Mind of a Snail Puppet Co.’s newest show, Multiple Organism, had it’s world premiere at the Toronto Fringe Festival this week, and it was a magical display of shadow puppetry. The performance was a feast for the eyes and ears, and was impeccably crafted by co-creators Chloé Ziner and Jessica Gabriel.
The show felt like a surreal, gender-bending, feminist fable. With whimsical, zany projections, Multiple Organism explores the male gaze in art through the eyes of a woman (at one point, this statement applies quite literally — watch out for it). The storytelling here is impressively unique. Moreover, the soundtrack, which is sublime in its own right, is an original creation by the artistic duo and gives the performance a romantic, melancholic edge.
The performance gives glorious life to inanimate objects. Two toothbrushes fall in love and have a tumultuous love affair, and a soulful toilet regularly bestows wisdom. In this way, Mind of a Snail shows their strength: they take seemingly ordinary objects and manage to inject them with such colourful character. I didn’t see toothbrush bristles being pushed together, I saw lovers embracing in the throes of passion.
What was wonderful about this show, too, was the free form it took. The narrative didn’t move in a straight line, but zigzagged its way forward, unfolding like an onion. That is, an onion with self-awareness, a sharp tongue, and a great sense of humour. It revealed its story in piecemeal layers, aided by an array of wacky characters.
Bear with me here, because this might sound weird, but this performance reminded me of the 1986 film Labyrinth (as a side note, director Jim Henson was an American puppet master and the creator of the Muppets). In one iconic scene, Jennifer Connelly’s character falls down a tunnel filled with talking hands, who dub themselves “Helping Hands.” It’s a somewhat terrifying, certainly mystical world, where fantastical creatures run amok.
In Multiple Organism, the female protagonist (played by Ziner) falls down a sewage pipe and finds herself surrounded by absurdist characters. More so, she is at the receiving end of a near-constant “helping” hand throughout the show, as the master projectionist (Gabriel) guides much of her movement.
With this show, Mind of a Snail has created their own eclectic, fantastical world. They explore, they examine, they reflect. This is a sight to see!
- Multiple Organism plays at the Factory Mainspace. (125 Bathurst St.)
- Tickets are $12. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Scadding Court, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Content Warnings: Unsuitable for Minors, Sexual Content, Nudity.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible through a secondary route.
- Friday July 7th, 05:00 pm
- Saturday July 8th, 09:15 pm
- Sunday July 9th, 08:45 pm
- Tuesday July 11th, 03:00 pm
- Thursday July 13th, 01:45 pm
- Friday July 14th, 11:00 pm
- Sunday July 16th, 05:15 pm
Photo of Jessica Gabriel by Chloe Ziner