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 different to the beasts of the world. The performance raises this successfully with some of the acts, but on the whole, I felt needs to be stronger ties between the animals used and the way in which the issues White wants us to consider are presented.
Click here to read my interview with Mikey J. White.
Animal was performed at Hares & Hyenas between 19 - 21 January 2017.
* Original review appeared on Theatre Press on 26 January 2017.