My first thoughts on going to see a puppet show during the Fringe Festival were A) that is oh-SO fringe-y and B) this could be really terrible or it could be amazing. When I looked into a bit more, I learned that it is titled as a Performance Art Shadow Play and my feelings remained the same as the above.
The crowd that gathered on the first real rainy Fall night in Vancouver was decent and was made up of what seemed to be mostly other Fringe performers or volunteers. I have to say the first 5 minutes left me pretty skeptical as I watched a performer descend the steps of the Waterfront Theatre in a pretty interestingly crafted plastic dress. The process took too long and it didn’t rope me into any story. I was just left wondering if she would speak or trip on her gown and tumble down onto the stage. However, despite such a whimpering start, the performers gradually pulled me on board, scene by scene, as what I would call the real show, began.
Using only two overhead projectors behind a large white plastic tarp, the two founders of Mind of a Snail company were able to put on a multi-layered show made up of 90% salvaged plastic materials that made me feel a bit nostalgic for afternoon school presentations. The intricate details of each piece of art, be it a city scape at night or a tiny stegosaurus munching on a blade of grass, were impressive and thorough. Their transitions from scene to scene were clever and noteworthy. One of my favourite moments was a headpiece/mask worn by one of the actors, which cast a branded image on the screen and was one of the only instances we saw of a real human in the show.
The highlight for me was when the two performers came out from behind the screen and spoke to the audience afterwards. They explained a bit of their process and answered questions from the audience – questions on how they created some visually intriguing lighting effects, to how long it took them to make each miniscule piece. This was the most interesting part of the night and really won me over in the end. It made me wish they had not spent the duration of the show hidden behind the screen, but rather had been part of the whole production in person.
The performers were able to incorporate images and ideas and produce a complete story. Therefore, in the end, the show did win me over and made me appreciate the amount of thought and care that went into it – even though I was not entirely blown away by the story or the message. We live in a city and a time that hammers the environmental movement over and over again, but it is an important message and I was happy to be a part of it and something so visually appetizing.
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