In France, a Giant Spider and a Minotaur Roam, and Sleep

PARIS — Imagine looking out the window one morning and seeing a gigantic spider perched on the roof of a neighboring building — its eight legs extending to the street below.

Then you walk downtown and realize that a 50-foot-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 theater, 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 center of a maze on the island of Crete.

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

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, was awake as well, and was poised on the top of the Hotel Dieu.

After the show, Ariane and Astérion will take their place in a newly opened exposition space in a neighborhood of the city that Toulouse is trying to revive.

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

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