Animal

Kay Adshead
Soho Theatre
(2003)

Kay Adshead's last play, The Bogus Woman, about an African woman seeking a new life was also directed by Lisa Goldman for The Red Room. It was the kind of heavily politicised play that can change society.

Animal seeks to do the same but the politics subsume the drama and characterisation. The problem is very contemporary.

Pongo (Richard Owens) is very intelligent but has lived on the streets for thirty years. He is "rescued" by Dr Lee (Fiona Bell) and enters her psychiatric establishment in a park.

Mysteriously, the third character, Pongo's nurse and moonlighting comedian Elmo (Mark Monero), narrates the shocking tale of disrupted riots outside the park as protesters try to get in. As the plot unfolds, it becomes apparent that Dr Bell works for the (wonderfully-named) Pharmaceutica who are creating a new mind-altering drug that will stop war forever. Presumably it will also make the company wealthy.

Pongo is therefore in a similar position to the dogs and mice that are used to test cigarettes and perfumes. Initially, his condition improves, latterly the inevitable happens.

The issues that Kay Adshead raises are very important but the unremitting efforts to make political points at the expense of developing plot and character can become excessive.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher