Souvenirs

Sun 9th – Sat 22nd August 2015

reviews

Alannah Jones

at 00:10 on 19th Aug 2015

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I was lucky enough to catch The Human Animal’s brilliant production of Wastwater at the Fringe 2014, and subsequently had high expectations for this year’s offering, Souvenirs. I am pleased to report that I was not disappointed.

The audience is greeted with a quirky set of zany music and actors arranged around the stage, mostly concealed by and within cardboard boxes; a detail that was visually intriguing but never really explained – perhaps the aim was to symbolize the unpacking of memories, a motif that transpired to constitute the plot of the play.

Souvenirs is an innovatively constructed piece, amalgamating the work of four writers - one for every souvenir. These ‘souvenirs’ are physical manifestations of memories of the mysterious and lonesome Birdman, sensitively portrayed by Alex Walsh, who moves about the stage with all the grace of a ballet dancer. Ellice Stevens also gave a moving performance as the precocious child to whom the Birdman relates his tale; even somewhat impressively managing to conjure real tears at the end.

Each of the four sections in the piece is intelligent, emotive and lyrical, seamlessly combined yet subtly nuanced. A personal highlight was Oliver Higgins’ Newspaper, which provided a highly amusing and witty analogy for the world of tabloid journalism.

Explored through the eyes and mind of a child, the Birdman’s house is a hoarder’s den of memories, brought to life by the fluid and emotive choreography, incorporating each of the four objects in turn into the Birdman’s story. Each object corresponds to a person from his past, with the newspaper symbolising his wordsmith grandfather, the bottle his alcoholic mother and the scarf his childhood best friend and later lover.

Souvenirs is a strong ensemble piece, combining carefully choreographed movement with alternating lyrical and naturalistic dialogue, the variation here no doubt a product of the coalescence of the four writers. The script is undoubtedly beautiful at times, and the acting simply superb, yet the tender heartbeat of the production was Michael Chidgey’s music. The constant, multi-instrumental underscore beautifully evokes the playful and poignant essence of the piece.

Clever, funny, moving and lovely – Souvenirs is what the Fringe is all about.

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Verity Bell

at 15:35 on 19th Aug 2015

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Souvenirs is an explosive new piece of physical theatre by company The Human Animal. Confronting the fears of adulthood with childlike play, the piece is a creative, engaging show even if at points it lacks direction. Given that it is the work of four writers (Alexandria Wallis, Oliver Higgins, Grace Holme and Max Kennedy), this is hardly surprising. Nevertheless, strong performances and entertaining visuals pull this patchwork quilt of ideas together.

We follow the story of an unnamed child (Ellice Stevens) who befriends the fearsome Birdman (Alex Welsh) on a quest to comprehend why he lives alone in his tower of cardboard boxes, wine bottles, newspapers and trinkets. Together they unravel his past, his fears, his hopes and his dreams through spoken word and vivid physicality. Ellice Stevens gives a superbly earnest performance as the child, speaking her mind and asking probing questions.

It was the visual aspects of the performances which stand out, the ensemble (Oscar Owen, Kitty Murdoch, Tommy Loftus, Ella Tebay) portraying emotion expertly through their bodies while navigating a set littered with props. Long trains of coloured silk were used to wonderful effect, binding characters together, spinning them apart and covering them all. This was underscored by gentle guitar music and vocals by Michael Chidgey. While the music did add to the quirky, offbeat feel of the piece, it was gimmicky and distracting in some places.

Overall, Souvenirs is as mixed and surprising as the detritus that is scattered across the stage. There were plenty of original and interesting ideas thrown around and fitted into a rough narrative structure, but ultimately what was required was a tightening of of the piece as a whole. As a result of the lack of coherent structure, an opportunity to form a closer emotional connection between us and the characters was unfortunately missed. However, the piece is nevertheless a glorious celebration of the absurd, and well worth going to see if you enjoy physical theatre.

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