Space Hippo (Wishes Mystical Puppet Co.) 2018 Toronto Fringe Review

Photo of Space Hippo

This Toronto Fringe Festival, no show has wowed me more with its whimsy, humour and visuals than Space Hippo by The Wishes Mystical Puppet Company.

I mean, with only five years left on the planet before it succumbs to climate change, what else should humanity do to save itself than send a hippo into space? Yup, that’s the incredible premise for this mostly shadow puppetry presentation.

Seri Yanai and Daniel Wishes are the performers and masterminds behind the action of the show, with music by Elliott Loran. Projected using plastic panes in front of flashlights, they create a world where a hippopotamus can become confused with an alien goddess.

Generally the soundtrack is pre-recorded with three songs performed live by Loran – although he composed them all. Yanai and Wishes cover the voices of the various creatures we encounter as they manipulate the images.

I loved the ease with which they slid into a variety of styles. One of the earliest sequences is treated like a silent film with rollicking music and title cards, introducing us to Miss Hippo as she is prepared for her journey.

Interspersed with that are comic and comical sequences featuring LizardMan – who always gets a laugh for just saying his own name – and FoodRobot, who only speaks Japanese. The joke of how FoodRobot came to be is one of my favourites in a show that doesn’t mind skewering politics or religion.

The second song in the show involves a thoughtful meander amidst glorious glowing backgrounds. The use of colour – a purple hippo! – is strategic and beautiful. It becomes easy to get lost in the world of the show; somehow even the green glowing galaxy becomes believable.

Loran’s vocal chops are fully on display during the other two songs as the story slips into prologue/epilogue montages.

The few times that a speech bubble appeared in the show felt unnecessary, merely underlining the spoken dialogue – but that’s obviously a minor quibble with a show whose humour is so riotious.

Definitely worth the intergalactic trip to a land of large mammals, luminous imagery and lots and lots of laughter.


  • Space Hippo plays at the Randolph Theatre. (736 Bathurst St.)
  • Tickets are $13, including a $2 service charge. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes and discounts for serious Fringers.
  • Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Festival Box Office at Scadding Court (707 Dundas St. W.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
  • Content Warning: Realistic violence or gore.
  • This venue is wheelchair-accessible through a secondary route. We recommend checking in with the venue box office at least 15 minutes before showtime.
  • Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.


  • Wednesday July 4th, 8:45 pm
  • Friday July 6th, 8:45 pm
  • Sunday July 8th, 10:30 pm
  • Monday July 9th, 8:15 pm
  • Wednesday July 11th, 12:00 pm
  • Thursday July 12th, 5:15 pm
  • Saturday July 14th, 12:00 pm

Photo of Space Hippo in the Cave of Wonders by D. Wishes.

2 thoughts on “Space Hippo (Wishes Mystical Puppet Co.) 2018 Toronto Fringe Review”

  1. just to clarify. ALL the music in space hippo…not just the onstage music, was composed by Elliott Loran (me!). It seems people are under the impression that I’ve just written the 3 songs with lyrics when in fact I wrote all the music (score) for space hippo…which include many complicated classical pieces (including the “rollicking music” played during the silent film sequence as well as the instrumental classical suite that I played live near the end of the show (consisting of 3 songs -Cave of Wonders, Transformation and Hall of the Gods) etc. I also played all the different instruments that were recorded (for example, the “Star Wars” cantina song ripoff in the Palace scene has a bunch of percussion and wind instruments layered in…). All in all, I recorded 23 tracks and poured my heart in this work. You can get the full album online on band camp: . Anyhow… I appreciate your review of Space Hippo. It will help sell tickets and for that I thank you! I just feel a bit disheartened that my work is not being recognized as my work. In the review you say that Dan and Seri are the masterminds behind the show and that I contributed the live music (3 songs). That’s just not accurate.
    I’m sorry that this has turned into a long rant. Thank you for getting out and reviewing!!! It’s not an easy job and it is appreciated and vital to the theatre ecology. I hope you enjoy the festival!

  2. Thank you for your comment Elliot. Since there was no program at the venue this was the information available to our writer at the time. We will make the correction in the review.

    Mooney on Theatre

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