Night Feed, presented by Canvas Sky Theatre, is a puppet play with a golden emotional core. Armed with a cast of working mothers, a conglomerate of objects and designated puppets (more on this later), and rock-solid direction, Night Feed seeks to demonstrate the struggles of motherhood. The performance I attended elicited tears, laughs, and everything in between from our mostly-female audience; Night Feed is a necessary piece of theatre that combats any misconceptions of theatre only being for young audiences.
What is so compelling about Night Feed is it characterization of its central figure: the new mother coming to grips with her newfound role. Without any spoon-fed exposition or unnecessary soliloquy, we know that this person is an environmentalist, a biker, an academic, a reader, a wife. She is a fully-formed person beyond the confines of motherhood; Night Feed could so easily fall into a preachy self-contradictory rut, but avoids this beautifully. Truly, kudos to the team behind this concretely feminist piece of theatre.
There is but one issue with Night Feed; dramaturgically speaking, the puppets used are semiotically inconsistent. Some puppets are traditional: the baby is a doll with articulated limbs and joints. The object represents the concept here; we suspend our disbelief to believe the baby puppet is a baby. Conversely, sometimes body parts take on the role of puppet: hands are vaginas, hair becomes anthropomorphic . These ideas work, but we must suspend even more disbelief. Later in the performance, inanimate objects become the puppets: pieces of a bike speak to the new mother, books battle each other for supremacy, liquor bottles attempt to contrive less-than-respectable choices. Individually, each of these puppet models work, and in combination with each other, we as an audience are of course able to suspend disbelief for each level of object-informed supposition. It is the transition between these levels that is at times a bit dramaturgically gawky; it’s fine, and doesn’t distract from the emotional product, but is something perhaps reanalyzing in future remounts out Night Feed.
Night Feed is a real gem, an idea that’s likely a bit weird on paper but executed beautifully by Canvas Sky Theatre. It might benefit from a more intimate venue, but it is a piece of theatre that must continue to be produced; please see this show.
This article was reposted with permission from capitalcriticscircle.com. It was originally published on June 21st, 2019.
This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.