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Elephents (4 stars)

Review by Charlotte Guest

Never have I seen a show elicit such impassioned approval from its audience. The guffaws, gasps, yelps and shrieks that ricocheted off the walls of Teatro 1 were sounds of uproarious delight at the onstage happenings of Elephents, presented by Perth-based theatre company The Last Great Hunt. It may surprise you to hear that the world of Elephents is a dystopia presented as a possible (if not ‘probable’) future for the planet we currently inhabit: it forecasts acid rain, an increase in temperatures, riots, explosions, implosions – in short, the apocalypse. The subtle references to climate change touch a nerve and remind us that the world of the play is an all-too-real possibility for us (one need only think of the recent tsumanis and earthquakes to fall into despondency.)

Elephents is the brainchild of Jeffrey Jay Fowler, who wrote the script, composed the songs and performed one of the lead roles. It is a masterful piece that manages to be both vivacious and poignant. The set, designed by Tarryn Gill, was clever in the way it evoked innocent childhood memories of Dumbo animations amid a very adult mess. And indeed, this is a very adult play that hinges on satirising the sources of our discontent.

Interestingly, the apocalypse merely provides the backdrop to a domestic dramedy where the characters choose to ignore the fact the world is ending. Impending doom is merely added to the pile of unsaid, unacknowledged things – just another elephant in the room. In Elephents, the people of Tuskville must sing the things they cannot say. Social trappings and perfunctory rituals are maintained for no real reason; monogamous, heterosexual relationships are “contractual” and apparently mandatory. There is the preacher who simply wants to make his father proud by saving at least one soul before judgment day. There is the woman from pottery class who wants to give birth to the reincarnation of her grandmother. There’s Annabelle, whose true love is an elephant, Carabou, and whose true hate is her partner, Horton; there’s Horton, whose primary concerns are renovating and procreating; Nellie, who is tired of repetition; her partner Roger who wants to write her ballads but can only manage jingles, and his brother Manny who is burdened by singledom and unrequited love. We follow these tangled, tragic lives as they tiptoe around truths, say what they think should be said and sing what they actually mean.

The elephants in the zoo are dying because the refrigeration in their enclosure packed up, but their figurative counterparts thrive in the sphere of human follies and foibles. There is an elephant in every house, every room, and every mind.

Intelligent and extremely entertaining, Elephents should be on everyone’s FRINGEWORLD To See list. The show runs every evening to Sunday 22nd February.