Writer: Devised by the company
Reviewer: Chloe St George
Though this might be your first mute-man-in-a-corset-with-a-compact-umbrella of the Fringe so far, his awkward fumblings, trying to please and wondering how to hold himself, are instantly familiar. This is where Whalebone excels: presenting recognisable situations in an original format.
As far as originality goes, the words ‘narrated by a talking vagina’ (of Whalebone marketing material fame) may be enough to deter some, but fear not, for it is not the Fringe gimmick one might expect; if anything it could feature more heavily. Its first entrance, so to speak, is so witty and inventive, that the subsequent voiceovers feel slightly unexciting.
The company ease us in gently; Whalebone, thought-provoking but not didactic. Before weaning us onto social commentary territory, they begin with a simple, but genius silent exploration of the little differences between men’s and women’s bodies. Emma Brand is nimble, versatile and likeable, while Luke Rollason has natural comic charm and Luke Howarth is a master puppeteer. A choreographed section performed by Rollason and Brand concisely tells everything they want to express about bodies, through contortion, stretching and the push and pull of various pressures.
Despite a neatly symbolic ending, one can’t help but feel that Whalebone begins more strongly than it ends. It opens with a charming mime sequence and the first time this silence is broken is so brilliantly executed, funny and simple, that it seems a shame to let go of this taut atmosphere later on, where much of the musical accompaniment feels unnecessary. Nonetheless, Whalebone succeeds in being a playful, humorous and non-aggressive mockery of gender roles and expectations. It’s also, thanks in part to some beautifully innovative puppetry, just very nice to watch.
Runs until 27 August 2017 | Image: Contributed