SUM: A Shadow Puppet Reading of David Egleman’s Tales from the Afterlive (Sticks and Strings Theatre) 2018 Toronto Fringe Review

Photo of Sequoia Erickson by Hans Krause

Playing at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse, SUM: A Shadow Puppet Reading of David Egleman’s Tales from the Afterlives is a shadow puppet performance at the 2018 Toronto Fringe Festival. Put on by Sticks and Strings Theatre, SUM is a reflection that touches upon God, heaven, reincarnation, self-awareness and other heavy themes.

In one scene, a man chooses to become a horse after his death, as he seeks simplicity and the opportunity to roam in a pasture. His puppet is made up of several different pieces, and the puppeteer behind the scenes deftly rearranges them to gradually shape a horse. It was a clever transformation. The puppeteers also get bonus points for managing what seemed like dozens of different puppets.

The live keyboard music, mostly played in single notes, created different moods of apprehension, wonder and even a futuristic sci-fi feeling towards the end of the production. The sounds were simple yet evocative.

The projected illustrations were compelling to look at, especially the line drawing that represented the continents. The land masses were drawn using one single line, and it was interesting to see the world slowly disappear as the one line was gradually erased.

While SUM opens with fun facts about spending one year reading books and five months looking for lost items before you go six feet under, the amusement soon comes to an end. SUM is not funny, entertaining or suspenseful; it is instead poetic, contemplative and non-linear. I wish it were a shorter production because discussing for a whole hour what happens after we die was a bit heavy for me. That said, if you’re interested in seeing something expressive and philosophical, then SUM is definitely for you.



  • Friday July 6th, 1:15 pm
  • Sunday July 8th, 6:15 pm
  • Monday July 9th, 8:30 pm
  • Tuesday July 10th, 10:00 pm
  • Wednesday July 11th, 4:00 pm
  • Friday July 13th, 9:15 pm
  • Sunday July 15th, 4:00 pm

Photo of Sequoia Erickson by Hans Krause