Artistic Director: Florence O’Mahony
Reviewer: Sophie Huggins
Rummaging around beneath cardboard boxes, fiddling through full clothes rails and investigating old ancient attics unearths this generational storm: GIANT – a physical, energetic and fast-paced story told by The Human Zoo Theatre Company.
The fumbling ensemble of storytellers charm the audience into the world of Tommy, a young boy at a critical crossroads in his life called the ‘twenty-something stage’. To guide the audience here, the story starts with Tommy’s Nan – Margaret and a journey through the generations as to how Tommy came to exist in the first place. By her old age and after all her experiences, Margaret insists there is something in the attic, but her pleas are ignored, passed off as bizarre chatter until they can’t be any longer.
Under brilliant artistic supervision from Florence O’Mahony, the stage is a wonderfully electric hive of activity, with the cast of six hustling and bustling their way through key events in the family, from births to graduation, from dancing nights to 18th birthdays. Each scene truly evokes the essence of its environment through clever collages, movement sequences and even puppetry until Tommy is where the ensemble need him to be. There are odd moments of skill – clown, magic, spoken word (underscored by excellent live music) that although have clear talent and an interesting quality, feel slightly isolated from the story and bring the pre-set continuous pace to a slower grind. Having said this, the rhythms are consistently changing and perhaps with more integration, refining and editing, these scenes can lift the whole storytelling to the next level.
The multi-talented cast are excellent at providing a fast, interchanging and visually engaging atmosphere as the stage expands and shrinks like flowing liquid as they move seamlessly across it and through the ages. Their multi-roling is entirely believable, mature and likeable and they bring a magical wonder to each role they inhabit. In such a stand-out cast, there is an overwhelming sense of ensemble community, of ‘the storyteller’ and through their silly, clown-like qualities not only laugh at the game that theatre is, but encourage the audience to as well.
The set and the props are made of cardboard boxes; a reoccurring motif that harks back to the fragility but reusability of life and what is passed on from generation to generation. All of the design elements, by Ellan Parry and Lucy Archbould are entirely complimentary of the story. From the clown, white makeup painting an equal picture; a base for which the cast can transform to the attic lighting that creates a wondrous glow. The wacky costumes are also fantastic in unifying the cast and the added selected pieces for each character entirely convince the audience who they are and serve the purpose of communicating the story.
At an hours running time, this production is a chaotic swirl of physical delight, that, at the heart, poses questions of generation, of family and of legacy. Even satirical at times, there is a perfect blend of genres that poetically and inventively fabricate an utterly human, compassionate world – something society needs right now. Tommy anxiously asks his Nan “I don’t know how to carry on” to which she replies “you just do”; a resonant phrase in the context of today’s climate.
Reviewed 24 May 2017 | Image: The Other Richard