by Lynn on November 30, 2012

in The Passionate Playgoer

The following reviews were broadcast on Friday, Nov. 30, 2012, on CIUT FRIDAY MORNING 89.5 FM. IGNORANCE at the Berkeley Street Theatre until Dec. 15, and SNOW WHITE at the Elgin Theatre until Jan. 5.

1) It’s Friday and Lynn Slotkin, our theatre critic and passionate playgoer is here with her reviews of what she saw this week.

Hi Lynn. What’s up this week?

I’m not going to review Rob Ford’s performance of a humbled man, because it was so bad. I’m reviewing some real theatre.

First, Ignorance by the Old Trout Puppet Workshop with anonymous contributors, at the Berkeley Street theatre, part of the Canadian Stage Season.

And Snow White, the latest extravaganza from Ross Petty and his fractured fairytale panto with a twist and social commentary.

2) Let’s start with Ignorance by the oddly named Old Trout Puppet Workshop. Is there significance to the name?

Probably but this group of school friends formed it in 1999 and are so irreverent I doubt if they would really tell or if they remember.

3) And what does it mean that anonymous contributors helped with the creation of the story?

Well they put it out on the internet they wanted ideas. There’s a program note by Judd Palmer, one of the founders and the narrator of the show who talks about how they can’t remember how they got the idea for the show in the first place, or whose idea it was. But they did post their ideas on the web and asked for feedback and got it, but they still can’t say how they came up with the idea specifically.

In any case, the show is a mix of esoteric philosophical musings and general nonsense.

The unseen narrator (Judd Palmer) in a rather portentous voice, talks about the beginning of man and how he eked out a life trying to survive and find happiness along the way. Then a woman appears from no where, out of the rocks perhaps, to give him company and more happiness until a club-wielding thug thumps on to the scene and forcibly whisks the woman off to do his bidding, and the sad man is left alone, unable to fight back. This struggle of loss, coping, and sadness threads through the show.

There is a senior citizen dressed in black leather driving a snazzy red sports car, joined by another senior driving another spiffy car and a third one driving a battered car badly, trying to park between the other two cars, bashing both in the process. Many people will recognize themselves or people they know.

So in a sense the show is about how we blunder through life looking for happiness, companionship, leaving a legacy, having children, seemingly not getting any more intelligent, hence the title.

4) Why do you also say it’s mixed with nonsense?

Because except for the narration there is no dialogue, only a kind of gibberish language grunted by the various characters. We get a sense of what they are saying, or perhaps we’re just making up our own dialogue, but it’s still gibberish and nonsense.

These hand held puppets are worked by three dextrous puppeteers: Nicolas Di Gaetano, Trevor Leight and Viktor Lukawski. I have to say that I have never seen such graceful hands as those of the puppeteers. The hands alone are like works of art.

The three men wear grey, baggy long-johns and are generally barefoot except when they wear part of the puppet costume. Often a puppet has legs ending with shoes. It’s the shoe part that the puppeteer wears on his feet and so the puppet looks like it’s walking when in fact it’s his manipulator. That’s ingenious. They both are able to negotiate the wonderful odd set that looks wild and prehistoric.

The puppets themselves are terrific. For the prehistoric characters they look like two pieces of rock that are fashioned into a face with wild eyes. Those characters that are contemporary, and usually grumpy seniors, the face is round, scrunched up, aggravated and hilarious. And certainly the senior in his leathers is quite

5) Does it work?

I have to confess that while at times Ignorance seems clever but I couldn’t help feeling that the nonsense/gibberish wears thin very quickly. Also Judd Palmer’s narration is just a touch pretentious and self indulgent.

The Old Trout Puppet Workshop is having a great time doing the show, but I get the sense that the audience isn’t let in on the joke. Just on a personal note I was sitting behind Ronnie Burkett, our own resident genius of marionettes, and somehow the Old Trouts paled in comparison to Burkett’s work.

6) And now for something full of jokes, Snow White, presented by Ross Petty as one of his fractured fairy tales. How do they fracture this one?

This is the 17th year that Mr. Petty is presenting his annual fractured fairy tale musical. This year it’s Snow White described as ‘the deliciously dopey family musical.’

The basic story is still there but with several tweaks. Snow White is a lovely princess who has an evil step -mother. Snow White loves animals and wants to be a vet.

The evil step-mother wants to own the forest so she can cut down the trees and mine the earth for all the botox in the world, which of course she will own and use, abundantly. Who knew Botox was something to mine and not something to just inject.

Snow White is banished to the forest where she comes to the house where there used to be seven dwarfs. Now there is someone in a tux, code name 007, real name, Bond, James Bond.

There are visitations from Little Red Riding Hood who is having a terrible time with Apple Maps and couldn’t find her Grandmother’s house for the longest while. There is Jack, formerly of Beanstock fame. And there is the servant of the Evil Queen, Infestus the fool, who is very protective of Snow White.

There are other surprises but I’m not telling you what they are.

7) When one hears fractured fairy tales, one thinks it’s strictly a kid’s show. Is it?

Sure the place is packed with kids, many dressed like Snow White. But those kids accompany old people called parents and the show has all sorts of stuff for them. The show is full of double entendres; Rob Ford jokes. Hockey lockout jokes, topical jokes which is as expected as is the fact that Ross Petty will play the villain, usually in drag (he’s the Evil Queen here) and we will all boo him.

8) If you know what’s expected is it boring?

No it’s one of those wonderful shows where you know what’s coming and love it for that, like comfort food or an old joke that’s always funny. We all know our jobs—boo the villain, talk back, cheer the hero, have a grand time. And there is always a surprise or two to keep us on our toes.

9) You’ve seen these shows over the years. How does it stack up?

I think it does pretty well, and certainly the zaniness of having only one helper for Snow White and not seven, but having that helper be 007 is pretty inspired. And even if the script gets a little thin in places they point that out.

It’s written by Rick Miller, Carolyn Bennett and Malcolm Clarke. I’m not sure why three people are needed for one panto…and certainly since there are thin bits in the script.

It’s directed with a lot of flare by Tracey Flye and it’s to the credit of all concerned that when it looks like they are adlibbing one liners, they aren’t –it’s all been rehearsed down to the fake breaking up at a joke.

The company is top notch. Melissa O’Neil is a sweet Snow White, innocent, trusting and a belter of her songs. Eddie Glen is Infestus the Fool and is always a joy in these perky, lively roles. As 007, Graham Abbey is suave, sexy and knows how to float a joke as well as he can do physical humour. And of course the person we all love to boo is Ross Petty as The Evil Queen. This queen flounces and flashes her eyes and gnashes her teeth at the dastardly audience for not appreciating her aura. This is an Evil Queen who gives Botox a bad name.

Ross Petty and his band of merrymakers fill up the holiday season with humour, music, laughter and a roaring good time.

Thanks Lynn. That’s Lynn Slotkin, our theatre critic and passionate playgoer. You can read Lynn’s Blog at

IGNORANCE plays at the Berkeley Street Theatre downstairs until Dec. 15.

SNOW WHITE plays at the Elgin Theatre until January 5.

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