In their new show Invisible Giant, Feral Theatre have created a political carnival for kids. An engaging fusion of music, poetry, puppetry and physical movement, it documents our painful relationship with plastic in a way that is touchingly human.
Beginning in a world that doesn’t feel quite like ours, we meet the eclectically dressed S.C.U.Z. (Synthetics Collectors in Underground Zones). They are perplexed by plastic: they know that humans loved it, but they don’t know why or what it was for. There’s a sense that they occupy a post-apocalyptic world as they speak in fragmented words and scuttle around like twitchy nocturnal creatures.
The journey of understanding begins with the story of a couple. We witness all the milestones of their unremarkable existence, tracing their marriage, work and domestic life, always marked by the banal and ubiquitous presence of plastic. Every time they type an email, answer the phone, or turn on the TV, plastic is there propping it all up. Their lives are also marked by a frenzied urgency to ensure they get rid of rubbish every week on bin day.
The trajectory is clear: we consume things, we throw them away, then we want to make sure we don’t have to see them again – and we don’t really think about where they’re going.
Our casual, detached relationship with this non-biodegradable material is shown at its most damaging when the couple accidentally throws away their own child, who happens to be made of rubbish. Here, treasure is indiscernible from rubbish, but it’s also a stark reminder of the impact that our abusive relationship towards the environment will have on future generations.
When the Invisible Giant emerges, we understand that this is the same child who was aimlessly tossed in a bin bag, who has grown up on a diet of detritus and is desperate for a friend. It’s a stunning creation, reminiscent of Ted Hughes’ Iron Man, with toothpaste tubs for fingers and tape reels for eyes.
Feral Theatre’s bold storytelling means they do not shy away from difficult aspects of their message, and we see the Invisible Giant condemned to a life of loneliness as he realizes the destructive impact of his very existence. It’s a potent metaphor: the Invisible Giant is an omnipresent threat, ignorant of its own capacity to cause destruction. The fact that it possesses a human face is an uncomfortable reminder of our own complicity through consumption and disposal.
This is an extremely ambitious work that manages to constantly bewitch its audience whilst always pushing at the boundaries of the imagination. The physical movement of the company, seemingly inspired by mime artistry, lights up a piece almost entirely without dialogue, and there’s an array of beautiful imagery throughout.
Much is made of plastic’s inherently fragile quality, with floating patchworks of plastic bags and umbrellas that fly into the sky and don’t come back down. In the same way that American Beauty found poetry in a plastic bag, Feral Theatre convey its horror. With a show that challenges and delights in equal measure, it will be worth keeping an eye on what the company does next.
Book tickets to see Invisible Giant at The Warren.
Images by Afonso Palma, our Brighton Fringe Festival Photographer
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