Midsumma Festival 2016: ANIMAL

Unleashing the beasts

By Myron My

Performed as part of this year’s Midsumma Festival, Animal explores what it means to be ‘human’ in relation to sexuality, relationships and society through the duality of man and beast. Created and performed by Mikey J. White, this is a multidisciplinary piece that incorporates theatre, music, burlesque, multimedia and spoken word, and has us questioning how superior we actually are to animals.

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White personifies a variety of animals throughout the show and there is an almost ritualistic process in becoming each animal through the wearing of a near-abstract, skeleton head-piece of the animal being portrayed. This results in a cleverly nuanced performance by White whereupon his physicality and mannerisms begin to be an extension of each animal. The hessian bag that is worn around his waist further highlights this duality that White is keen to explore. On the one hand, the bag is coarse and has a primal feeling to it and on the other, the makeshift trousers are a sign of respectability and civility.

While White’s intent is thus to unravel the complex connections of man and beast, the execution is not always fully successful. Where it does work best is with his more adult adaptation of children’s story book “We’re Going On A Bear Hunt”. The narrative is used to demonstrate how we have become so accustomed to the superficiality of life and only caring about ourselves. Similarly, his effective reading of Andrea Gibson’s poem “A Letter to My Dog, Exploring the Human Condition” also highlights how we need to start caring for one another and stop criticising and hurting each other.

Animal is an attempt to bring into question whether man is as different to the beasts of the world and he likes to believe. The performance raises this concern successfully and evocatively with some of the acts, but on the whole, I felt there needs to be stronger ties between the animals used and the way in which the issues White wants us to consider are presented for this promising work to reach its potential.

Animal was performed at Hares & Hyenas between 19 – 21 January 2017.

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