Penguins – The DOOR, Birmingham REP

Choreographer: Carlos Pons Guerra

Director: Paul Bosco McEneany

Reviewer: John Kennedy

Penguins is based on the true story of two male Chinstrap penguins at Central Park Zoo, New York, who, for gender confusions too complicated to contemplate, attempt to hatch a chick from a lump of rock. Good luck to the infant school teachers explaining that one to their delightful charges who attended this afternoon première performance. Captivating and inventive, our penguins (Osian Meilir/Jack Webb) costumed in Space 1999/Mod stylish black and white groovy cut suits with silken kipper ties, preen and ritual-dance, dive, swim and chatter to a seductive sound montage.

The set is a minimalist Le Corbusier-influenced construction of symmetrical cubes lit with aqua-marine subtle shifts of shade and texture. Corey Annand assumes the role of Zoo Keeper who curates a magical chest-of-drawers that reveals animated delights. Perhaps this could have been used to engage the kids even more – they were captivated. Another contention with some recent shows for the younger is that over-ambitious (and loud) sound scores can detach performers and children from responding and interacting. They want to hear each other gasping in wonder, to be nudging parents and the like to know what’s going on. In short, to learn and enjoy the protocols of live performance.

It’s an ambitious, collaborative production that relishes in its youth and innocence whilst raising subtle themes of friendship, cooperation and realising dreams. The ambient, live found-sounds of zoo visitors’ comments about penguin behaviour are pertinently suggestive of our needs and denials regarding the anthropomorphism of animals. Meanwhile, a parent, apologising for her daughter’s fidgeting is soon put right – ‘I’m not fidgeting, I’m dancing with the penguins!’ Sorted.

Runs until 10 February and on tour | Image: Robert Day

Review Overview

The Reviews Hub Score

Chick-chic and slick

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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