Reviewed on Saturday, February 10 by Natasha Lomonossoff
The use of puppets to tell stories which involve mature themes is one that is both risky and innovative; with an artistic object like a puppet, one would expect that such a story would be told in a way which makes the viewer think about these issues much differently. The Twilight Parade, a mixed media and puppet show that is part of the undercurrents theatre festival at Arts Court, is moderately successful in this regard. Created and directed by Nadia Ross of STO Union, the show takes on contemporary political and social issues in an uncommon fashion. The play begins with an introduction to a group of otherworldly creatures who maintain the threads of human love which hold society together. As these creatures discover, however, all in not well in the human world, as very real issues of racism, corporate greed and economic inequality are present.
The presentation and technical elements of The Twilight Parade are arguably its strongest elements. The filmed play, showed on a projection screen with the voice actors onstage to say their lines when their character is visible, is one of great colour and vividness. The puppet design by Ross, Rob Scott and volunteers from the city of Wakefield is inspired and varied, giving the show a unique cast of characters. The set design (also done by those mentioned) provides appropriate backdrops for the action, while the animation by Madeleine Ranger and Thea Pratt further underscores the imaginative aspect of the show. The voice acting itself is superb, with the actors skilfully switching to different voices to suit the multiple characters they play.
Although the artistic presentation of the show is enjoyable, it is regrettably never allowed to fully inform its engagement with social issues. The working-class man complaining that foreigners are taking away the town’s jobs and the opportunistic businessman who takes over public assets, for instance, seem a bit too specific and real against the show’s more fantastic elements. A fully imaginative approach might have risen its grappling with these issues into something more symbolic and subtle.
All in all, however, The Twilight Parade provides an interesting theatrical experience that is not otherwise had in mainstream venues.
The Twilight Parade is currently playing February 16 and 17 at the undercurrents festival at Arts Court Theatre. Tickets can be purchased at the theatre or online: http://undercurrentsfestival.ca/shows/the-twilight-parade/
Carolina Bookless, Michael Clarke, Gary Dimmock, Jeffrey Ferguson, Anouk Michelle Gregoire, Shaista Latiff, Michael McKinnell, Sheena Turcotte
Note: the people of Wakefield, QC and the surrounding areas contributed to the creation of the puppets, film voices, props and costumes, as well as the inspiration for the script.