In France, a giant spider and a minotaur roam, and sleep

PARIS (NYTIMES) – Imagine looking out the window one morning and seeing a gigantic spider perched on the roof of a neighbouring building – its eight legs extending to the street below.

Then you walk downtown and realise that a 15m-tall creature with the head of a bull and the body of a man was looming above you.

Hallucinating? Not in Toulouse, France, where the city has given itself over to an immersive form of street theatre, bringing to life creatures like the giant spider and the Minotaur, the mythical monster from Greek mythology that is half bull and half man and said to have lived in the centre of a maze on the island of Crete.

Both creatures are the conception of Francois Delaroziere, the artistic director and leading creative force behind La Machine, a theatre company that works with technicians and designers to fabricate mechanical creatures on a vast scale and creates public spectacles around them.

The spider and Minotaur will be part of a show, The Guardian Of The Temple, running until Sunday in Toulouse, which the website says aims to reinterpret the myths of Ariane and the Minotaur.

La Machine has displayed a dragon in Beijing, the spider had its debut in Liverpool, England, several years ago, and a dragon and spider visited Ottawa in 2017.

Delaroziere described his goal to local news outlets as making the city and its residents all part of a vast work of art by giving them a common topic to react to so that they would “talk to each other” and “the whole city becomes a place of theatre.”

The Toulouse Minotaur, who has been named Asterion, arrived in Toulouse on the evening of Nov 1 and slowly made its way down the streets as people stood and gawked.

It was transported to the vast square in front of the majestic building that houses the city administration.

The Minotaur is made of unpainted lime tree wood and metal. It has been constructed to seem as real as possible and even makes the sound of breathing as it moves.

Apparently “asleep,” he was pulled along by some of the 16 technicians who coordinate his movement, his peaceful but powerful breathing heard above the crowd’s chatter. His arrival, which constituted Act I of the drama, was accompanied by a cast of scores of actors, opera singers and musicians.

On Friday morning came Act II.

Toulouse residents and visitors found him the following morning still asleep in the middle of one of the main squares. But he soon roused and began to move through the streets.

By evening, the spider, named Ariane, had awoken as well, and was poised on the top of the Hotel Dieu.

After The Guardian Of The Temple concludes on Sunday, Ariane and Asterion will take their place in a newly opened exposition space in a neighbourhood of the city that Toulouse is trying to revive.

Some 350,000 to 400,000 people are expected to see some part of the production during the weekend.

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