By Abigail Williams
August 27, 2019
Courtesy of Halle de La Machine

On the outskirts of Toulouse, France, a mechanical mythical creature is waking from its slumber.

The Minotaur stands 45 feet tall. Its chest rises and falls with each breath, steam streaming from its nostrils. Its eyelids flutter open to reveal two icy blue irises. It steps forward onto the tarmac — a runway that once helmed the French aviation company Aéropostale’s operations.

Where a trailblazing aviation giant once stood, literal giants now stand.

Last fall, a citywide performance took over Toulouse. Two massive, mechanized puppets were set loose in the streets over the course of four days. One was the 50-ton Minotaur, the other was a giant spider. No one knew their routes in advance, but excited residents shared the robotic puppets’ locations on social media. Electrified masses followed the Minotaur and spider through the streets — over 600,000 people experienced the four-day street theater performance.

Now, the larger-than-life beasts live in Halle De La Machine, about 15 minutes outside of Toulouse’s city center. And visitors can actually ride one of them.

Courtesy of Halle de La Machine

Asterion, the Minotaur, offers six or seven rides a day — 10 on summer weekends. Visitors can clamber up Asterion’s back, where 50 people stand in a temple-like structure during the trip. Members of the street theater company La Machine sit in key operational positions. One technician is hooked up, providing the movements that the Minotaur will mirror. Another drives the carriage, while a teammate directs from the ground.

But the minotaur ride is not the only thing up La Machine’s sleeve. The performance artists also play with fire and water in an immersive show just yards away from Asterion. Flames spurt from metal contraptions as a spider-like device shoots soap and bubbles from overhead. The show ends with a deluge of water exploding from a water cannon, soaking the crowd.

Courtesy of Halle de La Machine

Will you understand it? No. Will you love it? Absolutely.

Inside Halle De La Machine, visitors encounter devices and props built for La Machine’s previous productions. Guests are treated to demonstrations of the Bread Catapult, the Wine Serving Machine — each of which are as delightful as they sound — and offered a chance to climb atop Ariane, the 20-foot-tall spider.

Courtesy of Halle de La Machine

Looking to experience the magic of La Machine yourself? Halle de La Machine is open from Tuesday to Sunday. Tickets for the permanent exhibition cost 9 Euros, as does the Minotaur excursion. Tickets for both the visit and excursion cost 16 Euros.

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