Technically brilliant and filmed at a live performance in the round at the Resolution Festival (The Place, 2023), Monica Tolia’s profound, proud, and political dance/physical theatrepiece starts with a voiceover in the minority dialect of Toisan.
From this, we move into a challenging set of movements and moments which hint at tradition, metamorphosis (the second performer, Ting-ning Wen, eventually makes a glorious entrance from her ‘cocoon’), and unease.
At 25 minutes, it is the vibrancy of this piece that stays in the memory, and the staging in untypical style allows many different viewpoints of what is happening, ehich, here, the camera chooses for us.
Tolia’s masked form hints at South Asia’s experience with Covid; perhaps, too, Ting-Ning’s slow transformation hints at the freeing of enforced distance and protection in pandemic times.
A Snake in the House Means The Family Will Never Want challenges the Western world’s suspicion of the snake and its reputation as sneaky, evil, and destroying. Here, the reptile is benign, nurturing, safe.
It isn’t always clear what is going on, with no linear story or sense of centre, but Tolia and Ting-Ning’s eventual duet, 18 minutes in, somehow accepts that moment of reaching out into the wotld once more.
In this show, Tolia makes their point about work, routine, ritual, and an animalistic sense of freedom. It feels like a piece that may reward repeated viewings, which is possible throughout the Edinburgh Fringe.
There is a savage beauty in this work, with a final, ambiguous coda bathed in red light and with an ethereal soundscape of bird and animal noise understored by light electronica.
A Snake in the House Means The Family Will Never Want is written by Monica Tolia and Shao Ying Fong. You can watch on-demand throughout the Edinburgh Fringe with tickets here.