Kicking off day two of the 2014 Ottawa Fringe festival with a full head of steam and a clean slate…which means I was actually caught up on reviews from day one, which ain’t nothin’. Will I be able to keep this stellar work ethic up? Fuck no, but I guess I’ll give it a try. With that indomitable spirit in mind, I hit Arts Court for my first trip to the inaugural fifth official venue for this year, the Oddbox, aka the Ottawa Dance Directive studio.
I was there to check out THE DEVIL’S CIRCUS from Wishes Mystical Puppet Company out of Winnipeg. Comprised of the multitalented Daniel Wishes and Seri Yanai, along with an almost dizzying array of sweet, occasionally monstrous puppets, the show tells a reworked version of the Orpheus legend, as filtered through vaudeville and Tex Avery cartoons. In this version, Orpheus is a self-obsessed circus performer, who pretty much causes his partner Eurydice’s untimely demise. She ends up in the Underworld, where the Devil has put Hell to the best use he can think of…namely, putting on an endless variety show. Enter Eurydice, who becomes the first woman to tempt him since…well, since the first. Can true love blossom, even in Hell..?
Wishes makes some very merry mayhem with the legends and stories they use as fodder, and their gorgeously crafted puppets make for very entertaining guides. The multiple musical interludes, part of the Devil’s Circus itself, are always fun and range from a trapeze artist to a demonic Elvis, and all with a seriously killer soundtrack. The jokes are plentiful and often kinda corny, but pretty much on purpose. A few moments of hilarious shadow puppetry round out the storytelling (seriously, a lot of shadow puppets at this year’s Fringe), and it all comes together for a highly entertaining hour of surreal and funny puppet play. Wishes and Yanai work hard to bring this expansive tale to life, and a few of their gags are worth admission in and of themselves (I had a serious double-take moment at the dancing Grim Reaper). Take a chance on some fun and talented out-of-towners, and have a blast letting them take you to Hell and back. Peace, love and soul,