“Information downpour – but is that enough?”
Reviewer: Kei Franklin
Performance: 22 January 2016
Human Bestiary is a piece about the state of our world – a crash course on the ‘inconvenient truths’ that we ignore for the sake of living our lives.
The artists of Principio expose the links between environmental destruction, endangered species, oceanic pollution, poaching, poverty, colonialism, gender inequality, religious conflict, and terrorism.
The performers – five women from Mexico City – display an unusual knack for transforming. They become rhinos, lionesses, beat-boxers, colonizers, poachers, and birds. They turn a ladder into a ship, into a tree, into the ocean floor. The actresses are bold in their femininity, accents, and physicality; an immense momentum originates from their ensemble dynamic and hurdles the piece forward.
Human Bestiary is ambitious in terms of the sheer amount of information it packs into 90 minutes. Principio uses a full spectrum of audiovisual multimedia to show us the islands of plastic trash floating in the Pacific Ocean and the coltan mines gouging out the belly of Congo to make the latest iPhone.
Amidst the information overload, I feel myself wanting more emotions and less numbers. Principio seems to rely on the shock-value of the facts to engage the audience, but I find myself most drawn, instead, to the more personal stories of a couple falling out of love, or a woman setting off on a voyage to escape the sense of meaninglessness in her life.
As Human Bestiary comes to close, and the cryogenically-frozen futuristic woman careens through the universe on her way in search of potentially habitable planets, I feel a little disappointed. The information presented by Human Bestiary feels like the very first piece of a larger conversation we need to be having. It makes us gasp and cringe, but I am left wondering ‘what now?’ and hoping for answers.
Is it enough to provoke thought in an audience if you do not address their consequent actions? I worry that the audience leaves Human Bestiary feeling disturbed but not knowing what to do about it.
Despite what I see as a missed opportunity to inspire the audience to take action, Human Bestiary effectively exposes the inner animal beneath human skin. I still find myself, days after, noticing how people shake their heads or blink their eyes, congregating like rhinos around watering holes, perched on benches or chairs, chatting and teasing, more beast-like than ever before.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
HUMAN BESTIARY by Principio (Mexico)
22 – 23 January 2016
The Substation Theatre
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Kei Franklin is currently a third-year student at Yale-NUS College, where she studies Anthropology and Environmental Studies. She believes that the best way to spend time is creating.