Photo by James Douglas
The Wonderheads are back at the Edmonton fringe with Grim and Fischer, and while their most recent effort didn’t tickle my heart-strings as strongly as their previous works, they’re unique combo of full face-masks and physical theatre are still a family-friendly joy to take in.
Mrs. Fischer is nearing the end of her life when the Grim Reaper comes knocking on her door, but the sassy Mrs. Fischer isn’t ready to go with him peacefully. She appears to be as smitten with scheming and adventuring as she was in her youth, and the inventive fight that she throws the multidimensional Grim’s way is great fun.
It’s a cliche that’s used to describe the Wonderheads all to often, but they show they put on really does feel like a Pixar film on stage. The subtle ways that the actors move when communicating their thoughts and intentions, with the incredulous expressions on their mask never wavering, is more like traditional animation than seems possible. This is all necessary of course, because neither Grim or Mrs. Fischer say a word during the entire play.
This is physical theatre pushed to its storytelling limits
However, I did find some of the actions in Grim and Fischer to be a little unclear. In past Wonderheads productions, some of the feelings being communicated could be interpreted in a more vague manner, and your understanding of individual scenes and the play as a whole wouldn’t be significantly impacted. In Grim and Fischer however, there are small segments – about 15 seconds long at most – in which I have no idea what the characters were trying to say to each other.
For the most part, I think these segments involved non story-critical jokes, but compared to the clear efforts of the majority of the play, these moments of murkiness stuck out quite a bit.
Grim and Fischer is a heartfelt story that will send you away filled with feel-good vibes. I’d say that elements of the production felt like the Wonderheads are stumbling a little bit, but I’d rather see them stretch the boundaries of full-mask theatre every year, than stage reruns of their other safe, and proven productions.