By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
After discovering the wonderful whimsy of Quebec-based Belzébrute’s theatrical productions with thanks to Intrepid Theatre, I’m looking forward to hearing about what they have planned next. They came to Victoria, BC to perform a puppet show, Mr. P – The Story of the Real Mr. Potato Head, to help cure the post-Fringe festival blues (they were invited over, from what I heard) and upon going online to check out what else they have made, I really like to see Manga! This other production is one part comic-book, equal parts anime and inspired by history. Hopefully, they will return and bring this story next time.
But for a night which paid a lovely tribute to the musical entertainment pop culture scene, Mr. P has gone through it all. That is, since the days of silent film, he’s been around and he did it “his way” ala Frank Sinatra. He’s a versatile performer who can channel the best of each era’s best in his own act; from said talent to Elvis to Michael Jackson and Freddie Mercury, this potato can win many a crowd! For this vegetable, he’s mimed and played in many a venue. Watching this show is kind of like watching The Swedish Chef live; there’s a bit of nonsense in what he says, and you can hear what he’s saying. Two master puppeteers work hard to make him come alive. You have to see this show to see how it’s done, and when he does the splits, I could not help but grin. Just like the toy, you can change his eyes and ears to change his expressions.
But there’s sadness in what he does. He’s overworked and underappreciated. He has a pet dog, Pogo, who misses him. When he’s on the road, the canine is not always with him and that’s sad. Mr. P longs to take a break but his management always has a venue booked for him. And he’s travelled the world.
The story looks at how difficult life is when this nightshade thinks he can make it to the top, but not everyone can be like Arnold Schwarzenegger and gain a position in the political world. While some stars become famous enough to become advocates for a cause and can address the United Nations assembly, others are content to just headline at Las Vegas.
The night was definitely entertaining and who doesn’t want to sing along to “Bohemian Rhapsody” (technically, the song used was It’s a “Kind of Magic”) again?
Creation and Direction: Belzébrute (E Desjardins, A. Poirier, J. Sioui.)
Puppeteers: Eric Desjardins and Jocelyn Sioui
Musical Design and Interpretation: Amélie Poirier-Aubry
Puppet Design and Accessories: Francis Farley Lemieux
Puppet Design: Mathieu Poirier-Galarneau
Set Design: Stéphane Heine
Design Video: Jocelyn Sioui
Lighting design: Clémence Doray and Antonia Leney-Granger