I'm a writer with a love of young adult novels, musical theatre and vegetarian food.
Overall rating: ★★★
One giraffe. One penguin. Not the likeliest of bedfellows, at least as the show advertises. With the early start time and animal costumes, be aware this not a show for kids. Moderate coarse language included.
After the collapse of the Zoo, likely in the pursuit of best animal treatment, the animals run into each other in the wild of the city. The animal puns come out of the gate running and never slow down throughout the show.
Like many narrative conflicts, a fight begins over food. It is a 'no-go-burrito' says Frankie the penguin. The giraffe, named Harold, waves the burrito in the air out of reach of Frankie and causes food to spill onto the audience. It is unclear if this is intentional as the actors move on to quips about #sustainability and a waste-free 2019.
Harold is determined to make Frankie like their burrito, even going so far as to force-feed Frankie. There are jokes mocking racial stereotypes and cultural assumptions. Some are clever while others are done with poor tact. The show makes an astute perception of current discussions around privilege as Harold is very defensive of admitting the opportunity afforded to them by their stature. I would have liked if they slowed down some of the dialogue to make sure each line could land with its intended humour.
There was a sudden shift in the story when the 2 animals become trapped by a disembodied voice. A voiceover announces the 2 animals will be trapped until they essentially get along. Frankie shuffles through the crowd looking for a way out. The actor always walks with their feet together and holds their large white-sleeved arms at their side. Frankie tries to fly, and Harold tries to reach with their long body to no avail.
The 2 animals split up and, after some prodding from the mysterious voiceover, recite their own monologues about how their intolerance came into existence. If only we could lock bigots in a room, and they would quickly confess their failings and promise to change. The 2 animals seek each other and apologise and use the power of dance to defeat the disembodied voice and escape. And, much like real life, not all is solved once they re-enter the world.
The story may greatly oversimplify issues of racism and privilege, but the actors deliver it with such humour and a sense of fun that it makes for an entertaining 50 minutes. It would be great to see more attention to the nuances of everyday racism, the ongoing effect of colonisation and the 'us and them' mentality.
If you like your humour with an underlying social message (I know I do), see 2 Animals (That Don't Traditionally Get Along) at the National Wine Centre March 4 – 8 6pm. And maybe grab a vegan-friendly dinner afterwards.