Unintentionally Depressing Children’s Tales (Caterwaul Theatre) 2014 SummerWorks Review

Unintentionally Depressing


For all its didacticism, Caterwaul Theatre‘s Unintentionally Depressing Children’s Tales has a misleading title. Meticulous, wistful, and wise, not a single moment in this set of stories is either depressing or unintentional. It might more accurately be called Emotionally Complex Tales for Imaginative Adults.

But creator Erin Fleck isn’t just after the facts. Playing at SummerWorks, Unintentionally Depressing Children’s Tales has bite and a tongue-in-cheek sense of humour, with more than its fair share of black comedy. (Fleck likes to finish her characters off at the end of a rope.)

Her stories tell of lonely, disgruntled, and reclusive figures, generally called to some odd form of heroism in a harsh and mixed-up world. Their quirks are fanciful and charming, and their narratives turn on bizarre plot twists. Some of the material is sad, admittedly, but mostly I found it strangely reassuring.

Fleck’s storytelling is lyrical and rich, but sometimes veers dangerously close to verbosity. The effusiveness of the language is part of the overall Edwardian aesthetic, however, and fans of neo-romanticism will relish her baroque flourishes and clever trills. I found the writing to be very well-observed, full of delightfully perceptive details.

Fleck spins her highly literary yarns with beautiful projections, using a variety of techniques, mostly involving illuminated paper cuts. The artistry is exquisite and shows the kind of perfectionist sensibility that’s always so satisfying for audiences. Perfectionists sometimes don’t get to enjoy the same satisfaction, but Fleck and her co-creators were clearly having a good time.  

The great thing about such a thoughtful, detail-oriented show is that it lets the audience really relax and wrap themselves up in the performance. The sense of being enveloped is reflected in the actual space, a giant fort constructed of blankets and sheets. It’s an ideal environment for telling stories, especially if they’re a bit grim. Not to fear though; there’s sweetness in there too.


  • Unintentionally Depressing Children’s Tales plays at Lower Ossington Theatre Studio (100A Ossington Ave).
  • Show times:
    Thursday August 7, 8:30pm
    Saturday August 9, 8:00pm
    Sunday August 10, 12:30pm
    Monday August 11, 9:00pm
    Wednesday August 13, 4:00pm
    Thursday August 14, 10:00pm
    Saturday August 16, 6:00pm
    Sunday August 17, 7:00pm
  • All individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at http://summerworks.ca, by phone by calling the Ticketwise Call Centre at 416-907-0468, or in person at the SummerWorks Info Booth – located at The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen Street West) August 5th-17th from 10AM – 7PM (Advance tickets are $15 + service fee).
  • Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows.

Photo provided by the company