Night Feed, playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival, is a new mother’s grotesque and whimsical fever dream. As she succumbs to isolation, loneliness and self-doubt, we are invited into the surreal world conjured by her sleep-deprived, fraught mommy-brain. While she nurses, objects from her apartment come to life in a parade of judgement, temptation and torment.
Created by Sarah Joy Bennet (in collaboration with Ginette Mohr and Shawna Reiter), Night Feed plays off very real fears that plague a young mother’s psyche. Worry for the child’s well-being—both physical and psychological—hovers in the air, betraying deep insecurities about her mothering ability. Subterranean caverns of resentment and guilt crack open as she longs for beloved activities that once defined her personhood, but are no longer possible.
For most of the hour, Corinne Murray (as the Mother) is trapped on the sofa, a puppet baby swaddled in her arms and a refreshing glass of water, just mere feet away, yet painfully out of reach. Puppeteers Mohr and Bennet manipulate the objects around her—books, a bottle of booze, her equally lonely and rusting bicycle—and bring them to life. These objects have very real, clearly defined personalities and, as they interact with the Mother, ultimately reveal her personality.
The clever object puppetry is as elegant and restrained as it is surprising and evocative; it had me almost constantly gasping and giggling with delight. The entire space seems to quiver and sway with unwieldy life: the Mother’s many layered and conflicting emotions made tangible and struggling for attention. The tone and intensity of these effects feel carefully measured, some details are quiet and subtle—like the edges of a blanket softly caressing her cheek.
Night Feed is a haunting, hilarious experience that ends on a cathartic and deeply moving final note. Its resonance is far reaching, I think, though the experience conveyed here will probably strike the deepest chord with new mothers.