Old Trout’s Jabberwocky delights with reaching imagination
Going to a puppet show is something I would not normally slate for myself on a cold Tuesday evening. However, theatre has a way of reminding you what esoteric questions and good fun lie beyond the television screen, and Jabberwocky is no exception.
What could be thought of as a mere puppet show of modest proportions, blew expectations out of the water, inviting the audience into a universe of unimaginable creativity and talent.
Calgary’s Old Trout Puppet Workshop have been making extravagantly strange and startling productions since 1999. Their artistry, lights, sounds, screens, props, delicate movement of puppet legs and arms, all feed into the weird and wonderful imagination on stage.
Perhaps the story can be likened to The Lion King, or Thumbelina, or even it’s own written origins, Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There. The point is that the Trouts are inspired by so many tales, topics, and texts that there’s no point in seeking out a rhyme or reason to it all. What’s important is that you can join them on the level of ridiculous nonsense in which they dwell and truly flourish.
Lewis Carroll’s poem provided the perfect slate for the Old Trouts to dream up a ridiculous, enchanting, and provocative narrative that reminds of the beauty in the bizarre. The show surprises with heroic quests in one hand and nonsense in the other.
Though, it may leave you questioning exactly what the story was meant to say—but perhaps that’s the point. Maybe there’s, as they say, “a glimmer of truth in nonsense.” When you’re in the world the Old Trouts have created, there’s no rules, rhyme or reason.
Beyond the admittedly hard-to-pin storyline, one thing that deserves mentioning is the ingenuity of props, costumes and set. Basing much of the style on Victorian-era gadgetry, the production employs its own version of four scrolling panoramas—a set piece that scrolls through different surroundings painted on one massive roll of canvas. The artistic talent, as always with Old Trout shows, is downright beautiful.
While the costumes certainly leave something to the imagination, there’s a gawking amusement in adding your own touches of imagination to the already out-there imagination of the performers. Although traditionally puppeteers aren’t seen much, the raw mechanics of the Old Trout’s half-shrouded display lends itself to including the audience in the magical mystery ride.
If you have something up your rear end and can’t join the balderdash, perhaps go see something else. Otherwise, give it a try, you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised.