After the House Lights

Curious Contagious at the Edmonton Fringe Festival


Curious Contagious. Photo credit: Chloé Ziner

Curious Contagious by Mind of a Snail
August 11 – 18, 20, 21 at Venue #39: La Cité Francophone

An interview with Mind of a Snail.

Describe your show in five words.

Largescale shadow-theatre inside a unicorn.

Okay, now that we’re intrigued… what’s the longer description?

Curious Contagious is a darkly comedic modern fairy tale genetically spliced with a surreal science film. We’re going viral!

Funny, beautiful and strange, with handmade layered projections and original music.  A stressed-out unicorn falls ill while building a giant donut shop. Meanwhile, a pair of quirky viruses search for the perfect place to replicate. As the viruses cause increasingly serious symptoms, the unicorn is forced to make a difficult choice.

You describe Curious Contagious as “a darkly comedic modern fairy tale genetically spliced with a surreal educational science film”. Sounds crazy! How do you combine those two styles in this show?

Yes it is crazy! This is definitely our most complex shadow show to date. The story is told using layered shadow puppetry techniques, physical comedy, overhead projectors and a large number of detailed cutouts. Also featured is an original musical soundtrack we created ourselves. It’s a real multi-dimensional creation!

Two different shadow theatre techniques are used for this show. We have over six light sources on stage that we manipulate throughout. Behind the large screen, in a more “traditional” shadow theatre style, the unicorn’s world is portrayed in mostly black & white tones, using a custom built high powered LED light, shadow masks and various detailed cardboard cutouts.

In front of the screen, the inside of the unicorn’s body is portrayed using two overhead projectors. These colourful scenes are made of translucent cellophane, repurposed theatre gels, ink, and other found materials. As puppeteers we also play characters: we are the viruses, both manipulating the world we inhabit and stepping into the projections to become part of the scenes.

Curious Contagious uses shadow puppetry to tell the story. Why does this format work so well?

Shadow puppetry is a wildly versatile medium. The two of us have been experimenting with shadow puppetry for over 13 years together. Characters and symbols in shadow can change sizes and shapes in an instant, we can easily zoom in and out of microscopic realms, peering into places that are typically just left up to the imagination.  Inanimate objects have personality as we emphasize a specific texture or shape with the light. As visual storytellers we start first by crafting puppets and playing with images and technical elements, only then can we really determine what the show will be. Shadow theatre is really challenging! Not everything you picture works the way you want it to. There’s a lot of redesign and discovery that has to happen before the story that wants to be told emerges.

What ideas or questions did you want to explore in Curious Contagious?

For this show we wanted to go inside the body to explore microscopic worlds. We are fascinated by the many unseen mysterious things that are invisible to the naked eye that influence the whole system in big ways. We also played with the idea of retelling the story of Pandora’s Box, but from the perspective of the bacteria and viruses that are unleashed on the world. We really wanted to challenge ourselves technically by using both sides of the screen and ended up teaching ourselves a new form of tabletop shadow puppetry we had never explored before this show.

Anything else you want audiences to know about the show?

Last year we had an awesome time at Edmonton Fringe with another largescale shadow show called “Caws & Effect” which was all about magical crows. We are stoked to be back! If you’ve have ever wondered what happens inside the bloodstream of a unicorn, Curious Contagious is for you!

The 35th Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival is August 11 – 21. Get your tickets at