Chimpanzee @ The Barbican (London International Mime Festival 2020)

There’s a monkey in the kitchen, it’s drunk and is pleasuring itself with a hoover, yet I feel an overwhelming sadness throughout this masterfully performed story. Despite not always feeling entirely justified, Chimpanzee is clever and well thought out, and the mime work is very good.

Photo: Chimpanzee Created and Directed by Nick Lehane Puppeteers: Rowan Magee, Andy Manjuck, and Emma Wiseman Lighting Designer: Marika Kent Associate Lighting Designer: Ayumu “Poe” Saegusa Sound Designer: Kate Marvin Associate Sound Designer: Avery Orvis Puppet and Scenic Designer: Nick Lehane Stage Manager: Mariah Plante; performance photographed: Thursday, March 7, 2019; 7:00 PM at HERE Arts Center,145 Sixth Ave. NYC; Photograph: © 2019 RICHARD TERMINE. PHOTO CREDIT - Richard Termine

Nick Lehane and co. introduce us the titular figure as it lethargically decomposes in its cell. Given the ambiguity of the set, this show gives itself the opportunity to be interpreted as having many different contexts, from animal testing, zoos and neo-colonialism. Throughout the hour, we swing back and forth between the ease and comfort of the human home in which the chimp is raised and the cell it is now held in.

Lehane has put together an introspective, considered yet playful performance which explores innocence and torment. The delicate intimacy between the chimpanzee and audience is brilliantly cultivated then ripped away and destroyed making the loss even more poignant.

The simplicity of the show is where the brilliance lurks. Simple lighting shifts (Marika Kent – Lighting Associate) and snap changes in the physicality of the puppet compellingly controls the tension of the pieces, switching decisively between the looming anxiety of captivity and the lovable naivety of a drunk monkey in a kitchen. But that’s as far as certainty goes in this show, and the allusions to religion, the fall of man and awareness of our oppression which make this show both intriguing and thought-provoking. Lehane has done just enough to nudge our intrigue without writing out exactly what we are meant to think.

Unfortunately, there are a couple of moments that reel us out of what had been a captivating story. I understand a desire to find the rules of your performance then break them, however, this has to justified, rather than because you desire a moment of tendency. There are some moments when I can’t help but wonder how essential parts of this show are, or whether they want to show off what is some very effective mime. Rowan Magee, Emma Wiseman and Andy Majuck all do a fantastic job and this show is very good, but may fail to leave a lasting memory beyond the hour you experience it in. 3/5

Review written by Charlie Froy.

Chimpanzee is currently showing until Saturday 25th January 2020 at The Barbican as part of this year’s London International Mime Festival. To find out more about the production, visit here… 

Written by Theatrefullstop