Reviews for A Midsummer Night's Dream...A Puppet Epic!
NOW Magazine Rating: NNNN
Review By Jon Kaplan
Returning FringeKids puppetry fave Shakey-Shake and Friends presents a truncated version of A Midsummer Night's Dream, the excuse being the marriage of Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway.
The energetic ensemble is in fine form, blending contemporary references and the Bard, along the way sending up Toronto politicians, rock stars and the silliness of the plot. The actors draw sharp, comically broad characters, their own faces as communicative as their puppets' voices.
The funniest bit intentionally blurs Shakespeare's wife (Merritt Crews) with film actor Anne Hathaway, creating a self-centred star who engages in a diva-to-the-death battle with Lucy (Shira Taylor), Shakey-Shake's version of Glee's preening star-to-be Rachel Berry.
Mooney on Theatre: Kids Review!
By Megan Mooney
When I told my four and a half year old son, Max, we were going to a play at FringeKids! he was ecstatic. This is actually his third Fringe Festival. When I told him we were going to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream…A Puppet Epic! he was over the moon. Likely more about the puppet aspect than the Shakespeare part, but hey, you never know, right!?! Okay, well, maybe you know.
Now, in the regular Fringe reviewing time for MoT this show already got a great review by a grown up, so this is going to focus mostly on what the kids thought.
A couple minutes in to the play Max leaned over to me and said “I think this is going to be cool!” And he was pretty absolute in this assertion, because in another minute or so he leaned over again and said “they’re going to be cool!”.
While the actors and puppets are ‘off-stage’ they are sometimes just in the back of the room, and we were sitting near the back. I turned and pointed to them and Paris/Demetrius (played by Scott Farley) waved enthusiastically to him. I thought Max was going to swoon. His eyes got wide with intense joy.
When the puppets made their way back down the aisle Demetrius said quietly to Max “I love her so much!” and Max just stared at him intently. As Demetrius continued down the aisle Max turned to me wide-eyed and whisper-exclaimed “he talked to me!” It was such a fantastic moment to watch.
After the piece we took him and his friend Avery to have some sushi and ask about the show.
Avery told us that she liked the play and that she had a favourite puppet, the one with the green dress and black hair. We think she may have meant Anne/Titania (played by Merritt Crows) but we weren’t positive. That was about all she had to say, but apparently on the way home she said to her mum “Mom, did we go to that play because you knew how awesome it would be before we got there?”
Max on the other hand explained at length about how there was a “cool dude” in the show, that the cool dude talked to him, that there was a lot of sleeping in the play, and that, apparently, Max now wants to be an actor.
I’m pretty sure this counts as a rave review from both kids.
Now time for the caveat; FringeKids! shows are selling out like crazy. So, try to book in advance (most likely there won’t be tickets, but it’s worth trying), but also remember that Fringe only sells 50% of their tickets in advance, the other 50% are sold at the door, starting one hour before showtime. So, you can head over and line up to buy tickets ahead of time, and then you can head over to a nearby playground, or, on Saturday you can head into the nice air conditioned library (Sunday the library is closed though)
But yes, a couple of four year old and I highly recommend this play being put on by Shakey-Shake and Friends. It’ fun for kids and adults, which is nice, because really, it’s so much better when it entertains both of you.
Mooney on Theatre: Adult Review
A Midsummer Night’s Dream…A Puppet Epic! Put on by Shakey-Shake and Friends at The Palmerston Library Theatre as part of FringeKids, combined my love of both Shakespeare and puppets. I have been working with puppets for the past year and have fallen in love with these furry and odd creatures. To see new ones of different shapes, sizes and colours, created by Tom McGee, was like meeting new friends. Walking into the theatre I was surrounded by very young children and their parents. I sat beside a wonderful little girl wearing pink hippo rain boots, quite darling.
This play, as mentioned before, is performed using puppets who are telling the story of one of my favourite Shakespeare works, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, for their friends Shakey-Shake and Anne as a wedding surprise. I also enjoyed the little references they threw in for the adults in the audience. I personally enjoyed the sad Charlie Brown walk-off music.
The three performances that stood out for me were Scott Farley, Michael Man and Merritt Crews. Farley plays Paris, a furry wolf who portrays the role of Demetrius. He is a very goofy character, the majority of the children in the room sat up straight when he walked out onto the stage and were giddy when he said hello to them walking through the aisle. Farley exuded energy and a nice light bubbly comedy about him that livened up the stage. Michael Man took charge of the puppet Len who played Lysander.
Both of these men engaged the children and parents in the audience, they were constantly changing the humor of their characters with wonderful comedic timing. I’m not an expert on the techniques of puppetry. However, I feel I have a good eye for it from watching puppetry coaching sessions and countless rehearsals and performances. In my opinion these two became one with their puppets, they were the most natural and comfortable puppeteers on the stage. I found some of the puppeteering from other cast members to be very distracting with lack of humanism and technique.
Merritt Crews, playing Anne who is in the role of Titania, also has polished puppet movement skills and had a great energy and child-like quality. She seemed to really enjoy her time on the stage and had bursts of energy when she connected with a child in the audience.
However, I found that the play lost the attention of many younger children when they began to use Shakespeare’s actual script. The little girl in the pink hippo boots beside me was asking both her father and myself what was going on, the majority of the children seemed to get very restless and would lose attention. Having said that, the moment they began to explain and play again the children were on the edge of their seats enjoying the humorous lines and especially the physical comedy.
I would definitely recommend taking your children to see this puppet epic, especially those of an older age. I found it to be a very cute and enjoyable time