Here be Monsters

Heidi Wicks
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Puppets and magic combine in latest show from Abracadabra Magic Theatre

There's magic shows, and there's puppet shows. But together? It's like settling to watch an old episode of "The Muppet Show."

Abracadabra Magic Theatre's latest production "The King of Monsters" is described as a blend between "Dr. Faustus" and "Fraggle Rock" - marrying myth with pop culture, illusionary theatre with the arts of storytelling, comedy, circus, music and puppetry.

Magician Peter Duchemin is shown with some of the tricks and puppets featured in Abracadabra Magic Theatre's new show "The King of Monsters." - Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

There's magic shows, and there's puppet shows. But together? It's like settling to watch an old episode of "The Muppet Show."

Abracadabra Magic Theatre's latest production "The King of Monsters" is described as a blend between "Dr. Faustus" and "Fraggle Rock" - marrying myth with pop culture, illusionary theatre with the arts of storytelling, comedy, circus, music and puppetry.

Peter Duchemin is the magician and core of the show, which is about a magician who, when he was young, made a deal with the king of the monsters to have magical powers.

In exchange, he has to perform a show each Halloween for the kingdom of monsters, for the rest of his life.

"We wanted to do a magic show within a story, which is a little rare. The catch is that the monster king's daughter is completely silent and never speaks. So, if the magician can make the daughter speak, he can keep the powers forever, but if after 99 tries he still can't make her speak, he will end up becoming a monster and has to stay in monster kingdom," Duchemin says.

"This show takes place at the 99th performance, and the audience are the monsters," he said, encouraging attendees to dress in full monster gear when they arrive, as they are playing the role of the king's court."

Duchemin explains that it's very much inspired by the puppetry of Jim Henson.

"Our puppets are almost human sized. He always had these multitudes of puppets which made the stage look as though there are just hundreds of creatures on stage. So we wanted this look that we're just surrounded by puppets and that they are also part of the show and interacting with us. They're either helping with the tricks, or being rude and wisecracking - they add another dimension to the interaction," Duchemin said, citing the company's inspiration from '80s productions like "Labyrinth," "Fraggle Rock," and "The Muppet Show."

The show also has a live original music component featuring Chris Driedzic, with violin, keyboards, electronics and percussion.

A host of curious characters will also perform.

Magic tricks are inspired by the "golden age", with linking rings, the cup and ball act, multiplying balls, a spooky levitation, several large-scale stage illusions.

Duchemin adds there are spooky elements to the show, and that it's appropriate for children in the kindergarten to Grade 6 age range.

Duchemin said the show is fairly technical.

"We do some stuff with shadow puppets, which is a form of puppetry where the characters or images are projected onto a screen. So you have a screen with a light behind it, and a silhouette between those things.

"But you could have gels or transparencies so they can be different colours. So you can create background scenery. It's probably the pre-curser to film or animation in some ways. I think one of the reasons this is a show that only we can do, because every element (music, magic, puppetry) needs an expert."

"The Kingdom of Monsters" plays from Oct. 27-30, 7 p.m., at the Arts and Culture Centre Basement Theatre.

Tickets are just $10 for children and students and $15 for adults. Call the box office at 729-3900 for details.

Organizations: Magic Theatre, The King, Jim Henson Arts and Culture Centre Basement Theatre

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