The Fantastic Life of Minnie Rubinski


The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh

Vision Mechanic’s production of The Fantastic Life of Minnie Rubinski was conceived during the pandemic and is inspired by creative director Kim Bergsagel’s mother (real name Sondra Rubin). Part movie, part installation and part puppet-show, it’s an affecting look into the memories and changing fortunes of one woman’s life.

Entering the performance space, we find ourselves in a darkened room dominated by a central ‘brain,’ a little shelter where we are invited to sit awhile and listen to the recorded sounds of a jumble of voices and musical cues. From there, we can follow one of a number of illuminated ‘synapses’ to a whole series of screens showing vignettes of key incidents from Minnie’s life. The characters are puppets, moving around custom-built sets, which are presented in intricate detail – check out the sequence in a 1950s supermarket and take a close look at the hundreds of items ranged on the shelves. The attention to detail is astonishing!

The scenes we are offered range from charming glimpses of Minnie’s childhood, to the years of her unfulfilling marriage, her time spent running a swish art gallery and latterly, her final days in a care home as she increasingly descends into dementia. It’s in these latter stretches that some of her adventures become particularly bizarre and the lines between memories and hallucinations are allowed to blur. We can choose to watch the sequences chronologically or simply go to whichever screen is vacant at any given time and piece everything together from what’s onscreen. (I really recommend this approach. It’s oddly like playing detective and the storyline is so skilfully handled, it never becomes confusing.)

Of course, a production like this isn’t the work of one person, but of a whole team of creative artists – puppet makers, set dressers, musicians, you name it – and their splendid endeavours are up there on the screens for all to see, as they pool their diverse talents to create a charming and fascinating narrative. I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything quite like this before.

Interested parties should make a beeline for the Fruitmarket Gallery, because this delightful production, showing as part of the Manipulate Festival, is only available to view until Sunday 12th February. Go and spend forty-five minutes in Minnie’s extraordinary world. It’ll be time well spent.

4.4 stars

Philip Caveney


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