Her Green Hell
There’s a precarious balance between mankind and nature, a fickle and thin line by which the whole of human civilisation resists the endless force of the natural world, which constantly threatens to consume us in our extravagant technological hubris. But when tested by nature in all its greatest majesty, what hope does a lone human have?
Her Green Hell is a retelling of the hellish experiences had by Juliane Koepcke during December of 1971. The 17-year-old German-Peruvian girl and her mother were taking a Christmas flight home from Lima when the plane suffered catastrophic mechanical failures and broke up over the Peruvian rainforest.
Sophie Kean portrays Koepcke during this breathlessly intense performance, leading the audiences on a journey from the cheerful, childlike amusement of playing silly games to pass the time in an airport to the excruciating horror of wading through a near impenetrable jungle teeming with deadly fauna and flora.
It’s an intense performance, but one filled with empathy and even moments of humour, offsetting the horrors. Kean is utterly believable as the young woman finding herself alone and injured on the floor of the dense Peruvian rainforests, still strapped into the wreckage of her seat. Her Koepcke is a solid balance of pluck and enthusiasm mixed with the wisdom and knowledge of years spent working with her zoologist parents, giving her the precious knowledge that might just keep her alive.
It’s an exhausting and exhilarating performance, as Kean lopes and stretches around the small stage contorting herself and showing off extreme feats of supple agility, as she enacts the tortuous escape through the titular Green Hell. If there’s a drawback, it’s that the full horror of the piece never truly lands in a way that allows the morbid darkness of the tragic situation to fully land.
Nevertheless it’s nothing short of spectacular, as the very space seems to close in around the dark and oppressive stage in a way that lets the final bow feel like a release from a very welcome but concussive ordeal.
Reviewer: Graeme Strachan