Ronnie Burkett—The Daisy Theatre

If “OuZooooonian” is Ronnie Burkett’s scary word for the dark place of judgment beyond the proscenium in Toronto there’s probably a comparable word in every other city.

Esme Massengill, one of Ronnie Burkett's creations (photo by Alejandro Santiago

Esme Massengill, one of Ronnie Burkett’s creations (photo by Alejandro Santiago). Click for more information.

I am not sure which sort of virtuosity is most impressive.

  • The brilliant improvised conversation, all done by one person: Ronnie Burkett
  • The surreal imagery conjured by the magic hands manipulating the puppets: Ronnie Burkett
  • This quirky world of divas and dowagers composed with Burkett’s particular genius in mind.  We meet a succession of distinct characters.
Schnitzel (photo by Alejandro Santiago)

Schnitzel (photo by Alejandro Santiago)

I became exhausted from laughing roughly halfway through The Daisy Theatre, a show that’s returned to Toronto for a brief stay.  I missed it at Luminato last year.  It’s not all laughs.  There are poignant moments to balance the hilarity, humanity, grotesquerie, and some deep questions.  I hope it doesn’t surprise you that puppets can be profound.

Burkett seems to adjust the material to his audience.  There we were, mid-week in a theatre for a show beginning at 9:30, observed our canny reader of personalities & moods, cleverly sizing us up before taking us on our emotional roller-coaster ride. While Burkett made the obligatory shots at Hizzoner The Mayor, we were hearing lots of cracks about different theatre companies & spaces around Toronto.  We’re cautioned before the show begins that we might get 75 minutes, we might get 90… or more.  Burkett gave us two hours without intermission, and I must say I was sad when he –in the guise of Schnitzel—told us we’d have to go home soon, at 11:30 pm.  Am I nuts? I’ve got to work tomorrow (as I type this it IS tomorrow… but nevermind).

I don’t believe I’ve seen a more vulnerable performance, even though the power relationships are adjusted & juggled back and forth throughout.  Three different audience members became part of the show, placed on display in one sense, but multiplying the effect of the performance, particularly as far as making us laugh uncontrollably.  The piece also includes music & sound design from John Alcorn, making for a complete cabaret experience.

See it if you can.

It runs until Sunday, February 23 at  Factory Theatre (Studio theatre),  Bathurst & Adelaide.  Tuesday– Saturday at 9:30 pm, Sundays at 8:00 pm or 416-­504-­9971
“This production includes mature content. Restricted to audiences 16+.”

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