Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Friday, 9 August 2013
Penny Plain, Ronnie Burkett, Aug 8, 2013 ****
Burkett Theatre of Marionettes, Arts Centre Melbourne
Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne, until Aug 18, 2013 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Aug 8, 2013 Stars: ****
also published in Herald Sun online on Friday, Aug 9, 2013 andin print on Monday Aug 12, 2013 KH
Penny Plain, Canadian master puppeteer, Ronnie Burkett, creates an
idiosyncratic performance using the traditional technique of marionettes,
gloriously old-fashioned storytelling and a parade of eccentric characters.
this grim, mysterious tale about the end of the world, blind, old Penny Plain’s
boarding house becomes a refuge for those escaping the natural and man-made
his creatures from a high gantry, Burkett populates the stage with dozens of
impeccably crafted characters, instilling life into each and inhabiting them
with love and commitment.
story has an underlying dark, satirical, and audacious social commentary, but
it is Burkett’s impeccably observed characters – his villains and saints – that
the heart of the tale is Penny Plain who is sympathetic, warm, fearless and
gentle, but we fear for her when her blindness and frailty make her vulnerable
to the self-centredness of others.
surrounds Penny with characters including her doggie-companion, Geoffrey, who
leaves her to become a gentleman but is replaced by Tuppence, a pale, nervous
orphan who pretends to be a dog to please Penny.
procession of characters continues with murderous Jubilee Karloff (who kills
annoyingly noisy people), her vile mother, Queenie, Mr. Dollop the
cross-dressing bank teller, and a cameo from a white trash American couple.
comical highlights are the canine applicants for the job of companion:
Kittencapoodle, the sassy French poodle, and Hickory Sanchez, a hilariously
sleazy casanova chihuahua.
playfully inserts Gepetto the puppeteer, his adult son Pino/Pinocchio, and
French who pines for her own puppet baby in this bleak era.
a pessimistic background of global warming, earthquakes, stock market crashes
and food and water shortages, these characters embody the best and the worst of
human nature as it deals with crisis.
playful and poignant storytelling and consummate manipulation of his quirky
characters compensate for a few unresolved narrative threads and some
characters that seem extraneous, albeit delightful.
Plain is another virtuoso production from the master marioneteer who brought us
Tinka’s New Dress, Provenance and Billy Twinkle, and we can only hope to see
his latest show, the Daisy Theatre.