Binge Fringe Magazine

REVIEW: SNAIL, Bebe Sanders, VAULT Festival ★★★☆☆

SNAIL is a sideways glance down the high pressure life of a young teacher on the brink. The piece covers burnout and mental health with an impressive expressive outlook, while in tandem providing laugh-out-loud moments of physical and narrative comedy following the topsy turvy life of Sylvie, our central character. The snappy wit and clownish charm of the piece will capture your attention, but it seems as though the script doesn’t quite know what it wants you to feel once it has that attention. Sylvie is a deeply believable character and her experiences no doubt reflect on a generation who are on the go 24/7, yet we’re left unclear as to what the piece has to say or how it envisions untangling the moral quandries that Sylvie ends up finding herself in.

Sylvie seems to have it all together – a regular routine of exercise, work-life balance, meal prep and one night out at week with the school’s sexually prolific, workaholic headteacher Dinah. It’s clear Sylvie admires Dinah, as she counts for the ultimate aspiration of Sylvie’s lifestyle, but it isn’t long before the cracks begin to show in Sylvie’s always-on lifestyle. Between messy meet-ups with her cantankerous Mum, encouraging a student to cause mischief, and trying to find a student’s hot dad on Facebook, we’re witness to fractured moments in Sylvie’s mental health in which she begins communicating with Nigel, the class snail, and it isn’t long before the whole things gets a lot more animalistic.

Towards the end of the piece, Sylvie embraces her “inner animal”, but it isn’t quite fleshed out as to what we’re supposed to interpret from that device, beyond the hilarious imagery of her donning a pair of antennae and sludging around the stage. At the back of the stage sits a large glass wall reminiscent of the snail tank in Sylvie’s classroom, and as she explores what it’s like to be the class pet we’re left wanting a bit more. A bit more clarity, a bit more meaning, and maybe a bit less detail about snail sex. While often hysterical, and leaving the audience in fits of giggles, the piece doesn’t yet have a clear nose as to what it has to say about the non-stop world of work and play.

Bebe Sanders’ physical performance and storytelling style flow with ease – you’re captivated by Sylvie’s antics from the minute she comes bounding onto the stage, and the short flits into the various other characters are distinct, dramatic and painfully funny. It’s hard often to feel sympathy for Sylvie, who seems to have catapulted herself into the situation she finds herself in, and the pace of the piece leaves you laughing the whole way as Sylvie soon finds herself up shit creek with no paddle in sight. Unfortunately, the performance came across under-rehearsed, and it became clear that a few stumbles over lines left Sanders a little rattled. A bit of fine tuning here would make sure that the performance stays consistent and coherent throughout.

Seperate to the performance, there are a few elements which are a little superfluous, given how tight and torrentuous the script is in showing off Sylvie’s demise into the animalistic. We are warned before the show begins of “lightweight flying objects” that may hit us during the show, and the moment of release is a little underwhelming, if unnecessary. Equally, it feels as though these elements could have been subordinated for the addition of some moments of tenderness that are lacking, meaning the audience doesn’t quite have the emotive connection to Sylvie for the pay-off at the end to truly deliver.

I couldn’t finish this piece without mentioning the utterly magical experience of witnessing Sylvie stab her sexual partner with a giant sword-like appendage (that’s what snails do, apparently) – this whole section is full of comedic cathartic release, and sordid silliness. With a little tightening up and some redirection with its message and meaning, SNAIL could be something really great.

Sharp, silly and full of laugh-a-minute physical storytelling – you’ll have fun in this one even if it doesn’t leave you with a lot to think about.

Recommended Drink: Let Dinah grab you another Pornstar Martini – be sure to neck the prosecco shot!

Catch SNAIL at VAULT Festival until Sunday 5th March at 18:35, 15:10 and 18:05 (date dependent). Tickets are available through the VAULT Festival Box Office.

Jake Mace

Our Lead Editor & Edinburgh Editor. Jake loves putting together reviews that try to heat-seek the essence of everything they watch. They are interested in New Writing, Literary Adaptations, Musicals, Cabaret, and Stand-Up. Jake aims to cover themes like Class, Nationality, Identity, Queerness, and AI/Automation.

Festivals: EdFringe (2018-2023), Brighton Fringe (2019), Paris Fringe (2020), VAULT Festival (2023), Prague Fringe (2023-24), Dundee Fringe (2023)
Pronouns: They/Them