Kenny Streule on being

An unusual, engaging one-man show now playing at the Mainline Theatre

By Faith Langston

There is a scary child-eating ogre statue in Bern known as the Kindlifresser or Child Eater. This scary statue has traumatized children for generations – a manifestation of the Swiss mentality? Though it is certainly an old monument, (constructed in the 15th century) its graphic violence is a far cry from the sanitised world of the North American child, a place where the Cookie Monster, and Robert Munch reign supreme, and a mere smack to a young bottom has serious consequences.

A younger Kenny Streule – Image: courtesy of Kenny Streule

Kenny Streule never thought he’d be on stage in a production directed by Amy Blackmore relating anecdotes about his authoritarian Swiss German grandmother Beaver. Hard to believe a clipped, harsh Teutonic accent could become a study of a no-nonsense Swiss grandmother or grossmutter; that this unusual, engaging performance now playing at the Mainline Theatre actually evolved from dramaturgy provided by Jesse Stong through the Young Creative Unit of the Playwright’s Workshop Montreal.

The young, introverted Kenny Streule is “malunderstood”. Language requirements mean that he must not only learn French and English but also, Swiss German. Under his grandmother’s vigilant tutelage, Swiss history, and culture, are inescapable. Beaver’s influence does not stop here. She has her own way of dealing with bullying, the theft of Crispers from Kenny’s school lunch kit and even his audition for the theatre programme at Dawson College.

With the help of Jessica Alley’s puppet design and Rebecca Durocher’s stage management, Streule forms intimate ties with his audience. He seems to slide effortlessly through his performance: scene follows scene seamlessly, details are meticulously embroidered onto the script. A momentous occasion, for instance, is marked when the cow tails stop swinging or when Swiss clocks are no longer synchronised.

Kenny Streule never thought he’d be on stage… relating anecdotes about his authoritarian Swiss German grandmother…

Kenny’s real life grandmother is scheduled to come to a performance on February 3. However, I’m betting the few people who meet her will be underwhelmed. Streule’s genius involves creating a larger-than-life character who despite her tough assertiveness, would be unable to exist in the real world.

Malunderstood runs until February 9 at the Mainline Theatre.
Box office: 514 849-FEST (3378)

Feature image: Kenny Streule by Jeremy Bobrow

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Read also: other articles by Faith Langston

Faith Langston is a Concordia graduate with a long standing interest in theatre. For the last ten tears she has worked as a literacy tutor with the Jamaican Association. 

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