Victoria Fringe Festival 2017 – Gruff

Review by Caitlin Baird – Staff Writer

August 26, 2017

Drought-dry Banfield Park is an evocative setting for a show about scarcity. Gruff, the latest from local powerhouse Puente Theatre, is an all-ages musical featuring puppet-headed goats and a froggy under-bridge troll. Puente’s more adult Lieutenant Nun swept the Fringe awards in 2015. Dealing with many similar themes, Gruff is sure to please and inspire.

The simple set is delightfully covered in signs warning goats of the carnivorous troll-in-residence that guards the bountiful vegetation across its bridge. Design is the heart of this production. All three performers wear wonderful masks and evocative costumes that add a certain magic.

Sight lines from the chairs are not ideal, with trees and people obscuring some of the performance. Sound quality is excellent despite the heads and the outdoors. Vocal performances from the two goats are exceptional, while the troll’s performance captivates with a witchy physicality.

Gruff is a show for children, but the simplification of its politics leaves its symbolism murky. Perhaps it is the marketing causing confusion, leaning on themes of immigration reform and the refugee crisis, with specific mention of Trump’s planned wall. Gruff‘s troll shifts between metaphors, and evokes in turn bureaucratic red tape, a complacent middle class, and a dehumanised, racialized group. Particularly, jokes intended for parents often muddy the messages meant for children.

Viewers can choose either a folding chair or the blanketed ground toward the front. The air is damp as the sun sets, so be sure to bring enough layers.


Fun and sincere, Gruff earnestly asks us to evaluate the ways we engage with each other – or disengage.  It’s  worth the trip to Vic West.


Puente Theatre

Created by Bátiz-Benét, Judd Palmer, & Brooke Maxwell

Victoria Fringe Festival

Fringe Site E (Banfield Park)


  • Aug 29 @ 7:00pm
  • Aug 30 @ 7:00pm
  • Aug 31 @ 7:00pm
  • Sept 1 @ 7:00pm
  • Sept 2 @ 1:00pm & 4:00pm
  • Sept 3 @ 1:00pm & 4:00pm

Tickets $11 Regular / $9 Students and Seniors/ $7 Kids (12 under)

Fun, sincere, and worth the trip!
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