[Victoria Fringe Festival 2018] The Wilds are more than Flights of Fancy, A Review

29 Aug

Metro Studio Theatre
1411 Quadra Street
Victoria, BC

Remaining Shows:
Aug 29, 8:15 pm
Aug 30 7:30 pm
Sep 1, 12:15 pm
Sep 2, 3:00 pm

  • Spoiler Alert

Victoria, BC is now the base for Wonderheads, a physical theatre company known for their puppet style theatre. They wear full head masks and also make use of minimalist set pieces to tell their tales. I remember seeing Grim and Fischer years ago and this act returns for one night only, November 8th, 2018. These shows have a wonderful mystique to them, and the tales are often enduring.
I will not forget what The Wilds represent. The tale has a timeless appeal to it. When Wendell’s wife and their beloved tree vanishes, this elderly gardener must venture into the Wilds to bring them home. In this forest, he encounters a collection of strange characters. One individual is straight out of Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away, a bird from Blue Sky Studios’ Rio, and a strange camel like figure perhaps from Dark Crystal.

This play uses pantomime to tell its tale. To see Andrew Phoenix and Kate Braidwood move about on stage is a mix of ethereal gentleness and skilled puppetry. There were times I thought the eyes in those full masks move. Perhaps that was because of my angle to the stage or it was in my willing suspension of disbelief in how alive these characters have become. Stealing the show is Braidwood’s performance of a tall shadow-like creature. If Spirited Away ever gets made into live-action, the studio better call on her to play the No Face role in motion-capture. I was completely sold by the illusion.

Equally important is the use of music. Braidwood designed the soundscape, and it literally swept me away like the leaf Wendell was chasing. The songs provided by The Singer and Songwriter (yes, that’s this band’s name) had a John Denver quality to it. Some of this company’s works are said to have a PIXAR style quality to it, and I believe that comes from the music more than always the narrative. Afterward, I was humming to John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Road all the way because that’s how I felt after this show.

5 Stars out of 5

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