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Photo by Alejandro Santiago

Theatre review: The Daisy Theatre is raunchy and refreshing

By Courtney Merchand on December 4, 2016

Without much detail on the performance, the words “famous marionettes” and “improvised cabaret” create quite the interesting story in your mind. When you’re advised – and reminded – to keep the kids at home, it only adds to the intrigue.

I assure you, Toronto-based Ronnie Burkett’s The Daisy Theatre is unlike anything you imagine it to be. It’s so much more.

Photo by Alejandro Santiago

Photo by Alejandro Santiago

The show changes each night, depending on which of his countless puppets he wants to bring out. As Burkett put it before the show, “I’m going to make shit up!”

Relevant, edgy and almost always guaranteed to make you laugh, he poked fun at current events (the political storm brewing to the South) and even threw in some local jabs (sorry, Carleton Place). The Daisy Theatre is a series of skits that give you just enough time to get the know a character before a new one is introduced.

As interactive as theatre gets, Burkett lets the audience decide which character they want to meet next. That led to the unforgettable introduction to Miss Lillian Lunkhead, “Canada’s oldest and worst actress,” that did things to Shakespeare you wish you could unsee. But I think I speak for the opening night audience when I say Miss Lunkhead’s performance was truly a highlight of the show – but that doesn’t mean the next audience will be graced by her presence. The semi-improvised structure of the show has me wanting to return, to experience another performance.

Photo by Alejandro Santiago

Photo by Alejandro Santiago

Audience participation didn’t stop there. Burkett daringly invited a couple of poor souls on stage to be part of a given skit. If you have never seen the truly awkward interaction between a puppet and a person, I strongly encourage it. Both participants performed wonderfully under pressure and it simply added to the enchantment of the performance.

ronnieburkett-300dpi-alejandrosantiagoEverything Burkett did worked to shatter the illusion that you were watching wooden marionettes. The fluidity of each character’s movements was a testament to Burkett’s impressive dexterity. I lost myself in each individual plot and forgot it was entirely run by just one person.

Every skit evoked a different emotion from the audience. It seems silly to say you sympathized with a puppet, but the audible “aws” in the crowd reassured everyone else that they weren’t alone.

That was the beauty in Burkett’s artistry. He was able to create an experience attached to an emotion that is almost impossible to describe to anyone who wasn’t witness.

If you’ve never seen a puppet show up close, if you’re into something raunchy and refreshing, then I guarantee The Daisy Theatre is the answer.

See The Daisy Theatre at the Great Canadian Theatre Company (1233 Wellington W) until December 18, 2016. Tickets are $38–45 available online at and at the box office. There is a pay-what-you-can performance at 2pm, Sunday December 4.