Warning: Table 'edadmin_drpl1.accesslog' doesn't exist query: SELECT uid, timestamp FROM accesslog WHERE (path = 'node/317' OR uid > 0) AND sid = '7caee60ce45aaf8011ca5e44cf1bcc7a' ORDER BY timestamp DESC LIMIT 0, 1 in /home/edadmin/public_html/includes/database.mysql.inc on line 135

Warning: Table 'edadmin_drpl1.watchdog' doesn't exist query: INSERT INTO watchdog (uid, type, message, variables, severity, link, location, referer, hostname, timestamp) VALUES (0, 'php', '%message in %file on line %line.', 'a:4:{s:6:\"%error\";s:12:\"user warning\";s:8:\"%message\";s:224:\"Table './edadmin_drpl1/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired\nquery: SELECT data, created, headers, expire, serialized FROM cache_filter WHERE cid = '2:9d4b80029829e18fc4ecfbb7258ee6cc'\";s:5:\"%file\";s:44:\"/home/edadmin/public_html/includes/cache.inc\";s:5:\"%line\";i:27;}', 3, '', 'http://www.ed-rex.com/reviews/penny_plain', '', '54.83.122.227', 1513277261) in /home/edadmin/public_html/includes/database.mysql.inc on line 135

Warning: Table 'edadmin_drpl1.watchdog' doesn't exist query: INSERT INTO watchdog (uid, type, message, variables, severity, link, location, referer, hostname, timestamp) VALUES (0, 'php', '%message in %file on line %line.', 'a:4:{s:6:\"%error\";s:12:\"user warning\";s:8:\"%message\";s:10056:\"Table './edadmin_drpl1/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired\nquery: UPDATE cache_filter SET data = '<div class=\\"content\\">\\n<h3><big><big>Faint praise for <em>Penny Plain</em></big></big></h3>\\n<h3><big>Housebound apocalypse less than the sum of its parts</big></h3>\\n<table cellpadding=\\"0\\" cellspacing=\\"0\\" width=\\"350\\" align= in /home/edadmin/public_html/includes/database.mysql.inc on line 135

Warning: Table 'edadmin_drpl1.watchdog' doesn't exist query: INSERT INTO watchdog (uid, type, message, variables, severity, link, location, referer, hostname, timestamp) VALUES (0, 'php', '%message in %file on line %line.', 'a:4:{s:6:\"%error\";s:12:\"user warning\";s:8:\"%message\";s:348:\"Table 'edadmin_drpl1.captcha_sessions' doesn't exist\nquery: INSERT into captcha_sessions (uid, sid, ip_address, timestamp, form_id, solution, status, attempts) VALUES (0, '7caee60ce45aaf8011ca5e44cf1bcc7a', '54.83.122.227', 1513277261, 'comment_form', 'b7c9a5fafd74df3b55a90ddac4f5ccc3', 0, 0)\";s:5:\"%file\";s:63:\"/home/edadmin/public_html/sites/all/modules/captcha/captcha.inc\";s:5:\"%line\";i:125;}', 3, '', 'http://www.ed-rex.com/reviews/penny_plain', '', '54.83.122.227&# in /home/edadmin/public_html/includes/database.mysql.inc on line 135

Warning: Table 'edadmin_drpl1.watchdog' doesn't exist query: INSERT INTO watchdog (uid, type, message, variables, severity, link, location, referer, hostname, timestamp) VALUES (0, 'php', '%message in %file on line %line.', 'a:4:{s:6:\"%error\";s:12:\"user warning\";s:8:\"%message\";s:124:\"Table 'edadmin_drpl1.captcha_sessions' doesn't exist\nquery: SELECT token FROM captcha_sessions WHERE csid = 0\";s:5:\"%file\";s:66:\"/home/edadmin/public_html/sites/all/modules/captcha/captcha.module\";s:5:\"%line\";i:214;}', 3, '', 'http://www.ed-rex.com/reviews/penny_plain', '', '54.83.122.227', 1513277261) in /home/edadmin/public_html/includes/database.mysql.inc on line 135

Warning: Table 'edadmin_drpl1.watchdog' doesn't exist query: INSERT INTO watchdog (uid, type, message, variables, severity, link, location, referer, hostname, timestamp) VALUES (0, 'php', '%message in %file on line %line.', 'a:4:{s:6:\"%error\";s:12:\"user warning\";s:8:\"%message\";s:125:\"Table 'edadmin_drpl1.captcha_sessions' doesn't exist\nquery: SELECT status FROM captcha_sessions WHERE csid = 0\";s:5:\"%file\";s:63:\"/home/edadmin/public_html/sites/all/modules/captcha/captcha.inc\";s:5:\"%line\";i:155;}', 3, '', 'http://www.ed-rex.com/reviews/penny_plain', '', '54.83.122.227', 1513277261) in /home/edadmin/public_html/includes/database.mysql.inc on line 135

Warning: Table 'edadmin_drpl1.watchdog' doesn't exist query: INSERT INTO watchdog (uid, type, message, variables, severity, link, location, referer, hostname, timestamp) VALUES (0, 'php', '%message in %file on line %line.', 'a:4:{s:6:\"%error\";s:12:\"user warning\";s:8:\"%message\";s:125:\"Table 'edadmin_drpl1.captcha_sessions' doesn't exist\nquery: SELECT status FROM captcha_sessions WHERE csid = 0\";s:5:\"%file\";s:63:\"/home/edadmin/public_html/sites/all/modules/captcha/captcha.inc\";s:5:\"%line\";i:155;}', 3, '', 'http://www.ed-rex.com/reviews/penny_plain', '', '54.83.122.227', 1513277261) in /home/edadmin/public_html/includes/database.mysql.inc on line 135

Warning: Table 'edadmin_drpl1.watchdog' doesn't exist query: INSERT INTO watchdog (uid, type, message, variables, severity, link, location, referer, hostname, timestamp) VALUES (0, 'php', '%message in %file on line %line.', 'a:4:{s:6:\"%error\";s:12:\"user warning\";s:8:\"%message\";s:165:\"Table 'edadmin_drpl1.captcha_sessions' doesn't exist\nquery: UPDATE captcha_sessions SET timestamp=1513277261, solution='eR4Pfq' WHERE csid=0\";s:5:\"%file\";s:63:\"/home/edadmin/public_html/sites/all/modules/captcha/captcha.inc\";s:5:\"%line\";i:137;}', 3, '', 'http://www.ed-rex.com/reviews/penny_plain', '', '54.83.122.227', 1513277261) in /home/edadmin/public_html/includes/database.mysql.inc on line 135

Warning: Table 'edadmin_drpl1.watchdog' doesn't exist query: INSERT INTO watchdog (uid, type, message, variables, severity, link, location, referer, hostname, timestamp) VALUES (0, 'php', '%message in %file on line %line.', 'a:4:{s:6:\"%error\";s:12:\"user warning\";s:8:\"%message\";s:224:\"Table './edadmin_drpl1/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired\nquery: SELECT data, created, headers, expire, serialized FROM cache_filter WHERE cid = '2:a777d0249b540b4111ef42e9d15d7638'\";s:5:\"%file\";s:44:\"/home/edadmin/public_html/includes/cache.inc\";s:5:\"%line\";i:27;}', 3, '', 'http://www.ed-rex.com/reviews/penny_plain', '', '54.83.122.227', 1513277261) in /home/edadmin/public_html/includes/database.mysql.inc on line 135

Warning: Table 'edadmin_drpl1.watchdog' doesn't exist query: INSERT INTO watchdog (uid, type, message, variables, severity, link, location, referer, hostname, timestamp) VALUES (0, 'php', '%message in %file on line %line.', 'a:4:{s:6:\"%error\";s:12:\"user warning\";s:8:\"%message\";s:2124:\"Table './edadmin_drpl1/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired\nquery: UPDATE cache_filter SET data = '<p><center></center></p>\\n<table align=\\"center\\" style=\\"width: 225px;\\">\\n<tbody>\\n<tr>\\n<td style=\\"width: 225px; background-color: rgb(176, 83, 162); text-align: center; vertical-align: bottom;\\">\\n<div><span style=\\"font-size: 19px;\\"><span style=\\"font-fami in /home/edadmin/public_html/includes/database.mysql.inc on line 135

Warning: Table 'edadmin_drpl1.watchdog' doesn't exist query: INSERT INTO watchdog (uid, type, message, variables, severity, link, location, referer, hostname, timestamp) VALUES (0, 'php', '%message in %file on line %line.', 'a:4:{s:6:\"%error\";s:12:\"user warning\";s:8:\"%message\";s:224:\"Table './edadmin_drpl1/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired\nquery: SELECT data, created, headers, expire, serialized FROM cache_filter WHERE cid = '2:0abc4daf3615eae37d92fac6774cbdca'\";s:5:\"%file\";s:44:\"/home/edadmin/public_html/includes/cache.inc\";s:5:\"%line\";i:27;}', 3, '', 'http://www.ed-rex.com/reviews/penny_plain', '', '54.83.122.227', 1513277261) in /home/edadmin/public_html/includes/database.mysql.inc on line 135

Warning: Table 'edadmin_drpl1.watchdog' doesn't exist query: INSERT INTO watchdog (uid, type, message, variables, severity, link, location, referer, hostname, timestamp) VALUES (0, 'php', '%message in %file on line %line.', 'a:4:{s:6:\"%error\";s:12:\"user warning\";s:8:\"%message\";s:1083:\"Table './edadmin_drpl1/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired\nquery: UPDATE cache_filter SET data = '<table align=\\"center\\" style=\\"width: 200px;\\">\\n<tbody>\\n<tr>\\n<td>\\n<script type=\\"text/javascript\\"><!--\\ngoogle_ad_client = \\"pub-5278265615507417\\";\\n/* 160x600 picture-only, created 9/29/10 */\\ngoogle_ad_slot = \\"3058889442\\";\\ngoogle_ad_width = 160;\\ngoogle_ad_height = 600;\\n//--><!--\\ngoogle_a in /home/edadmin/public_html/includes/database.mysql.inc on line 135

Warning: Table 'edadmin_drpl1.watchdog' doesn't exist query: INSERT INTO watchdog (uid, type, message, variables, severity, link, location, referer, hostname, timestamp) VALUES (0, 'php', '%message in %file on line %line.', 'a:4:{s:6:\"%error\";s:12:\"user warning\";s:8:\"%message\";s:224:\"Table './edadmin_drpl1/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired\nquery: SELECT data, created, headers, expire, serialized FROM cache_filter WHERE cid = '2:44e05be548c17efbc6463c731ca1d7c4'\";s:5:\"%file\";s:44:\"/home/edadmin/public_html/includes/cache.inc\";s:5:\"%line\";i:27;}', 3, '', 'http://www.ed-rex.com/reviews/penny_plain', '', '54.83.122.227', 1513277261) in /home/edadmin/public_html/includes/database.mysql.inc on line 135

Warning: Table 'edadmin_drpl1.watchdog' doesn't exist query: INSERT INTO watchdog (uid, type, message, variables, severity, link, location, referer, hostname, timestamp) VALUES (0, 'php', '%message in %file on line %line.', 'a:4:{s:6:\"%error\";s:12:\"user warning\";s:8:\"%message\";s:870:\"Table './edadmin_drpl1/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired\nquery: UPDATE cache_filter SET data = '<p><center><br />\\n<table align=\\"center\\" border=\\"0\\" cellpadding=\\"0\\" cellspacing=\\"0\\">\\n<tbody>\\n<tr>\\n<td>\\n<div style=\\"text-align: center;\\"><a href=\\"http://ed-rex.com/bumblepuppy\\" target=\\"_blank\\"><img src=\\&qu in /home/edadmin/public_html/includes/database.mysql.inc on line 135

Warning: Table 'edadmin_drpl1.watchdog' doesn't exist query: INSERT INTO watchdog (uid, type, message, variables, severity, link, location, referer, hostname, timestamp) VALUES (0, 'php', '%message in %file on line %line.', 'a:4:{s:6:\"%error\";s:12:\"user warning\";s:8:\"%message\";s:224:\"Table './edadmin_drpl1/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired\nquery: SELECT data, created, headers, expire, serialized FROM cache_filter WHERE cid = '2:1587bce80743d25a13699439e1436ddf'\";s:5:\"%file\";s:44:\"/home/edadmin/public_html/includes/cache.inc\";s:5:\"%line\";i:27;}', 3, '', 'http://www.ed-rex.com/reviews/penny_plain', '', '54.83.122.227', 1513277261) in /home/edadmin/public_html/includes/database.mysql.inc on line 135

Warning: Table 'edadmin_drpl1.watchdog' doesn't exist query: INSERT INTO watchdog (uid, type, message, variables, severity, link, location, referer, hostname, timestamp) VALUES (0, 'php', '%message in %file on line %line.', 'a:4:{s:6:\"%error\";s:12:\"user warning\";s:8:\"%message\";s:828:\"Table './edadmin_drpl1/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired\nquery: UPDATE cache_filter SET data = '<p><center><br />\\n<table style=\\"height: 645px; width: 285px;\\">\\n<tbody>\\n<tr>\\n<td><a href=\\"http://www.bppress.ca/product/old-mans-last-sauna/\\" target=\\"_blank\\"><img alt=\\"The Old Man\\'s Last Sauna, cover image\\" src=\\"/sites/default/files/2013_06/sauna_ad04.jpg\\" st in /home/edadmin/public_html/includes/database.mysql.inc on line 135

Warning: Table 'edadmin_drpl1.watchdog' doesn't exist query: INSERT INTO watchdog (uid, type, message, variables, severity, link, location, referer, hostname, timestamp) VALUES (0, 'php', '%message in %file on line %line.', 'a:4:{s:6:\"%error\";s:12:\"user warning\";s:8:\"%message\";s:224:\"Table './edadmin_drpl1/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired\nquery: SELECT data, created, headers, expire, serialized FROM cache_filter WHERE cid = '2:a641667eb8686ec6a410a6d1682e9f16'\";s:5:\"%file\";s:44:\"/home/edadmin/public_html/includes/cache.inc\";s:5:\"%line\";i:27;}', 3, '', 'http://www.ed-rex.com/reviews/penny_plain', '', '54.83.122.227', 1513277261) in /home/edadmin/public_html/includes/database.mysql.inc on line 135

Warning: Table 'edadmin_drpl1.watchdog' doesn't exist query: INSERT INTO watchdog (uid, type, message, variables, severity, link, location, referer, hostname, timestamp) VALUES (0, 'php', '%message in %file on line %line.', 'a:4:{s:6:\"%error\";s:12:\"user warning\";s:8:\"%message\";s:2569:\"Table './edadmin_drpl1/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired\nquery: UPDATE cache_filter SET data = '<p><center><br />\\n<table style=\\"width: 275px;\\">\\n<tbody>\\n<tr>\\n<td style=\\"background-color: rgb(176, 83, 162); text-align: center;\\">\\n<div><a href=\\"http://ed-rex.com/mailman/listinfo/ed-rex-update_ed-rex.com\\" target=\\"_blank\\"><strong><span style=\\"font-f in /home/edadmin/public_html/includes/database.mysql.inc on line 135
Penny Plain | www.ed-rex.com


Penny Plain

  • user warning: Table './edadmin_drpl1/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired query: SELECT data, created, headers, expire, serialized FROM cache_filter WHERE cid = '2:9d4b80029829e18fc4ecfbb7258ee6cc' in /home/edadmin/public_html/includes/cache.inc on line 27.
  • user warning: Table './edadmin_drpl1/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired query: UPDATE cache_filter SET data = '<div class=\"content\">\n<h3><big><big>Faint praise for <em>Penny Plain</em></big></big></h3>\n<h3><big>Housebound apocalypse less than the sum of its parts</big></h3>\n<table cellpadding=\"0\" cellspacing=\"0\" width=\"350\" align=\"right\" style=\"margin:4px 20px 0px 10px;\">\n<tr>\n<td style=\"padding:0px;\"><img src=\"http://ed-rex.com/sites/default/files/2011_11/burkett_from_nac_350px.jpg\" alt=\"Ronnie Burkett, with marionettes, photo by Trudie Lee, National Arts Centre.\" /></td>\n</tr>\n<tr>\n<td><small><strong><em>Ronnie Burkett, with marionettes, photo by Trudie Lee, National Arts Centre.</em></strong></small></td>\n</tr>\n</table>\n<p>Let\'s get the obvious out of the way: Ronnie Burkett is a master craftsman and any Ronnie Burkett play will be a visual feast and a virtuoso performance of old-fashioned puppetry.</p>\n<p><em>Penny Plain</em> is no exception. The play\'s marionettes are beautiful objects and Burkett &mdash; the solo performer, literally pulling the strings &mdash; gives voice as well as life to his singular creations.</p>\n<p>In Ronnie Burkett\'s hands, each marionette is a living performer, working in willing collaboration with the audience.</p>\n<p>All of which means that, if the craft is to be more than spectacle, the performance and &mdash; especially &mdash; the writing, must be every bit as good as the performance.</p>\n<p>Ronnie Burkett can act. But does <em>Penny Plain</em>\'s script do justice to the wonders of its production?</p>\n<p>The short answer is, <em>Not quite</em>.</p>\n<p><em>Penny Plain</em> is the fourth of Burkett\'s <a href=\"http://www.johnlambert.ca/english/ronnie/ronnie_productions.htm\" target=\"_blank\">seven plays</a> I have seen and it was a little disconcerting to realize that, until I reviewed his CV, I had thought it was the third. The one that lives on most strongly in mind is <em>Happy</em>, which I saw in 2001; the most recent, <em>10 Days on Earth</em> barely registers. Even with prompting, I can only acknowledge that <em>Yes, I saw it. I recognize the poster.</em></p>\n<p>Yet my far-off memories of <em>Happy</em> are so strong that I have been calling the man a national treasure ever since, and have (forgive me the pun) happily payed for tickets ever since.</p>\n<p>But obviously, the man\'s work is not flawless.</p>\n<table cellpadding=\"0\" cellspacing=\"0\" width=\"400\" align=\"left\" style=\"margin: 5px 15px 10px 0px;\">\n<tr>\n<td style=\"padding:0px; background-color:#ffffff;\"><img src=\"http://ed-rex.com/sites/default/files/2011_11/penny_plain001_400px.jpg\" \"alt=\"Penny Plain, blind to the encroaching darkness.\" /></td>\n</tr>\n</table>\n<p><em>Penny Plain</em> is set in a (very) near future and takes place in the titular character\'s rooming house, a fragile refuge from a slow-moving apocalypse.</p>\n<p>The play opens with a series news clips, voices in the dark telling of a plague that has killed tens of millions, of the world\'s financial systems shutting down, of water and power shortages, of a government advising citizens to stay in their homes.</p>\n<p>The end (as they say) is nigh.</p>\n<p>As the lights come up and the voice-overs fade, we see two arm chairs, in one of which sits Penny Plain herself. In the other, Geoffrey, her canine companion animal, somehow bipedal and gifted with the power of speech. This is not science fiction, but fantasy; or maybe, allegory unconcerned with the limitations of genre.</p>\n<p>In any case, Geoffrey\'s response to the crisis is a desire to venture out into the world to become a man &mdash; or rather, a \"gentleman\". He remains dog enough to ensure a pool of applicants to fill his position as companion to the blind Penny, but he does leave and his absence is what sets the story &mdash; such as it is &mdash; in motion. I won\'t bore or spoil you with a synopsis but in truth there isn\'t much plot to spoil, which speaks to some of why this play is less than fully satisfying.</p>\n<p>As usual with Burkett\'s work, the cast of <em>Penny Plain</em> is large and diverse and, often, quirky to the point of caricature (the grotesque American refugees, the Tittys: fat-Elvis Mel and his pneumatic, near-menopausal Barbie, go quite a ways beyond that point).</p>\n<p>Unfortunately, but for Penny herself and, to a lesser extent, Geoffrey\'s replacement Tuppence, the other characters are either cyphers or caricatures.</p>\n<p>Just as we do not know how it is that Geoffrey can speak, we don\'t know (or much care) why it is he suddenly wants to leave. Similarly, the old woman with the walker, bitter and obsessed with shit, is <em>only</em> a bitter old woman obsessed with shit; her murderous daughter is <em>only</em> a murderous daughter; and the timid, ultimately cross-dressing bank-teller too is only a surface whose inner nature is never revealed.</p>\n<table cellpadding=\"0\" cellspacing=\"0\" width=\"375\" align=\"right\" style=\"margin:4px 20px 0px 10px;\">\n<tr>\n<td style=\"padding:0px;\"><img src=\"http://ed-rex.com/sites/default/files/2011_11/penny_plain003_375px.jpg\" alt=\"Penny and Tuppence\" /></td>\n</tr>\n<tr>\n<td><small><strong><em></em></strong></small></td>\n</tr>\n</table>\n<p>The only exception is Tuppence, a little girl escaped from a family of suicidal Christians bent on hurrying to the arms of Jesus. Her insistence that she is a dog, to please Penny (who is not fooled for a moment) is sweetly naive, as her her no-doubt doomed love affair with the mysterious \"Monster\" (a gas-mask wearing boy who sure reminded <em>me</em> of a famous <em>Doctor Who</em> story) is touching.</p>\n<p>Penny Plain herself, hysterically blind since the age of 11, is an old woman in retreat from the world, yet one who has allowed much of the world (and its ills) to follow her into her porous refuge.</p>\n<p>You can tell from that description that she too is more message than person.</p>\n<p>With no character but Tuppence approaching three-dimensional life, Burkett\'s episodic narrative fails to coalesce. In fact, it\'s difficult to talk about the story at all; there isn\'t much <em>there</em> there. Instead, <em>Penny Plain</em> is a series of loosely-connected black-comic vignettes illustrating ideas rather than showing character or telling a story.</p>\n<p>Burkett\'s remarkable marionettes and his powerful performances, with his undeniable ear for dialogue and comic pacing, keep us watching but after the fact, there is not much to hold on to.</p>\n<p><em>Penny Plain</em> is a big idea that has overwhelmed its story. Burkett\'s tale is a melange of science fiction, allegory and cautionary fable, a confection squirming awkwardly within the confines of a one-set situation comedy. It is a play that is often amusing, sometimes even moving, but ultimately a whole that is considerably less than the sum of its parts.</p>\n<p>If you haven\'t seen one of Burkett\'s previous shows, by all means go and see <em>Penny Plain</em>; even a lesser Burkett production is an experience worth having. But don\'t expect much more than a remarkable demonstration of technical accomplishment.</p>\n<blockquote><p><strong>Penny Plain<em> continues at Ottawa\'s National Arts Centre until April 1, 2012. Ticket see to still be available at <a href=\"http://www.nac-cna.ca/en/englishtheatre/event/689\" target=\"_blank\">NAC\'s website</a>. The show will be moving to Montreal\'s <a href=\"http://www.pda.qc.ca/pda-evenement/7311/ronnie-burkett-saison-cinquieme-salle.en.html\" target=\"_blank\">Place des arts</a> in April.</em></strong></p>\n</blockquote>\n<p><center></center></p>\n<table cellpadding=\"0\" cellspacing=\"0\" width=\"688\" align=\"centre\" style=\"margin: 5px 15px 10px 0px;\">\n<tr>\n<td style=\"padding:0px; background-color:#ffffff;\"><img src=\"http://ed-rex.com/sites/default/files/2011_11/penny_plain_set_narrow.jpg\" alt=\"Penny Plain\'s post-performance set. Photo by the Phantom Photographer.\" /></td>\n</tr>\n<tr>\n<td><small><strong><center>Penny Plain<em>\'s post-performance set. Photo by the Phantom Photographer.</em></center></strong></small></td>\n</tr>\n</table>\n\n<p></p>\n</div>', created = 1513277261, expire = 1513363661, headers = '', serialized = 0 WHERE cid = '2:9d4b80029829e18fc4ecfbb7258ee6cc' in /home/edadmin/public_html/includes/cache.inc on line 112.
  • user warning: Table 'edadmin_drpl1.captcha_sessions' doesn't exist query: INSERT into captcha_sessions (uid, sid, ip_address, timestamp, form_id, solution, status, attempts) VALUES (0, '7caee60ce45aaf8011ca5e44cf1bcc7a', '54.83.122.227', 1513277261, 'comment_form', 'b7c9a5fafd74df3b55a90ddac4f5ccc3', 0, 0) in /home/edadmin/public_html/sites/all/modules/captcha/captcha.inc on line 125.
  • user warning: Table 'edadmin_drpl1.captcha_sessions' doesn't exist query: SELECT token FROM captcha_sessions WHERE csid = 0 in /home/edadmin/public_html/sites/all/modules/captcha/captcha.module on line 214.
  • user warning: Table 'edadmin_drpl1.captcha_sessions' doesn't exist query: SELECT status FROM captcha_sessions WHERE csid = 0 in /home/edadmin/public_html/sites/all/modules/captcha/captcha.inc on line 155.
  • user warning: Table 'edadmin_drpl1.captcha_sessions' doesn't exist query: SELECT status FROM captcha_sessions WHERE csid = 0 in /home/edadmin/public_html/sites/all/modules/captcha/captcha.inc on line 155.
  • user warning: Table 'edadmin_drpl1.captcha_sessions' doesn't exist query: UPDATE captcha_sessions SET timestamp=1513277261, solution='eR4Pfq' WHERE csid=0 in /home/edadmin/public_html/sites/all/modules/captcha/captcha.inc on line 137.
  • user warning: Table './edadmin_drpl1/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired query: SELECT data, created, headers, expire, serialized FROM cache_filter WHERE cid = '2:a777d0249b540b4111ef42e9d15d7638' in /home/edadmin/public_html/includes/cache.inc on line 27.
  • user warning: Table './edadmin_drpl1/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired query: UPDATE cache_filter SET data = '<p><center></center></p>\n<table align=\"center\" style=\"width: 225px;\">\n<tbody>\n<tr>\n<td style=\"width: 225px; background-color: rgb(176, 83, 162); text-align: center; vertical-align: bottom;\">\n<div><span style=\"font-size: 19px;\"><span style=\"font-family: georgia,serif;\"><strong>Like what you&#39;ve read?</strong></span></span></div>\n</td>\n</tr>\n<tr>\n<td style=\"width: 225px; background-color: rgb(176, 83, 162);\">\n<form action=\"https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr\" method=\"post\"><input name=\"cmd\" type=\"hidden\" value=\"_s-xclick\" /> <input name=\"hosted_button_id\" type=\"hidden\" value=\"MR496TCXQQXQL\" /> <input alt=\"PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online!\" border=\"0\" name=\"submit\" target=\"_blank\" src=\"http://ed-rex.com/sites/default/files/adverts/donate_button02.gif\" type=\"image\" /> <img alt=\"\" border=\"0\" height=\"1\" src=\"https://www.paypalobjects.com/en_US/i/scr/pixel.gif\" width=\"1\" /></form>\n</td>\n</tr>\n<tr>\n<td style=\"width: 225px; background-color: rgb(176, 83, 162); text-align: center; vertical-align: top;\">\n<div><span style=\"font-size: 26px;\"><em><strong><span style=\"font-family: georgia,serif;\">Tip the author!</span></strong></em></span></div>\n</td>\n</tr>\n</tbody>\n</table>\n<p></p>\n', created = 1513277261, expire = 1513363661, headers = '', serialized = 0 WHERE cid = '2:a777d0249b540b4111ef42e9d15d7638' in /home/edadmin/public_html/includes/cache.inc on line 112.
  • user warning: Table './edadmin_drpl1/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired query: SELECT data, created, headers, expire, serialized FROM cache_filter WHERE cid = '2:0abc4daf3615eae37d92fac6774cbdca' in /home/edadmin/public_html/includes/cache.inc on line 27.
  • user warning: Table './edadmin_drpl1/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired query: UPDATE cache_filter SET data = '<table align=\"center\" style=\"width: 200px;\">\n<tbody>\n<tr>\n<td>\n<script type=\"text/javascript\"><!--\ngoogle_ad_client = \"pub-5278265615507417\";\n/* 160x600 picture-only, created 9/29/10 */\ngoogle_ad_slot = \"3058889442\";\ngoogle_ad_width = 160;\ngoogle_ad_height = 600;\n//--><!--\ngoogle_ad_client = \"pub-5278265615507417\";\n/* 160x600 picture-only, created 9/29/10 */\ngoogle_ad_slot = \"3058889442\";\ngoogle_ad_width = 160;\ngoogle_ad_height = 600;\n//-->\n</script><script type=\"text/javascript\"\nsrc=\"http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js\">\n</script></td></tr>\n\n</tbody></table>\n', created = 1513277261, expire = 1513363661, headers = '', serialized = 0 WHERE cid = '2:0abc4daf3615eae37d92fac6774cbdca' in /home/edadmin/public_html/includes/cache.inc on line 112.
  • user warning: Table './edadmin_drpl1/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired query: SELECT data, created, headers, expire, serialized FROM cache_filter WHERE cid = '2:44e05be548c17efbc6463c731ca1d7c4' in /home/edadmin/public_html/includes/cache.inc on line 27.
  • user warning: Table './edadmin_drpl1/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired query: UPDATE cache_filter SET data = '<p><center><br />\n<table align=\"center\" border=\"0\" cellpadding=\"0\" cellspacing=\"0\">\n<tbody>\n<tr>\n<td>\n<div style=\"text-align: center;\"><a href=\"http://ed-rex.com/bumblepuppy\" target=\"_blank\"><img src=\"/sites/default/files/2011_06/BPad4TNP_04.jpg\" style=\"width: 225px; height: 227px;\" /></a></div>\n</td>\n</tr>\n</tbody>\n</table>\n<p></p></center></p>\n', created = 1513277261, expire = 1513363661, headers = '', serialized = 0 WHERE cid = '2:44e05be548c17efbc6463c731ca1d7c4' in /home/edadmin/public_html/includes/cache.inc on line 112.
  • user warning: Table './edadmin_drpl1/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired query: SELECT data, created, headers, expire, serialized FROM cache_filter WHERE cid = '2:1587bce80743d25a13699439e1436ddf' in /home/edadmin/public_html/includes/cache.inc on line 27.
  • user warning: Table './edadmin_drpl1/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired query: UPDATE cache_filter SET data = '<p><center><br />\n<table style=\"height: 645px; width: 285px;\">\n<tbody>\n<tr>\n<td><a href=\"http://www.bppress.ca/product/old-mans-last-sauna/\" target=\"_blank\"><img alt=\"The Old Man\'s Last Sauna, cover image\" src=\"/sites/default/files/2013_06/sauna_ad04.jpg\" style=\"width: 285px; height: 634px;\" /></a></td>\n</tr>\n</tbody>\n</table>\n<p></p></center></p>\n', created = 1513277261, expire = 1513363661, headers = '', serialized = 0 WHERE cid = '2:1587bce80743d25a13699439e1436ddf' in /home/edadmin/public_html/includes/cache.inc on line 112.
  • user warning: Table './edadmin_drpl1/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired query: SELECT data, created, headers, expire, serialized FROM cache_filter WHERE cid = '2:a641667eb8686ec6a410a6d1682e9f16' in /home/edadmin/public_html/includes/cache.inc on line 27.
  • user warning: Table './edadmin_drpl1/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired query: UPDATE cache_filter SET data = '<p><center><br />\n<table style=\"width: 275px;\">\n<tbody>\n<tr>\n<td style=\"background-color: rgb(176, 83, 162); text-align: center;\">\n<div><a href=\"http://ed-rex.com/mailman/listinfo/ed-rex-update_ed-rex.com\" target=\"_blank\"><strong><span style=\"font-family: georgia,serif;\"><big>Stop being late to the party!</big></span></strong></a></div>\n<p>\n<div><span style=\"color: rgb(204, 255, 0);\"><em><span style=\"font-size: 24px;\"><strong><span style=\"font-family: georgia,serif;\">Subscribe!</span></strong></span></em></span></div>\n</p><p><a href=\"http://ed-rex.com/mailman/listinfo/ed-rex-update_ed-rex.com\" target=\"_blank\"><img alt=\"Subscribe to my newsletter!\" src=\"http://ed-rex.com/sites/default/files/2011_07/subscribe_ad02.jpg\" style=\"width: 275px; height: 108px;\" /></a></p>\n<div><span style=\"color: rgb(255, 255, 0);\"></span></div>\n<div><strong><span style=\"font-family: georgia,serif;\">Subscribe to the <em>Edifice Rex</em> mailing list to be notified whenever there&#39;s an update!</span></strong></div>\n<div>&nbsp;</div>\n<div><strong><span style=\"font-family: georgia,serif;\"><big><big><big><a href=\"http://ed-rex.com/mailman/listinfo/ed-rex-update_ed-rex.com\" target=\"_blank\">Click here to sign up</a></big></big></big><br />\n(I promise, I won\'t abuse your trust; I won\'t sell your address to anyone or anything else, no matter how tempting the offer.)</span></strong></div>\n<div><a href=\"http://ed-rex.com/mailman/listinfo/ed-rex-update_ed-rex.com\" target=\"_blank\">&nbsp;</a></div>\n</td>\n</tr>\n</tbody>\n</table>\n<p></p></center></p>\n', created = 1513277261, expire = 1513363661, headers = '', serialized = 0 WHERE cid = '2:a641667eb8686ec6a410a6d1682e9f16' in /home/edadmin/public_html/includes/cache.inc on line 112.

Faint praise for Penny Plain

Housebound apocalypse less than the sum of its parts

Ronnie Burkett, with marionettes, photo by Trudie Lee, National Arts Centre.
Ronnie Burkett, with marionettes, photo by Trudie Lee, National Arts Centre.

Let's get the obvious out of the way: Ronnie Burkett is a master craftsman and any Ronnie Burkett play will be a visual feast and a virtuoso performance of old-fashioned puppetry.

Penny Plain is no exception. The play's marionettes are beautiful objects and Burkett — the solo performer, literally pulling the strings — gives voice as well as life to his singular creations.

In Ronnie Burkett's hands, each marionette is a living performer, working in willing collaboration with the audience.

All of which means that, if the craft is to be more than spectacle, the performance and — especially — the writing, must be every bit as good as the performance.

Ronnie Burkett can act. But does Penny Plain's script do justice to the wonders of its production?

The short answer is, Not quite.

Penny Plain is the fourth of Burkett's seven plays I have seen and it was a little disconcerting to realize that, until I reviewed his CV, I had thought it was the third. The one that lives on most strongly in mind is Happy, which I saw in 2001; the most recent, 10 Days on Earth barely registers. Even with prompting, I can only acknowledge that Yes, I saw it. I recognize the poster.

Yet my far-off memories of Happy are so strong that I have been calling the man a national treasure ever since, and have (forgive me the pun) happily payed for tickets ever since.

But obviously, the man's work is not flawless.

Penny Plain is set in a (very) near future and takes place in the titular character's rooming house, a fragile refuge from a slow-moving apocalypse.

The play opens with a series news clips, voices in the dark telling of a plague that has killed tens of millions, of the world's financial systems shutting down, of water and power shortages, of a government advising citizens to stay in their homes.

The end (as they say) is nigh.

As the lights come up and the voice-overs fade, we see two arm chairs, in one of which sits Penny Plain herself. In the other, Geoffrey, her canine companion animal, somehow bipedal and gifted with the power of speech. This is not science fiction, but fantasy; or maybe, allegory unconcerned with the limitations of genre.

In any case, Geoffrey's response to the crisis is a desire to venture out into the world to become a man — or rather, a "gentleman". He remains dog enough to ensure a pool of applicants to fill his position as companion to the blind Penny, but he does leave and his absence is what sets the story — such as it is — in motion. I won't bore or spoil you with a synopsis but in truth there isn't much plot to spoil, which speaks to some of why this play is less than fully satisfying.

As usual with Burkett's work, the cast of Penny Plain is large and diverse and, often, quirky to the point of caricature (the grotesque American refugees, the Tittys: fat-Elvis Mel and his pneumatic, near-menopausal Barbie, go quite a ways beyond that point).

Unfortunately, but for Penny herself and, to a lesser extent, Geoffrey's replacement Tuppence, the other characters are either cyphers or caricatures.

Just as we do not know how it is that Geoffrey can speak, we don't know (or much care) why it is he suddenly wants to leave. Similarly, the old woman with the walker, bitter and obsessed with shit, is only a bitter old woman obsessed with shit; her murderous daughter is only a murderous daughter; and the timid, ultimately cross-dressing bank-teller too is only a surface whose inner nature is never revealed.

Penny and Tuppence

The only exception is Tuppence, a little girl escaped from a family of suicidal Christians bent on hurrying to the arms of Jesus. Her insistence that she is a dog, to please Penny (who is not fooled for a moment) is sweetly naive, as her her no-doubt doomed love affair with the mysterious "Monster" (a gas-mask wearing boy who sure reminded me of a famous Doctor Who story) is touching.

Penny Plain herself, hysterically blind since the age of 11, is an old woman in retreat from the world, yet one who has allowed much of the world (and its ills) to follow her into her porous refuge.

You can tell from that description that she too is more message than person.

With no character but Tuppence approaching three-dimensional life, Burkett's episodic narrative fails to coalesce. In fact, it's difficult to talk about the story at all; there isn't much there there. Instead, Penny Plain is a series of loosely-connected black-comic vignettes illustrating ideas rather than showing character or telling a story.

Burkett's remarkable marionettes and his powerful performances, with his undeniable ear for dialogue and comic pacing, keep us watching but after the fact, there is not much to hold on to.

Penny Plain is a big idea that has overwhelmed its story. Burkett's tale is a melange of science fiction, allegory and cautionary fable, a confection squirming awkwardly within the confines of a one-set situation comedy. It is a play that is often amusing, sometimes even moving, but ultimately a whole that is considerably less than the sum of its parts.

If you haven't seen one of Burkett's previous shows, by all means go and see Penny Plain; even a lesser Burkett production is an experience worth having. But don't expect much more than a remarkable demonstration of technical accomplishment.

Penny Plain continues at Ottawa's National Arts Centre until April 1, 2012. Ticket see to still be available at NAC's website. The show will be moving to Montreal's Place des arts in April.

Penny Plain's post-performance set. Photo by the Phantom Photographer.
Penny Plain's post-performance set. Photo by the Phantom Photographer.

Spread the word!

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.

Warning: Table 'edadmin_drpl1.watchdog' doesn't exist query: INSERT INTO watchdog (uid, type, message, variables, severity, link, location, referer, hostname, timestamp) VALUES (0, 'php', '%message in %file on line %line.', 'a:4:{s:6:\"%error\";s:12:\"user warning\";s:8:\"%message\";s:307:\"Table &#039;edadmin_drpl1.accesslog&#039; doesn&#039;t exist\nquery: INSERT INTO accesslog (title, path, url, hostname, uid, sid, timer, timestamp) values(&#039;Penny Plain&#039;, &#039;node/317&#039;, &#039;&#039;, &#039;54.83.122.227&#039;, 0, &#039;7caee60ce45aaf8011ca5e44cf1bcc7a&#039;, 249, 1513277261)\";s:5:\"%file\";s:62:\"/home/edadmin/public_html/modules/statistics/statistics.module\";s:5:\"%line\";i:63;}', 3, '', 'http://www.ed-rex.com/reviews/penny_plain', '', '54.83.122.227', 1513277261) in /home/edadmin/public_html/includes/database.mysql.inc on line 135

Warning: Table 'edadmin_drpl1.watchdog' doesn't exist query: INSERT INTO watchdog (uid, type, message, variables, severity, link, location, referer, hostname, timestamp) VALUES (0, 'php', '%message in %file on line %line.', 'a:4:{s:6:\"%error\";s:12:\"user warning\";s:8:\"%message\";s:797:\"Table &#039;./edadmin_drpl1/sessions&#039; is marked as crashed and should be repaired\nquery: UPDATE sessions SET uid = 0, cache = 0, hostname = &#039;54.83.122.227&#039;, session = &#039;messages|a:1:{s:5:\\&quot;error\\&quot;;a:1:{i:0;s:399:\\&quot;user warning: Table &amp;#039;edadmin_drpl1.accesslog&amp;#039; doesn&amp;#039;t exist\\nquery: INSERT INTO accesslog (title, path, url, hostname, uid, sid, timer, timestamp) values(&amp;#039;Penny Plain&amp;#039;, &amp;#039;node/317&amp;#039;, &amp;#039;&amp;#039;, &amp;#039;54.83.122.227&amp;#039;, 0, &amp;#039;7caee60 in /home/edadmin/public_html/includes/database.mysql.inc on line 135