june 2018 | Volume 168
Slime is a new eco-play that laments what we’re doing to our oceans and the world’s animals. The title refers to a fast-spreading organism that causes itching, boils and worse due to a combination of the toxic waste we dump into our waters plus global warming. The characters in the play are delegates to an eco-conference, some representing particular groups of animals, all having learned to speak a particular animal language. From time to time a voiceover calls for a moment of silence to mourn the recent extinction of a particular species.
Beyond that, I confess, I lost the thread of the play about halfway through and didn’t really understand much else that went on. This was partly due to sound quality. Playing in the round with head-mikes in the echo-y Russian Hall, the actors were relatively incomprehensible to me whenever their backs were turned, muddy amplification adding to the sonic blur. And I could never figure out what a key character, Ev (played by the very good Mason Temple), was doing in the play. So part of this is on me, part on the script and Kendra Fanconi’s direction.
Some things I liked a lot: the seal- and otter-speak by Barb (Edwardine van Wyk) and bird-speak by Ola (Lisa Baran), the “swimming” of Godfrey (Teo Saefkow) with his neon fish costume (credit designer April Viczko) and the fluid movement of dancer/signer Dumbo (Sophia Wolfe), who has taken a vow of silence because humans drown out other species. I also loved the I-don’t-know-what-to-call-it skateboard-like thing that Ev rides, moving backwards and forwards and spinning around gracefully as if by magic. (Techno-magic, I know, but still …)
Set, prop and puppet designer Shizuka Kai takes high honours for her prop and puppet animals ironically made of plastic bags—birds, fish, a seal—and a bear comprised of large plastic sheets, as was the ocean. The Vancouver Aquarium’s major theme right now is the many ways plastic has become THE toxic element in the world’s oceans. I assume Kai used recycled plastic and has plans to re-recycle it all when the show closes.
Anais West plays Coco, an angry eco-warrior who insists on calling Ev “asshole,” and Pedro Chamale’s Frezzie is a horndog delegate. Everyone in the play says “fuck” and its variations way too often.
I wanted Slime to be much better than it is and to like it better than I did. The Only Animal has done great work in the past and eco-theatre is definitely one of the important waves of the future. But as the play suggests, the present is the problem.
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