Dangerous Giant Animals
Reviewed – 28th October 2018
“Murdock’s writing shines for the majority of the show – it’s beautifully human and relatable”
It is always exciting when a play gives voice to a rarely heard story. This is one of them; exploring the difficulties of being a sibling carer. However, Dangerous Giant Animals is also the story of a play that sabotages its exceptional beginning and middle with a bafflingly smug ending.
We see Christina Murdock (who also wrote the play) travel through a series of snapshot journeys as Clare, who grew up having to care for her disabled sister, from ages seven to seventeen. The effects on Clare’s family life and education are tumultuous as she tries to balance providing adequate care for her sister, while also having to overcome her guilt for having to make choices that will benefit her life. Murdock’s performance is masterful, as she paints the world before her eyes with staggering clarity and simplicity, while still conveying the complexities of her situation. This is aided by the smart design of the set (Anna Lewis), sound (Nicola Chang), and lighting (David Doyle) that all layer on generous helpings of atmosphere and meaning without ever feeling intrusive.
Murdock’s writing shines for the majority of the show – it’s beautifully human and relatable, and consistently harnesses the drama in the domesticity of any situation. The middle of the show in particular features a string of breathless sequences featuring Clare on a heart-breaking car journey, and later trying to calm down her sister. However, directly following this, Dangerous Giant Animals undermines all the stellar work it had done thus far.
All momentum is ground to a halt as the play feels the need to directly address the audience, condescending them for assuming the plot was going in a particular direction (although given the script makes no prior allusion that this direction was a possibility, it’s a pretty baseless accusation). The show then congratulates itself on being smart and subversive, which feels totally misguided and is deeply disappointing to watch. In the space of a minute, Dangerous Giant Animals descends from having the audience in the palm of its hand to antagonising them for no logical reason. This was a huge misstep on the part of Murdock as well as co-directors Jessica Lazar and Adriana Moore, that consequently makes the remainder of the show simply feel pretentious and self-indulgent.
Dangerous Giant Animals is mostly a touching and insightful deep-dive into an important issue, that’s capped off by a frustrating end that vilifies its audience. I sincerely hope that alterations are made before the show transfers to the Tristan Bates Theatre that will bring a more consistent level of quality, and do justice to the story being told.
Reviewed by Tom Francis
Dangerous Giant Animals
SIT-Up Sunday also included: