Lewd, outrageous and soulful in the most gleeful ways, The Daisy Theatre exceeds its hype. You should go see this show.
Creator and performer Ronnie Burkett can be described as a Canadian icon and international puppeteer star without hyperbole. He has been touring shows since 14 years old: his mastery of the art is clear.
We first meet Burkett before the “official” start to the show, when he explains the format of the performance in lieu of usual opening night speeches. For this, he quips, “You owe me bitches.” And indeed we do – if not just for this, then for the next mesmerizing, hilarious two hours that fill you with the joy and calm that comes from knowing you’re watching an expert.
The Daisy Theatre differs from Burkett’s previous work. There’s no narrative and no terrible acts (crucifixion and genocide have featured in his previous shows). Instead, in this vaudeville, unpredictable performance, Burkett chooses from 30 different puppets each evening and shares their stories.
On opening night, we met a dozen or so of these characters. There’s the cross-dressing British general and the clothes-dropping city girl dreaming of returning to her down-home country life. (If you ever question the skill of a puppeteer, try watching him make a burlesque striptease look effortless.)
Audience participation is rife, and boy do those volunteers (if you can call them that) work for their minutes in the spotlight, especially the “eunuch” brought on stage to accompany the act of a fading diva. No one is safe, however: Burkett rattles through quips, jokes and character assassinations amidst each scene. It’s hilarious and well chosen content. He knows his audience – in this case, theatre-going Vancouverites with a penchant for jokes about our community (The Cultch’s new theatre) and those outside it (Edmonton, Surrey). It makes us take to him all the more, not least because of the speed at which such quips leave his mouth. When well-behaved audience laughter turns into unabashed hooting, you know you have a hit.
There are softer, touching moments, too. When a recent widow from Alberta ends her story with a simple message of appreciation, it’s hard to imagine even the most cynical of souls weren’t reaching for the hand of their dearest. It’s difficult not to want to befriend Schnitzel, the small goblin full of love, whose journey to receive some fairy wings from his creator becomes a heartwarming story of courage and dreaming.
Burkett seamlessly intertwines complex emotions, made all the stronger by their counterparts in close proximity. Fabulous in every sense of the word.
Written and performed by Ronnie Burkett. On stage at The Cultch through December 15, 2013. Visit http://thecultch.com for tickets and information.
Scottish-born Zoe Grams is Principal at ZG Communications and has spent much of her life in theatres and bookstores.
Her work has appeared in publications on both sides of the Atlantic, including The Tyee, Back of the Book, GUM and Skinny Mag. Zoe’s lifelong passions include exploring new cities and the arts.