Hot Water and a Saucy Puppet Show

Or some of the events on Thursday January 20th. Even the work day was busy - I had to fill in for my coworker who was away on family matters.

In Hot Water

I got a panicky phone call at 15:29 on Thursday afternoon from my mom, who was exhausted with having to deal with a flood in the basement. After running through the cold sunny winter outdoors, I got home in record time and found out that a slow leak had opened up in the water heater. It was just making big puddles with no real depth (whew!), though it could have gotten worse since my mom couldn't shut off the water, though at least she was able to kill the power.

[Puddles from the Leak]

Since it was an Ottawa Hydro Electric Power rental heater (now reorganised as Energy Ottawa), they replaced it free, and quite quickly. It was called in around 3:30, a big truck full of boxed heaters and two guys arrived at 4:30, they were done amazingly swiftly at 5:00.

[Old Hot Water Heater]
Old Heater

They set up their equipment and started pumping out the water from the old heater. While it was emptying, one guy went back to their truck and prepared the new heater - which includes soldering on some of the pipes and the new temperature controlled water mixer. The other guy cut the old pipes off, saving some parts for reuse. The new tank was wheeled in on a hand truck, bumping down the stairs to the basement. The old one quickly took the journey back while the new pipes were being hooked up. The basement smoke detector sounded off during the soldering stage; good to know that it actually works. That's quite a common occurrence; apparently it is most annoying when it is close by and can't be turned off (such as ones in some apartment buildings). Then they were done! I noticed a drip leak from the coupling for the water mixer and was able to call them back before they drove off (they were taking a cigarette break before the next job) - it just needed tightening.

[New Electric Hot Water Heater]
New Heater

The one new change in city standards (or is it provincial?) is the appearance of a water temperature controlled mixer that blends in cold water so that the output temperature is always 120F - I guess too many people were scalded with 140F water.

[Temperature Controlled Water Mixer]
Temperature Controlled Cold Water Mixer

Provenance - A Saucy Puppet Show

After that I had to dash off for dinner at Trattoria Caffé Italia for a couple of hours before we went down the street to see Provenance at the GCTC. Fine Italian food as usual, from the generous artichoke vinaigrette dish through the house cannelloni up to the tartufo desert.

Provenance is really worth seeing, if you don't mind saucy puppet shows (Bender would enjoy it). Definitely not for kids - there's lots of sex and horrors and plenty of humour. The story swirls around the discovery of the events behind a painting of a nude stocking wearing youth with his hands tied over a high tree limb, cradled by a swan. We find out who the swan is, range through her life in various bordellos of Europe, and find her in present day Vienna as an old elegant whore house owner (ambiguous grammar on purpose). There a Canadian ugly girl, raised by two gay men (she's turned out pretty weird), has come to find out about the provenance of the painting she obsessed over while at school.

Argh! There's just so much story crammed into the two hours (straight - no intermission) of the amazingly energetic puppetry performance that I can't describe it in only a few thousand words. The funny and sad beaver mascot sequence (girl becomes a women in the boy's locker room while being kicked around in a beaver costume), ending in the most riveting play within a play is one memorable sequence among many. Though that does remind me of the chicken mascot sequence in Hair High, again sex and sports mascots mixing violently.

The puppets are quite varied (he's got dozens in the translucent forest cabinets around the stage), from hand moved seemingly trivial dolls to traditional string marionette roller skating monkeys. He uses several other puppet techniques along the way - one good simple one is a face puppet (a doll's head attached by stiff wire to the puppeteer's head so he can animate it while we also see his face for double expressions) where the ugly girl rips into the academic world when she doesn't find beauty at university.

Good lighting sets the mood and occasionally does the expected spotlighting of the puppets (hiding the puppeteer) or less conventionally shows the puppeteer, or both, as the wildly varied presentation techniques demand. The music also fills its role of setting mood and place unobtrusively, supporting the story. Maybe that's why I like it - the primacy of the story, and lots of it. Plus the extremely strong characterisation and wittiness: witness the argument between the ugly girl and the bordello door woman, which throws in a lot of spikey tourist bashing. The puppeteer's voice acting is amazingly energetic (emotionally inflected to give additional life to the puppets and loud enough to hear easily), though that's part of the performance that could be improved (he needs a larger tone range, particularly for the women's parts).

The only other defect that annoys me is the implausible ending where the boy gets stripped naked and hung from a tree, shortly followed by the girl wandering by and finding him dying. The stripping naked by a British officer seems unlikely (they'd just shoot deserters or capture them for later shooting).

Anyway, if you're not offended by Canadian sex, it's definitely quite entertaining. At the GCTC until January 30th, and if you miss it, keep an eye out for Ronnie Burkett the puppeteer, in the future.

Yes, it certainly was an eventful Thursday.

- Alex

Copyright © 2005 by Alexander G. M. Smith.