Happy, the latest creation by marionette artist Ronnie Burkett, plays CanStage in Toronto Jan. 20-Feb. 17, 2001, following its 2000 world premiere at the du Maurier World Stage Festival.
Created and performed by Burkett, Happy, the newest creation from the Ronnie Burkett Theatre of Marionettes, focuses on the title character, a happy-go-lucky veteran who wanders through episodes of grief in other people’s lives. Writer-performer Burkett "examines the impact of cataclysmic sorrow in human existence and the on-going discussion of whether happiness is the lucky domain of a select few or the result of constant struggle and striving beyond the layers of human despair," according to production notes. Preview performances play Canadian Stage Company's Berkeley Street Theatre Jan. 20-24, 2001, opening Jan. 25.
Burkett's Street of Blood, which told of small-town Canadian characters caught up in the AIDS crisis — with themes of corruption, evil, hope and redemption running through its veins — played Off-Broadway's New York Theatre Workshop in 2000 following popular engagements in Canada.
Concurrent with the storyline presented by the character of Happy is the "grief vaudeville" of Antoine Marionette, a campy, other-worldly master of ceremonies. "Within this glittering silver realm — 'the gray area of life' — arch presentations of sadness in song, pantomime and burlesque,mirror and parody the state of the central characters," according to production notes.
Burkett was seven when he discovered puppetry through an article in the World Book Encyclopedia and "The Lonely Goatherd" sequence in the film, "The Sound of Music." His lifelong fascination led him to apprenticeships with leading American puppeteers, and he began touring his own productions at the age of 14. He formed Ronnie Burkett Theatre of Marionettes in 1986 and has been touring the world ever since with such critically acclaimed productions as Fool's Edge, Virtue Falls, The Punch Club, Awful Manors, Tinka's New Dress and Old Friends. He has won two Dora Mavor Moore Awards, the major Toronto theatre award. He received a special citation 1999 Obie Award when Tinka's New Dress was presented Off-Broadway at The Public Theatre by the Henson International Festival of Puppetry.
In Happy, Burkett collaborates with composer and sound designer Cathy Nosaty. Visually, the show is expected to be more striking and starker in design than previous Theatre of Marionettes productions. The show will feature "reversed neutrals" with an all-white set which will be painted with color by acclaimed lighting designer Bill Williams.
Happy is a Rink-A-Dink Inc. production created in coproduction with Harbourfront Centre, Toronto and Theaterformen 2000, Hannover and The Barbican Centre, London.
Tickets are $20-$40. CanStage Berkeley Street Theatre is at 26 Berkeley Street in Toronto. For information, call (416) 872 1111 or visit the website at www.canstage.com.
— By Kenneth Jones