It's a jungle sometimes in Morna Pearson's new play, performed in front of an audience who appear to be on safari within the grounds of Edinburgh Zoo as part of Edinburgh International Science Festival. Noted cryptozoologist Dr Vivienne Stirlingshire is in the building, and some of her fans on the staff are very excited indeed. The good, if somewhat demanding, doctor has returned from her latest adventure with a brand new mammal to show off to the world.
Dr Stirlingshire's brother Henry is sceptical. The fact that he runs the zoo doesn't help, but neither does the pair's sibling rivalry that's rooted in a damaged childhood which has left them estranged. With what is described as the something-or-other Vivienne brought back with her seemingly missing, she is forced to chase her way around a very human looking zoo in an attempt to rid herself of her personal demons.
This co-production between site-specific specialists Grid Iron, Lung Ha Theatre Co and the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh as well as EISF takes full advantage of Lung Ha's large ensemble in what is essentially a slapstick promenade through Dr Stirlingshire's psyche. Directors Joe Douglas and Maria Oller navigate their cast and audience through a world of freaky creatures, oddball zoo-keepers and performing penguins contained in various locales indoors and out.
Pearson's writing is a kind of child-friendly vaudeville. Gags are so bad they're genius, and an inter-active routine that drags the audience into a retired zoo-keeper's leaving do could be straight out of pantomime. As Nicola Tuxworth's Vivien and Antony Strachan's Henry reach some kind of accord, the beast within both is tamed, uncaged at last to roam free.
The Herald, April 6th 2017