The Zoo Southside.
7-31 August (ex. 20) 22:30
Purportedly about four youngsters whose friendship fractures when they enter a big city, this physical theatre performance by the Russian group, Rain People, is obtuse and uncohesive, and the acting unconvincing. I can only presume that ‘inventing the sky’ is a dodgy metaphor for attempting to create a paradise in the city.
While the performers are undoubtedly buff, and their movements graceful, I found no emotional or narrative substance. It’s difficult to even gauge the basic narrative due to a bizarre and bewildering variety of scenes and a lack of transformative power in the acting. I am still not even sure how many different characters each actor played.
I imagine this is the production David Brent would come up with, given the same narrative and style confinements – one would then be prepared for the unconvincing sentiment, and crude metaphors, such as removal of sunglasses at a key dramatic moment symbolising an ‘eye-opening’ realisation.
Portrayal of emotion more subtle than anguish or shock was inept; adolescent sexual tension over a girl, for instance, comes across as homoerotic flirting. The most powerful section, a rape scene, has interesting and dramatic choreography but the movements of all parties are so fluid, graceful and unconsidered that I didn’t realise it was meant to be a rape until it was over.
Ultimately, the performance sinks into farce; one character plays jump rope in a rope that forms a noose around another’s neck. In the ensuing funereal scene, the audience does not even stifle giggles at the sense of self-indulgent melodrama. Vastly overlong, the ending is only too predictable. Almost all of those who had not already walked out make a quick getaway in a ‘poignant’ pause when the actors’ faces are conveniently hidden. I wish I could have.
Distinctly one star.