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July 20, 2009 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

Animal Hour


In this year’s fringe festival there were two things I truly loved above all else, one was Binge Culture’s Drowning Bird, Plummeting Fish and the other was the cow costume from Boomerang Lean and the She-Devil from Outer Space. The very fact that Binge Culture’s next show Animal Hour contained that same cow costume should have issued it a free pass. I should be praising it to the sky right now.

But, I’m torn. I really admire the Binge Culture Collective. They are, only a year after their first production, steadfastly on their way to becoming one of the defining voices of the young Wellington theatre. Their energy and guts are infectious and their inspiration slightly embarrassing. At least to me, stuck behind this computer screen when I should be out doing theatre as good as these guys. Bastards.

I should have loved Animal Hour. It is the latest development in their alliterative exploration of the alienations of this generation. Having started at apathy (1001 Things You MUST Do Before You Die), skipped past anomaly (The Anomaly Opens) on the way to anger (Drowning Bird, Plummeting Fish) before dipping their collective toe into architecture (Their crashing of the Pick of the Fringe at Downstage) they now arrive at animals. Animal Hour is a very clear development and remodulation of the same material from which emerged Drowning Bird—think Amnesiac following Kid A. This is both its greatest strength and biggest weakness.

Binge Culture have really refined their approach to this particular set of material, and Animal Hour is by far and wide their most lucid and coherent show. But with these newly smoothed edges, some of the indemic threat and danger of previous works seemed, if not absent, then quite distant. Also, the retreading and reexploration of similar material gave the show a sense of having been seen before. Sure they’ve replaced Facebook with YouTube and much more foregrounded the game show elements, but we have been round this block before.

That being said, Animal Hour is far from a weak show. Director Joel Baxendale has a very clear understanding of how to build tension, both towards comedy and towards other darker places. The performers show a profoundly impressive range and the musicans, who double as the show’s judges, are a marvelous addition to the lineup.

I wish I could have loved Animal Hour. Somehow simply really, really liking it seems like a defeat. It’s not their fault. It’s mine. Unless their next show is also about gameshows, the internet and humilating Simon until he makes a disturbing psycho-sexual statement so that the audience looses its sympathy with him, then it’s their fault.

Oh, also, also, also, there is a pile of super sweet stuff at their website you should all have a look.

Devised by Binge Culture Collective
Directed by Joel Baxendale
Produced by Claire O’Loughlin
With Jake Baxendale, Steph Cairns, Rose Guise, Simon Haren,
Gareth Hobbs, Fiona McNamara (yes, that one and now her name is spelt correctly) and Ralph Upton
At Whitireia Performing Arts Centre, 8pm, 10–14 July 2009


About the Author ()

Uther was one of the two arts editors in 2009. He was the horoscopier and theatre writer in 2010. Alongside Elle Hunt, Uther was coeditor in 2011.

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