Monday, 6 July 2015

Toronto Fringe review: Caws and Effect

By Christopher Douglas
B.C. company, Mind of a Snail, returns to Toronto with their overhead projection puppetry to present Caws and Effect at the Factory Theatre.  Telling a simplistic and meaningful tale about crows taking over the world, Chloe Ziner and Jessica Gabriel initially use masks to animate their characters.  Their movement and live sounds effectively create a world where the audience tosses naturalistic expectations out the door, becoming more susceptible to the shadow puppet world that we are about to be submerged in.
The show's narrative is gentle and the city sequence meanders, however the humour and beauty of the piece, as it revels in nature, reminds us city-dwellers how much life there is outside our routines.
Beautifully crafted, the artistry involved in creating the projections is immense and the skill involved in making such a fluid and cinematic experience live can feel overwhelming.  These performers never take a break onstage, yet they understand pacing enough to know when we need another visual wow, a new laugh or a moment to absorb everything that has transpired.  Occasionally the visual prowess of the show with its fade-ins and surprise feats (which include internal organs, a bird's eye view of the world and that glorious worm puppet) feels gimmicky, but their environmental tale does not. 
Caws and Effect mostly relies on a soundtrack composed by the ladies of Mind of a Snail, with the occasional punny speech bubble or cackling crow sound from the performers, who even when manipulating the images are part of the show.  
If the show were a few minutes shorter, it would be ideal family entertainment - well, maybe aside from some of the puns... 

With extreme precision and artistry that Gabriel and Ziner bring to their storytelling, Caws and Effect will clearly cause a sold-out effect to descend upon the box office.  So, as the crow flies, get yourself there now.

Info and tickets to all Toronto Fringe shows can be found at

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