Erin Reviews The Cautionary Tale of Barry Von Peabody and the Scarlet Street Theatre

August 28 2012

​I had high hopes for The Cautionary Tale of Barry Von Peabody and the Scarlet Street Theatre. After all the programme notes “side-splitting” and “epic”, yet I was feeling rather dubious upon arriving at the tent… I took my seat in the Tiny Top, with my eyes fixated on the miniature stage, waiting for the miniature tale to unfold – with a set the size of an average television, I didn’t want to miss a thing. As the tale unfolded, you were left with no choice but to be fully appreciative of the skill and timing that went into setting the story, including a mysterious smoke machine. The set changed seamlessly and regularly, so much so it was hard to remember that Jacob Williams has only two hands. At times the scene was really magical and took me back to childhood, sitting (probably way too) close to the television watching a favourite animation – yet this one had a storyline that appealed to all ages (with at times some adult themes). I still heard Darby the nine year old, one time crowd participant, giggling away at the jokes too – with giggles turning to solid laughter with the rest of the adults at the mention of the f-bomb.

Williams cleverly added some local, audience appropriate gags to his script, some impromptu and others probably well-rehearsed since arriving in Civic Square, but it felt like the story was just for us, cosy and personal. At first glance, or first scene in it was hard to appreciate the intricacy of the puppets and the tale, but fast forward to the end of the show and I was certainly very grateful for the elaborate spectacle that played out in miniature before our eyes. I am sure I was not alone in feeling some empathy for star of the show Barry Von Peabody, which is no easy feat, making an audience identify with a puppet. This one man, multi puppet show was definitely no easy feat to pull off in its entirety, but I’m so glad Williams did, just like the notes in the programme said he would. This Cautionary Tale was without doubt, one of the highlights of the Festival for me – you missed out if you didn’t see it.