The Fantastic Life of Minnie Rubinksi – Fruitmarket

Produced by Vision Mechanics

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A journalist, mother, gallery owner, wife, writer, child, and saviour of the world from giant reptiles – there’s a lot to take in during The Fantastic Life of Minnie Rubinski, which translates the words and thoughts of one woman’s life, now living with dementia, and turn these glinting pieces of their personality into a scale-filmed legacy, utilising puppetry to craft an often surreal, though occasional mundane and domestic, world for audiences to walk-through.

Creators of Scotland trotting Storm, Leith-based visual theatre producers have traded in their open-air and outdoor feats to delve deep into the mind – and we’re coming along on the adventure. Stepping into the darkened Fruitmarket studio, a series of screens are connected to the synapses of a large, glowing and (though not really, the sound and lighting generate) pulsating brain. We’re welcomed in, handfuls at a time at intervals to allow for space and plenty of time to soak in the exhibition, to sit, stand, jog – whichever we like, and listen and watch these windows into Minnie’s life.

Though one could argue there is an ‘order’ to it all – wondering from place to place makes little difference in the grand scheme, if anything stoking interest in completing the set. Shifting from Minnie’s adventures overseas in an exploration for art outside of her cultural surroundings, to the sudden solace of her life in a care home, Vision Mechanics has sculpted a snapshot of life – an immeasurably powerful achievement. And they handle it with deft care and respect.

The tenderness and depth of the production speak immensely. But as too does the storytelling mechanics of the filmed sequences of Minnie’s life. Featuring numerous characters, and sets, the craft involved is intense – there are no words outside of mumbles, the score keeps our attention focused and each complimenting the accompanying story well. Every marionette has a professional, though undoubtedly ‘hands-on’ look, but it works well for the less straightforward narrative. The small jokes in each story, spilt-milk cartons being the final straw of Minnie’s marriage, and the celebrity cut-out stand-ins for the Gallery opening crowd all work together to make every aspect of the filmed sequences enrapturing for the five to eight minutes they hold.

And upon walking through the finale of the exhibition performance, audiences come to learn of the life and adventures of creative director Kim Bergsagel’s mother, still living with dementia at eighty-eight. The pieces align, and the ingenuity and care have taken throughout become all the more apparent as the stakes and investment in sharing their mother’s stories and experiences. So don’t be put off by the large cranium sitting in the centre of the room, investigate, and hear the inner thoughts and words of the tremendous woman who inspired this extraordinary installation piece, which pulses with life, reverence, and appreciation.

From the gargantuan to the table-top, Vision Mechanic’s power in storytelling is remarkable in its diversity. A deeply rewarding experience, The Fantastic Life of Minnie Rubinski takes its titular ‘fantastic’ and applies it across the board throughout the entire exhibition. Audiences owe it to themselves, and the company, to take their time and appreciate both the intricate puppetry at work and the sewn seeds of storytelling which come back with repeated viewings of the stories in differing orders. It truly encapsulates the brilliance of the MANIPULATE festival better than most productions.

A Snapshot of Life

Additional information relating to The Fantastic Life of Minnie Rubinski and Vision Mechanica may be obtained here.


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