple puppets, and the orchestration to make all actions seamless between human and puppet is superb. This is such a fun show to watch.
I loved watching Weeds, and the thousand mile stare on his face made the character. I also loved watching Joan and Bill the bar fly (who…spoiler…is an actual fly). Some of the puppets who made cameo appearances also managed to steal the show including the liquor bottles (Vodka has a Russian accent and Whiskey is Irish? Who would’ve thought), the muscle-heads, and the bachelorette wolf were delightful.
Once again Sex T-Rex manages to knock it out of the park and with their first show on the opening day of Fringe being packed, I suspect the rest of their run will follow suite. I suggest grabbing your Bendy Sign Tavern ticket soon. If I’m not mistaken, I smell a Best of Fringe pick.
- Bendy Sign Tavern plays at The Paddock. (178 Bathurst St.)
- Tickets are $12. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Scadding Court, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Content Warning: Mature Language.
- The Fringe Festival does not consider this venue to be wheelchair-accessible.
- Wednesday July 5th, 07:30 pm
- Thursday July 6th, 07:30 pm
- Friday July 7th, 07:30 pm
- Saturday July 8th, 07:30 pm
- Sunday July 9th, 08:30 pm
- Monday July 10th, 07:30 pm
- Tuesday July 11th, 07:30 pm
- Wednesday July 12th, 07:30 pm
- Thursday July 13th, 07:30 pm
- Friday July 14th, 07:30 pm
- Saturday July 15th, 07:30 pm
Photo of Conor Bradbury and Kaitlin Morrow by Connor Low