Slime listens to what animals have to say

Tony-nominated playwright tackles climate change in play premiering in Vancouver this week

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      What do you when 100 animals gather for a conference on climate change? According to the team behind Slime—a new play making its world premiere in Vancouver this month—you get a whole lot of noise.

      And artistic director Kendra Fanconi says that’s a good thing.

      “We’re looking at how we humans as animals can do a better job at listening and responding,” Fanconi says.

      Slime will make its world premiere on June 15 and run until June 24 at the Russian Hall in Vancouver. It is a coproduction between Fanconi's The Only Animal theatre company and the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.

      The play is set in the near future focuses on the third annual SLIME conference, where 100 animals, scientists, and seven young translators gather to debate the future of an insatiable creature taking over the seas.

      Slime is written by British playwright Bryony Lavery, author of the 1998 Tony-nominated play Frozen. Lavery says the play’s inspiration came following an expedition in the seas north of Scotland.

      “When I got back, I’d been taking little videos of the expedition, but in the background there was always people talking,” she says. “There was just jibber jabber from humans—humans talking more than they listen.”

      Lavery says the play’s focus on animal voices and sounds is meant to inspire humans to listen more.

      “So we’re looking at how we humans as animals can do a better job at listening and responding,” Lavery says.

      The production employed an animal sound librarian who “translated” Lavery's script into various animal languages for the performance.

      “They went through this huge storehouse of animal recordings from a biodiversity museum and were able to translate line by line what the animals were saying,” Fanconi says. “And the actors had to do auditions in their animal languages. And they perform all of the animals in the play, some live, some recorded.

      Donald Lee

      Slime utilizes various types of puppetry and costuming to create animals ranging from crabs to polar bears, all made out of recycled plastic. The cast and crew collected recycled plastic from their own homes for several months leading up to the production.

      “We took the average amount of plastic that a Canadian would generate in a year, and that’s the weight allowance of the plastic in the show,” Fanconi says.

      One of the play’s characters wears a t-shirt that says “straws suck,” a reference to environmental movements to ban single-use plastic straws. Fancion says the timeliness of the play’s overall environmental message—particularly in Vancouver, where city council just voted to ban single-use plastic straws in 2019—is not lost on the production team.

      “We have an escalation of our current environmental problems and we also have an escalation of hat activist spirit that is coming in this youth movement,” she says. “I think that the play really cleverly deals with both of those things.”

      Fanconi says the production is partnering with the Georgia Strait Alliance, a Vancouver-based ocean protection organization. The Georgia Strait Alliance will have information and resources available in the lobby for audience members interested in ocean activism following the play.

      Slime will show from June 15 to 24 at the Russian Hall in Vancouver. For more information, visit