National Theatre's Theatre Square


There is a big ship docked outside the National Theatre. It is part of the National’s Inside Out programme, not a performance but a sort of installation, but one to which you are invited to contribute.

This is Noah’s Ark and you are invited (two by two if you like) to go inside and discover things about yourself and animals and to share your own feelings and experiences about human interaction with other species. Take a picture, tell a story, reveal your dreams, your fears and favourites about the animals in your life whether they be birds, mammals, reptiles, butterflies or any other creature.

Think about your pets, farm animals, wild creatures, animals in zoos, the animals of myth and mystery and your encounters with them—and what about the animals you eat? What happens when you and a wild animal come face to face: it could be a tiger in the jungle, a fox on a London street or a robin on your windowsill. Have you swum with dolphins, seen a whale?

When I went aboard, I found the vessel’s archivist having a conversation with a small Fox Terrier but having difficulty understanding the little fellow’s Kentish accent, at least that’s what he said. Can you talk to animals? Do your pets talk to you? My cats could certainly make some things very clear. Visitors are invited to write down their experiences and pop their messages into a hanging jar, to draw a picture or make their favourite animal out of Plasticine, or perhaps one that they fear. There are lots of strange creatures on every side to stimulate your memory and stir your imagination and in the refrigerator—well, I dare you to look inside.

What sort of animal do you think you are like; can you match your character and behaviour to those of another species? Some visitors will get the chance to see how well they match face on face: a magical conversion that combines the images. Are you an owl? a cat, a chimpanzee?

One group of investigators is more concerned with domestic animals and pets, another concentrates on your wild animal experiences; sit down and tell them of yours and hear others stories in conversation together. There are maps to plot where your encounters took place. Noah is around somewhere in charge of the ship and when a storm brews up he’ll be on deck to keep her steady and make sure no-one’s seasick.

When the crew turn in for the evening, there is a picture show drawn from the images made or brought in through the day projected on the ship’s great sail, and when this Ark leaves dock and sails away, all the information visitors have provided will be kept and used as a resource for a project about animals that Wildworks theatre company will be creating in the future.

Why don’t you go along between midday and 6:30? The Ark is there until the end of Bank Holiday Monday. Take your animal with you if they like an outing or a picture if that’s not possible.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton

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