Image by Human Zoo Theatre Company
By The Human Zoo
Saturday 16th July, York Theatre Royal
I’ve been wanting to get back on the theatre-watching-bandwagon-train for a long time now, and when I spotted this show on York Theatre Royal’s website I knew it would be right up my street. It would also be the first ‘proper’ (as in, not panto) play ManDan had ever seen and a few friends ended up coming along on my recommendation so the pressure was on. Suffice to say no one was disappointed!
Performing in the Royal’s small studio theatre, the wonderful ensemble cast (dressed in what I can only describe as shabby-chic-mime costumes) took us through several short tales, play-within-a-play style, each as charming and hilarious as the last. Every cast member had a shining moment and Nick Gilbert (‘Clive’) in particular had some brilliant comedic moments and responded to the audience to great effect, which is a difficult but necessary skill when performing in such an intimate setting. The live music was fun and evocative all at once and for me, really brought the kind of magic the piece needed to make it truly immersive – if there was a soundtrack available I’d have it on right now.
The look of the thing was a tasty visual delight. There were glittering fairy lights strung out and in boxes, a giant head (my personal favourite) and miniature exploding bird people. They took us from the woods to Hollywood, from the Underground to the sky. We saw the mundane and the unusual. It was…great.
These are clearly a young company with a style and a fervor for the possibilities that theatre holds. Their style may not be absolutely original – taking from the Tim Burton school of quirkiness (I’m sorry, I know, I hate that word too) and companies such as Les Enfants Terribles – but what really is? If it’s executed to near perfection, which it was, with moments that take you by surprise, which it has, then what more can you really ask for? Not much, I say.
It was a rare treat in York to see theatre of this type and I’m hoping to see more of it now York Theatre Royal’s refurbishment is complete; at the very least, I hope the Human Zoo make a return with future productions – I’ll be the first to buy a ticket.
Summary: A riotous and enchanting melding of poetry, puppetry, song, movement and music with some ingenious staging and props chucked in for good measure, I (and everyone I was with) absolutely loved this performance. Can’t wait to see them again.