An unconventional Jabberwocky comes to town

Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky is a nonsensical poem to begin with, but when you give it to the folks at The Old Trout Puppet Workshop, it transforms into a dark production best suited for an adult audience.

The Old Trout Puppet Workshop wants adults to discover the magic of puppet theatre — with a twist

Pete Balkwill, co-artistic director of the Old Trout production of Jabberwocky, says the troupe's goal is to 're-imagine the art of puppetry for adults.' (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

An unconventional and maybe even unnerving rendition of Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky has come to town.

The show is put on by Calgary-based Old Trout Puppet Workshop in partnership with The Cultch.

Co-artistic director of the show, Pete Balkwill, says Old Trout is known for eccentric theatre.

"Our pursuit is to re-imagine the art of puppetry for adults and try to find those levels of sophistication that might've been lost when puppetry got captured more for children's audiences," he said.

And their take on the children's poem is no stranger to that model.

"The Jabberwocky is a poem about vanquishing that great beast that sort of lurks off in the scary forest," Balkwill explained.

"What we discovered when we were working through the poem was that the jabberwocky manifests itself in all kinds of different ways — right down to trying to get your four-year-old daughter to eat her dinner and suddenly you are attacking this great beast," he said.

It is true that our material covers dark terrain and often can be visually striking in a way that would terrify a smaller child in their dreams.- Pete Balkwell

"Then on the spectrum it can go right across to the great fear of Donald Trump and some people might consider him a great jabberwocky at this point."

Balkwill says the show is meant to force the audience to get introspective and ask some tough questions of themselves, such as, "Are we adequate? Have we fulfilled those things in life that were most meaningful?"

​Not really for children

While Balkwill says some parents have been known to bring their children to Old Trout productions, some of the material could scare kids.

"It is true that our material covers dark terrain and often can be visually striking in a way that would terrify a smaller child in their dreams," Balkwill said.

The set and the puppets reflect that.

"It's a little bit like a combination of comic book, meets puppetry meets freaky actors wearing things on their heads."

The show runs from February 6-17 at the York Theatre in Vancouver.

With files from The Early Edition and Margaret Gallagher

Lewis Carrol's 'Jabberwocky' is a nonsensical poem to begin with, but when you give it to the folks at The Old Trout Puppet Workshop, it transforms into a dark production best suited for an adult audience. 5:43