It takes a good fifteen minutes, but once you surrender to its macabre charms, Famous Puppet Death Scenes is just short of magical.
As its title suggests, what is on offer here are 20+ death scenes from the famously (and imaginary) “classic puppet repertoire”. All carefully curated by our puppet host for the evening, Professor Nathaniel Tweak, the scenes run the gamut of the downright ridiculous to some truly heartfelt notes on death and dying. Each vignette, plucked directly from those imaginary puppet plays, is served up in an equal number of genres including melodrama, science fiction, and what puppet show would be complete without a hilarious nod to Saturday morning kid’s shows.
What better way to explore our own morality than through the eyes of what most would consider a child’s form of entertainment? But with very grown-up sensibilities, the puppets (and their human handlers Nicolas Di Gaetano, Pityu Kenderes and Viktor Lukawski) allow a reflection on dying, a natural part of life that Professor Tweak reminds us is happening, relentlessly, even as we sit in the darkened theatre watching these puppets die (and die and die).
What adds to the magic is in the variety of puppets that inhabit this Trouts production, as traditional hand puppets are joined by tiny children’s toys, and those on a very human-scale. The variety is as giddy as the creative ways in which they are used. Some of the show’s most memorable moments come as its characters, and their human counterparts, step from behind the beautifully crafted traditional puppet theatre.
While Famous Puppet Death Scenes may be reminiscent of a simpler time of street entertainment, Punch and Judy and even Kukla, Fran and Ollie, don’t let any simplicity fool you, for there is some really big talent behind these tiny people.
Famous Puppet Death Scenes created and conceived by The Old Trout Puppet Workshop. Original direction by Tim Sutherland. Remount production directed by Pete Balkwill, Pityu Kenderes and Judd Palmer. On stage at the York Theatre (639 Commercial Dr, Vancouver) until Apr 19. Visit https://thecultch.com for tickets and information.