EFR - Reviews of Here's What I Know About Humans

Here's What I Know About Humans

Sun 12th – Sat 18th August 2012

reviews

Mel Melville

at 02:27 on 13th Aug 2012

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What a peculiar show. As the audience enters the room slow and pensive music emphasises the joyous fact that there is indeed a woman on stage acting convincingly like a dog. This actress (Korina Kontaxaki) is truly adorable to watch as she gnaws at a bone and chases newspapers around the stage. The whole experience is rather surreal. Oh, and then the dog Lulu begins to speak.

Throughout the duration of the show, Lulu shares with us all her newfound knowledge about humans in a very thought provoking fashion. Lulu understands that ‘in society, a human's life is precious’ and that money solves all our differences – ‘the power of this simple piece of paper.’ Lulu delves into the complicated life of humans whilst desperately trying to grasp how paper and material are important in life and why the loudest bark is irrelevant. At points the dog is manic. At points the dog is infatuated with ‘her human.’ Lulu introduces her owner but the audience never meets him and only hears him from a pre-recorded voiceover. This is highly effective and all the sounds are impeccably well-timed, but perhaps another character would have spiced up the play a little. Despite the actress being believable and very endearing, there were times where the play dipped in energy and a new face would have been highly appreciated. There are some excellent lines in this play and many observations from Lulu are far too true. It is a weirdly philosophical play that certainly leaves you with food for thought.

Certain parts of the play work far better than others and the random songs seemed rather strange. The singing feels a bit out of place and it isn’t exactly blissful to listen to but it is oddly poignant in a way that you will only understand when you watch it.

The ending can certainly be adapted to look slightly more professional without the tech girl coming on. One simple tweak here will drastically change the general feel towards the end of the show which doesn’t need to be as melodramatic as it is. The show is quite powerful in its own right and the actress has extremely unique qualities. It’s certainly worth a watch.

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Juliet Roe

at 10:02 on 13th Aug 2012

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A one woman devised theatre piece from the perspective of a dog - this could be typical of the absolute worst of the Fringe. This piece, however, avoided this through the merit of its performer; Korina Kontaxaki gave a very endearing performance as Lulu the dog, trying to make sense of the world. Imagine ‘The Killing’ from the perspective of a character’s dog and you pretty much have it. The impressive portrayal of Lulu was somewhat let down, however, by the unnecessarily melodramatic ending.

I’ll admit that I was expecting some kind of dog onesie to aid Kontaxaki’s portrayal of a canine worldview, but fortunately the production relied on the skill of its actress to capture the movements and reactions of a dog, rather than any Primark-bought visual aids. The little bum-wiggle to sit down and the pacing around objects before interacting with them were especially well observed. Crucially, the portrayal of a human size dog was in no way threatening. I’m no dog lover - an overly welcoming Jack Russell jumping on me aged four made sure of this - but Lulu was portrayed with a disarming sweetness, eagerness to learn and accompanying incomprehension to make the piece emotionally enticing. With this established, the isolation and vulnerability of Lulu onstage was rendered very well by the use of voiceover to convey the presence of humans and Lulu’s impressions of them. The presentation of a character this eager to learn, yet with no-one to guide or congratulate her doing so was made more poignant by the concise use of music. Just when it could have become overly sentimental, the stopping of the music would be choreographed with Lulu’s quick transitions from memory to the present. This was part of a general trend in this production of nearly crossing the line from poignancy to over-sentimentality, but avoiding it by some canny use of the performance space.

This line was potentially crossed in the resolution of the plot. Lulu’s deliberations in trying to work out what her human’s ‘occupation’ was - and how it related to where he had gone in such a hurry - might have been made more affecting if the answer wasn’t revealed so starkly. A newsreader delivering voiceover seemed strikingly unoriginal and unlikely within a piece that had delivered the canine perspective and capabilities so well (Lulu is clearly clever, but clever enough to work an FM radio? Dubious.) A tie as the symbol of power, actors as heroes for perfecting pretension and even Page 3 were all analysed by Lulu in her learning about ‘this imaginary world-society’. Perhaps the ending would have fitted better with the rest of the show if it had simply implied Lulu’s realisation of her human’s sinister occupation and the trust that endured despite it.

Altogether this piece had some really nice touches, a great performance and it made good use of quite a shoddy venue. The quality of the whole piece can be summarised in its closing moments: Lulu’s bow was encouraged by the cameo role of the sound technician - seemingly doubling as someone from a Dog’s Trust advert - a choice which would be vastly helped by the technician wearing literally any t-shirt that didn’t have ‘BACKSTAGE CREW’ emblazoned so prominently on the back. Give that dog a biscuit, but sort out the niggling flaws in her story.

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