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Puppetry at its finest

The Little Orange Man comes to life on stage

Celery…om nom nom. Large monkey…grrr. / Dave Bukach
Celery…om nom nom. Large monkey…grrr. / Dave Bukach

When you hear “puppet show,” images of hands stuffed into socks and Pinocchio-like figures dancing from strings may fill your mind. The last thing one may think of is a theatre performance directed toward adults. Little Orange Man, a play created by Ingrid Hansen and Kathleen Greenfield, destroyed all of my misconceptions of the world of puppetry.

The hour-long production is a one-woman and many-puppets show performed by Hansen. Hectik Theatre brought the show to Regina, and it ran from Oct. 15-25 at the Artesian.

“We specifically worked to bring Ingrid’s show in because it is so good,” explains Rowan Pantel, board member of Hectik Theatre and festival coordinator for Regina’s own puppetry troupe Prairie Puppet Underground. “Hectik Theatre wanted it to be one of the first puppet shows that they were bringing into town because of the quality of the work and because of how well-renowned the piece is across Canada.”

Little Orange Man has been performed in seven fringe festivals and multiple professional theatres across the country. The show will continue to run as opportunities arise, which considering its great reception will undoubtedly continue to come. I must jump on the fan bandwagon; Little Orange Man is the best theatre performance I’ve seen in a while. It was absolutely hilarious.

Hansen acted as a young girl struggling with ADD, the loss of her beloved Bestefa (grandpa), and ultimately finding her own place in the world. From stuffed animals, to shadow puppets, to a sandwich, to a celery stick, the many puppets told the heart-felt story in an engaging and hilarious way that would not have been possible had actors performed it.

Hansen herself became involved with puppetry about 5 or 6 years ago when she began working on a kid’s puppet series. She humbly claims that anyone can be a puppeteer.

“A lot of it is really intuitive,” says Hansen, explaining that one sees a lot of that intuition when watching kids play. “Some kids just smash their toys around, and some kids puppeteer their toys when they’re playing with them, just naturally. They make their movements very life-like and very alive.”

So the art to puppetry, as one could guess, is really all about how you move it. All you have to do is pick something up and give it life!

“What I enjoy about puppetry is its ability to create magic onstage,” Pantel says. “We’re not using computer-generated effects like you would see in a film. Everything is live action and happening in front of you, and I think there is a certain magic [in that].”

Pantel and the Prairie Puppet Underground are working to give puppetry a prominent place in Regina’s theatre scene. Pantel argues that puppetry is really an adult form of theatre that has been misconstrued as kid’s entertainment because of the popularity of The Muppets.

“Part of the mandate of the Prairie Puppet Underground is puppet shows for adults. I’ve seen shows that talk about torture during the concentration camps, I’ve seen puppet shows that talk about violence against women,” says Pantel. “I find that adults respond well to it.”

“If you’re an audience member, and you’re watching an actor on stage, your ego can get involved with that transaction. So, you’re not just taking in their performance. You’re like, ‘Oh, well I can do that better.’ Or, ‘Why am I not up there?’ Whereas when you see a puppet onstage, your ego is removed from the situation and you are able to just sit back and take in the show.”

I would have to agree with Pantel. Watching Little Orange Man was in part so engaging because, as an audience member, you are spellbound by creativity. In regular theatre performances, actors give you their interpretation of a play, but with a puppet show, the audience must imagine the characters for themselves. I haven’t had so much fun at a theatre performance maybe ever.

If you are intrigued by puppetry, the Regina Little Theatre’s Christmas production, Charlotte’s Web, will be using some puppets. Even better, if you feel objects have a story to tell and want to help them express it, Prairie Puppet Underground with Hectik Theatre will be presenting a puppet film and theatre festival this May, and they are looking for participants! More information on how to become involved is available at prairiepuppetunderground.com.

About laura billett

I grew up dancing and have never been able to stop. I have been addicted to reading and dreamed of writing for as long as I can remember and am always looking for new inspiration, adventures, and a good laugh.