Playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival 2016 at the George Ignatieff Theatre, Twelfth Night … A Puppet Epic is a wacky take on Shakespeare’s romantic comedy. Produced by Shakey-Shake and Friends, this tale of mistaken identities is full of wordplay and smooth puppet moves. You’ll be giggling and groaning for 60 minutes straight.
This puppet-run story by the Bard starts off with a shipwreck. The main character Viola (Megan Miles) and her twin brother Sebastian (Shaqille Pottinger) almost drown, but Viola makes it to the shore and disguises herself as a boy called Cesario. She meets the nobleman Orsino (Graeme Black Robinson), and while the two of them become friendly “dudebros,” she falls in love with him. To make matters worse for the young lady, she is tasked with trying to convince Olivia (sparkling Shira Taylor), who Orsino is adores, to love Orsino back. And to add yet another layer to this romantic comedy, Olivia falls in love with the uninterested Cesario/Viola.
So here’s a love triangle in a Shakespearean play that is performed by tech-savvy puppets — what more could a serious Fringer want?
Other complementary stories take place, adding even more laughs to Twelfth Night. We’ve got three pranksters: Sir Toby Belch (Jeff Dingle) who is Olivia’s uncle, Maria (Erin Eldershaw) who is Olivia’s maid and Toby’s girlfriend, as well as the jester Feste (Amanda Cordner). This trio pulls many tricks on unsuspecting Malvolio (Tom McGee) who seeks Olivia’s affection. Seems every puppet is in love! Some of the pranks involve a fake love letter, a pair of bright yellow socks and a swordfight. Poor Malvolio.
It’s hard to say if I found a certain puppeteer to be a stand-out performer. For me, every single actor excelled at embodying a unique character, provoking emotion, and moving deftly. And my eyes were on the puppets, not the human puppeteers. I felt sorry for heartbroken Viola!
The props were so clever. The early shipwreck was smartly presented by two boards that formed the hull of a ship, a shiny blue blanket that represented the wild sea, and an umbrella that was the iceberg. I loved the imaginative staging of this scene. Other visually interesting props included a talking iPhone and an Instagram selfie. Speaking of today’s communications, “What text she?” was an nice line in the play that brought the action into the present day.
As a grownup Fringer, I adored this play. With its multitude of characters and social media and technology references, I’m not sure how much a kid would appreciate it, though. But for me, it was pure joy that ended with an amusing version of Never Gonna Give You Up. See this play!
- Twelfth Night…A Puppet Epic! plays at the George Ignatieff Theatre. (15 Devonshire Pl)
- Tickets for FringeKids shows are $5 for kids (age 12 and younger).
- Tickets are $12 at the door and in advance, and can be bought online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Honest Ed’s Alley, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Don’t miss the FringeKids club located on the lawn adjacent to the venue! Free activities for children (3-12) and caregivers run every day of the festival: see website for details.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Saturday July 2nd, 11:00 am
- Monday July 4th, 01:00 pm
- Tuesday July 5th, 04:15 pm
- Thursday July 7th, 02:30 pm
- Friday July 8th, 11:30 am
- Saturday July 9th, 10:00 am
Photo provided by the company