Calgary based performance group creates intriguing spins on classic stories

Famous Puppet Death Scenes, a comical theatre production, has been shown since Mar. 13 and will continue until Mar. 28 at Theatre Junction GRAND.

Performed by the Old Trout Puppet Workshop who adopted a unique puppeteer path by piecing together small vignettes into one complete show instead of the usual shows with one central theme and a singular narrative.

The show is made up of the death scenes from other famous and potentially longer puppet shows like Pinocchio. But after each death scene the curtain closes and the audience is left to its own imagination to fill in the missing gaps as the show moves on to the next death scene.

“There’s a uniqueness into each [scene] and a variety. It really propels the originality of the ideas that are inherent in it. We all got to become micro directors,” says Peter Balkwill, a member of the Old Trout Puppet Workshop.

The scenes varied from serious and mundane to comical deaths. Some even included extensive plot lines that allowed the audience to become part of the story through interaction with the puppets.

Along with the puppet and audience interactions, a few scenes involved not only puppets, but also actors who bounced their energy off the audience perfectly. Bowing awkwardly after each random outburst of laughter or clapping, which would generate even more laughter.

Nathaniel Tweak, the wooden host of Famous Puppet Death Scenes takes the audience on an adventure through a dark yet hilarious series of puppetry stories at Theatre Junction GRAND.

Photo courtesy of Jason StangTying together all the snippets of death was the welcoming, gangly wooden puppet named Nathaniel Tweak who introduced himself as the host. He carried on the animated interaction with the audience throughout the show, until the end, when he also has his final scene; “The perfect death scene.”

Balkwill explains that every show they’ve created can be traced back to other shows they’ve worked on. The idea for this particular show came after working on the death scene of the cricket in Pinocchio. They thought it would be interesting to show a series of death scenes all together in one grand performance.

The Old Trout Puppet Workshop is made up of an eclectic group of talented people, ranging from carpenters and sculpture artists to philosophical storytellers.

Since the group of friends founded Old Trout Puppet Workshop in 1999 they’ve been welcomed not only in Calgary but also all across Canada and the United States —winning multiple awards and creating two short films.

They reinvented how people look at puppets as they created shows mainly for adults instead of the more common children’s puppet shows.

“[People] think of the fuzzy, furry little things that teaches kids how to count to ten and about sharing. [But] shows like War Horse and films like Team America have been helping to sort of deconstruct the notion of puppets just being for kids and birthday parties. And there’s actually something intriguing about the artistic form,” says Balkwill.

But Old Trout Puppet Workshop isn’t only about puppets. Balkwill says that the umbrella of the company is to provide a studio space and the possibility of any artistic endeavour.

“We want to stretch ourselves as artists into as many different directions as we can. And push each other and learn and challenge. That’s kind of the nature of the collective, more an artist collective than a puppet company per se,” says Balkwill about Old Trout Puppet Workshop.

Famous Puppet Death Scenes runs from Mar. 13 and will continue until Mar. 28 at Theatre Junction GRAND.

Photo courtesy of Jason StangThe show was part of this year’s International Festival of Animated Objects and will continue until Mar. 28 at Theatre Junction GRAND.

mscheele@cjournal.ca

Thumbnail image courtesy of Jason Stang