A shadowy family play
ROCKET AND THE QUEEN OF DREAMS written and directed by David S. Craig (Roseneath). At Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People (165 Front East). To June 15. $15-$25. 416-872-1111. Rating: NNNN
You may have seen shadow puppetry in shows -- even done it yourself with your kids, using your hands to make faces and animals against a bedroom wall -- but you've probably never seen anything as extravagant and surprising as the imagery in Rocket And The Queen Of Dreams, one of two family plays at Luminato. (The other's Sanctuary Song, reviewed elsewhere on this site.)
David S. Craig bases his script on a situation all too familiar to most parents: a child doesn't want to go to bed.Here, though, Rocket's problem isn't that he simply wants to stay up, but that he's scared of the monsters in his dreams. His parents tell him stories and offer him different ways to deal with his fear, and their names give a hint as to their methods. Fortress (Eric Woolfe) opts for the battle style, presenting the story of St. George and the dragon as an example. Gaia (Linda Carson) suggests song, nice thoughts and discussion as the means to quell the monsters.
Neither method works for Rocket (a puppet manipulated and voiced by Carrie Costello), who develops, with the help of a nightlight and some of his parents' ideas, his own means to deal with the scaries in his sleep.
The bedroom scenes are intercut with three shadowplay dream sequences devised by puppeteer David Powell, and they're the highlight of the production. Most of the toys in Rocket's room and in the conversations with his parents become fodder for the dreams, of course amplified both in size and intensity.
Where else but in dreams could you combine cows in spaceships, dragons made up of the Toronto cityscape (including a tail shaped like the CN Tower), flying watering cans and hot-dog trucks that race down the street like fire engines?
Playful and inventive, the shadow puppets must number over 200, some in colour and others in black and white. They're manipulated by the hard-working cast, and you can buy a stage-seat ticket that allows you to watch the show from behind the screen and see the madness of managing to pick up the right puppet at the right time. Those seats would be a good idea for a second viewing of the show, but don't miss the fun of watching it from the audience.
Craig's script holds something for adults, too, in the tension between the parents (not too much to distract the children, though), and Rick Sacks's score is another winning component of the production.
I saw the show with four- and five-year-olds at a school show, and they were enthralled with the puppetry. Your kids and the kid inside you will be, too.