EDINBURGH 2019: BWW Review: LIKE ANIMALS, Summerhall
Like Animals, from real-life couple Kim Donohoe and Pete Lannon, is an exploration into what it is to love. It's a charming two-handler, mixing stories from their own relationship with historic experiments with animals - in particular, our attempts to teach animals how to speak.
In the 1970s, Irene Pepperberg taught parrot Alex how to communicate. He learned over 250 words and each night they told each other 'I love you' as Irene left the lab. A decade earlier, Margaret Lovatt tried to teach dolphin Peter how to speak. The two lived together in a flooded house, sleeping side by side. In 2019, Donohoe and Lannon do not always communicate clearly, or well enough, or at all. But they love each other.
They begin speaking in unison, a technique used throughout the show when they talk of their own relationship. It is broken for asides as they question the performance, ask to switch roles or do the next bit. It is broken when they disagree about the colour of their bedroom. It's a simple technique to show miscommunication, and how even something small can jar. By the end of the piece, the technique is largely dropped, but their communication has grown over the course of the hour.
Lannon plays the two animals and Donohoe is the scientists. A simple splash of coloured feathers or a cup of water to the face starts each scene. They mix humour and sadness into the animals' tales, and Lannon captures them well in his physicality. At times in the show, both performers are birds, though the purpose of this is not entirely clear, and it suffers for a few lines of exploration that are not fully followed through. Lannon speaks of mental health getting between them, though this thread is not picked back up.
Alex the parrot eventually died in the night. When their experiment ended, Peter the dolphin simply gave up breathing. Lannon and Donohoe fear the ways their relationship might end. It is sweet and relatable. They, and the audience, hope the end is a long, long way away.