Puppets and shadowplay bring Jupiter Theatre’s The Robber Bridegroom to life

Caroline Russell-King takes a look at Jupiter Theatre’s take on the Brothers Grimm tale, The Robber Bridegroom in a postcard review.

Playwright/composer: There is no credit given to a playwright or devised theatre group, but the original material is from The Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, who published books of folklore in the 1800s. 

Production Company/theatre space: Jupiter Theatre in conjunction with Chimera Theatre (Kamloops B.C.) in the Studio Theatre at Vertigo.

Length: One Act (45-50 minutes).

Genre(s): Either a drama or a tragedy depending on the night — Grand Guignol, melodrama, with puppets in dumb show and shadowplay, bookended with scenes and audience participation.

Premise: A bride ignores the warnings of the foreshadow bluebird and her nightmares before heading to the altar.

Why this play? Why now?: Tipped off by the symbolism of the white ribbons, we are encouraged to consider the meaning behind this campaign.

Curiosities: I could think of at least 20 questions and stayed for the “Q&A,” however this comprised mostly of the cast asking questions of the audience, not the other way around!

Notable lines: “Let us pray.” (Which could be a play on words.)

Notable writing: I was really curious as to why the characters could all hear but not speak; unless they only speak in “reality” and everything else is a “nightmare.” However, if this convention is correct, then the ending is muddled and the symbolism confusing.

Notable performances: It’s really difficult to play an unsympathetic protagonist, but Maddison Hartloff plays mawkish well, and she and her three fellow puppeteers do a fine technical job.

Notable design/production: Lukas Vanderlip as the sound designer and Jared Raschke as the lighting designer lend their talents to support the story, helping build suspense where it could otherwise have been disastrously comical.

Notable direction: Co-directors Andrew G. Cooper and Melissa Purcha, busy puppeteers on stage, may have benefitted from having an outside eye (e.g.: I found the images of the stick on the puppets distracting from the otherwise lovely shadow play. I also had so many questions …).

One reason to see this show: If adult, short, horror, puppet, folktales delight you, then this is a show for you. Or if you know who Augusto Boal is, this may intrigue you.

The Robber Bridegroom runs until Feb. 2 at Vertigo Theatre.

Caroline Russell-King is a playwright, dramaturg, and instructor. She is a member of The Playwrights Guild of Canada, the Dramatist Guild of America and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. You can find her work here