Backstage

Archive Feature: Animal (2016)

Six years in the making, ‘Animal’ is a dark, challenging and electric piece of physical theatre, unflinchingly staring down the themes of abuse, violence and what it means to be a woman in a world that celebrates brutish men. 

Created by Susie Dee, Kate Sherman and Nicci Wilks, who together make up inFlux theatre, the show was a direct response to the epidemic of violence against women we’re experincing in Australia. 

The show follows two sisters as they prepare themselves for life beyond their isolated town, dominated by their destructive mother and muted by the secret of their father not long buried. ‘Animal’ is a dark horror, a minute tale of epic proportions, looking directly at what we don’t like to see and often ignore.

 

WINNER OF FOUR GREEN ROOM AWARDS FOR: BEST DIRECTOR, BEST ENSEMBLE, BEST LIGHTING DESIGN, BEST SOUND DESIGN, BEST PRODUCTION.

 

Not a word is spoken throughout the entire piece, with the story being told solely through the bold and dynamic use of the actors bodies and projections of Angus Cerini’s writing. Physical theatre can be an intimidating beast for some, but with Sussie Dee’s direction and Kate Sherman’s and Nicci Wilks’ incredible and unflinching performances it was not an obstacle to be overcome, it was a tool masterfully used. For a show exploring violence against women and womens bodies what better method of theatre to explore those themes than one that engages and challenges those bodies themselves. 

In his four star review of Animal for The Age, Cameron Woodhead wrote;

‘Director Susie Dee proves once again, as she did with The Long Pigs, her mastery of physical theatre. Working without text is a formidable constraint, but Animal is the kind of theatre from which it’s impossible to look away.’

This is not a show meant to be ‘easy’ for an audience, so much of its meaning is found in discomfort. James Jackson wrote for Theatre People;

‘This work is an encounter. It’s a journey through a complex labyrinth complete with dead-ends, stairways that loop paradoxically and ominous chambers that appear to go on forever. It’s easy to lose your way, to drop what you thought the show was about and end up somewhere unknown and terrifying.’ 

In the creation of this complex and uncomfortable world you can’t overlook the importance of design and sound. Composer Kelly Ryall and designer Marg Horwell added to the unsettling world in deliberate and powerful ways and were rightfully praised for it.

‘Design plays a crucial role in creating an atmosphere of oppression and psychological menace. Marg Horwell’s set suggests an abandoned warehouse – as undomesticated a scene as you could wish for, and the perfect place for a beat-down or a body-dump – while Kelly Ryall’s brilliant composition rears from electronic foreboding into brutal, almost cinematic outbursts, personifying the darkest side of patriarchy in quadraphonic sound.’
Cameron Woodhead, The Age

This show left audiences highly affected, uncomfortable and still sucking the marrow out of the layered meanings of the piece long after they left the theatre. It’s no wonder that Animal was a multi award winning piece of theatre and selected as one of the top 10 most groundbreaking shows by women in 2016.


Animal Cast & Crew

CREATED BY Susie Dee, Kate Sherman, Nicci Wilks

PRESENTED BY inFlux

DIRECTED BY Susie Dee

COMPOSER Kelly Ryall

DESIGNER Marg Horwell

LIGHTING DESIGNER Andy Turner

TEXT Angus Cerini

PRODUCER Adam Fawcett

PRODUCTION MANAGER / STAGE MANAGER Carmel Duffy

IMAGES BY Pier Carthew


 

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