Writer: Bebe Sanders
Director: Imy Wyatt Corner
For a play called Snail Bebe Sanders’ one woman show runs at a rapid pace. Pace is Sylvie’s problem. If she’s not out running, she’s volunteering. When she’s not volunteering, she’s working a high-pressured job as a primary school teacher. She is desperately motivated to climb the career ladder.
She has bi-weekly coffee catch ups with her ever-concerned mum and spends Fridays letting her hair down – box- ticking her way through leisurely activities in the hope of obtaining some sort of fulfilment. Sylvie is all too consumed with what she should be doing and when. A ticking clock is forever encroaching on her carefully coordinated life. She seldom comes up for air. It’s quickly apparent that this millennial is utterly overwhelmed and anxious, thanks to the pressures society inflicts on us to be considered successful.
Sylvie’s mantra is “work hard, dream big, stay positive”. It seems to be paying off when a promotion to deputy head is in arm’s reach. Things start to become undone with the arrival of class pet Nigel – an African land snail. Precocious pupil Freida alerts Sylvie to the chip on its shell, warning her teacher that it might turn into a crack. It’s a simple yet effective metaphor for Sylvie’s situation – the armour she wears to combat her way through life is starting to wane.
Not only does Sylvie become invested in Nigel, taking it upon herself to learn all she can about snails, but she also becomes invested in Freida’s father. Discovering he is newly single, Sylvie veers into unprofessional and inappropriate territory. She crosses the line between being a teacher and an overly familiar, friendly presence to an impressionable seven-year-old. Adding the parent on social media breaks school protocol. Her conduct and her career are soon called into question. Furthermore, Nigel has started talking to Sylvie. The chip has become a crack. With her life seemingly spiralling out of control, the teacher finally learns a lesson: how to put herself first, step off the conveyor belt so many of us become trapped on and adopt a more snail- like approach to life.
Sanders writes and performs this animated monologue and easily sustains our attention throughout its 60 minutes. Employing excellent physicality and effortlessly morphing into various characters, from 7-year-old Freida to her mother and the head teacher, Sanders is magnetic. Hayden Wood draws some laughs as the voice of the sultry snail and Kayode Gomez and Catja Hamilton use simple yet often startling sound and lighting to convey Sylvie’s deteriorating state of mind and confusion.
Mental health, particularly among millennials, is such a prevalent aspect of modern society. Snail might not necessarily tell us anything we don’t already know about burnout, anxiety and unrealistic expectations. It does, however, offer a refreshingly innovative take.
Runs until 5 March 2023