Ronnie Burkett’s The Daisy Theatre, playing at the Citadel’s Club cabaret-style space until November 17th, is a sort of revue show with marionettes. The title is a tribute to a tradition of marionettes in occupied Czechoslovakia during WWII.
I’ve only seen one performance, but I’d love to see it again. Apparently the performances vary quite a bit, with different puppet characters making an appearance, sometimes chosen spontaneously. In the one I saw, there was an old-style English Colonel singing a music-hall song to piano accompaniment, a retired diva, and Edna Rural, a determined farm widow finally travelling after her husband’s death. The puppeteer, Burkett, is completely visible above the puppet stage, but I was surprised at how easily I forgot he was there and just watched the puppets. He also solicited some audience participation, which was fun. There were lots of topical and local jokes about politics, theatre, and other Edmonton issues.
I would have described the overall mood of the performance I saw as affectionate and silly, but a friend who saw the same show was struck by recurring sadness, not just in the character Schnitzel (an odd non-human creature who bore some resemblance to the abused-child-in-the-circus narrator of Robertson Davies’ World of Wonder) but in the aging diva and other stories. Yet others commented that the evening was more light-hearted than some of Burkett’s earlier works.
Tickets are available through the Citadel Box Office for shows until November 17th (a week today). There’s also a Movember fundraising opportunity to have your picture taken with a character after performances.