After a year and a half of reviewing live events for The Telegram, I’ve established some general criteria. One of my biggest rules is avoiding repetitive reviewing experiences.
I broke one of my own rules on Jan. 25 at the LSPU Hall, with “Baker’s Dozen (12 Angry Puppets).”
I reviewed “Twelve Angry Men” last March at the Barbara Barrett Theatre, but when I received the RCA newsletter touting the upcoming show, I couldn’t resist reaching out.
Already familiar with the plotline, I was excited to check out how The Pucking Fuppet Co. had adapted the 1950s tele-play.
This version, presented by puppeteer Adam Francis Proulx, was reinvented with a modern approach, and reimagined for a one-man, one-puppet cast.
In the pitch-black theatre, the spotlight rose on Proulx.
“Court is session,” he announced to the gathered audience, noting that this show is “brought to you by Exhibit A and the Number 12.”
It was first of many “Sesame Street” references. Proulx delivered his version of “12 Angry Men” with a smattering of nursery rhyme excerpts, witty puns, pop-culture references, and offhand cultural observations. His dialogue was peppered throughout with sharp, intelligent, and sexually charged adult humour.
With one blank-faced puppet and a box of various facial parts, the audience watched as Proulx transformed the puppet from one character to another on stage, switching out ears, eyes, and lips, à la Mr. Potato Head.
The 12 jurors — a dozen clashing personalities — were tasked with deciphering evidence, discovering motive, debating opinions, and eventually, deciding on a guilty or not guilty verdict.
The case, which involved a tangled love-triangle between the Butcher, the Baker, and the Candlestick Maker, had evolved into a dead baker, a bloody cleaver, a candlestick at the crime scene.
As each character navigated the case, with their many conflicting opinions, each showed their true colours.
In doing so, a conversation about stereotypes, prejudice, and unfair bias was created. This is the real takeaway from “12 Angry Men,” in all of its many formats.
Although I had assumed I would have a leg-up by being familiar with the communicated themes prior to this show, I believe this parting lesson made its way to those unfamiliar with the original, or any of the many adaptations.
There are many reasons why this particular performance was a success, and it’s not just the admirable wit and humour of Proulx, which made me laugh out loud multiple times.
Well-skilled as a puppeteer, Proulx created diverse and distinguishable characters, with simple puppetry and varying voices, in a dialogue heavy show.
The amount of dialogue delivered by Proulx was an impressive feat on its own, but coupled with his voice acting, I was truly blown away.
I was impressed by how Proulx channeled his characters so quickly, the audience never feeling lost or left behind during the quick costume changes.
At one point, Proulx cycled through an intense conversation featuring all 12 characters, with a blank-faced puppet. Although the visual aid was gone, the audience was able to follow the script, as Proulx had already strongly defined his characters.
I didn’t know what to expect heading into a politically themed puppet show, but next time I hear of a puppet show coming to St. John’s, I will now have high expectations.