Dr Stirlingshire’s Discovery
18:15 – 20:00
Yesterday evening, as I stood on the hoary slopes of Edinburgh’s zoo, the animals slipping into slumbers on every side, my spirit sang a silent lament for what we have lost. In these our modern days, the conventional theatre-goer will settle in their comfortable seats, in their correctly-angled rows, while before them only the stage manager’s choice of set design makes a relatively futile attempt to transport said theatre-goer to a place rather different from the last time they were at the theatre. Yes, we have devolved a long way since the birth of drama, when in the mystery rites of ancient Memphis & Eleusia the high priests would lead their acolytes in procession through a series of divine scenes; following rivers, climbing mounds, entering caves….
So, a A great credit must be given to Edinburgh based Grid Iron and Lung Ha theatre companies for attempting something at least as expansive, whose zookeepers, Tom & Geena, lead their chilly but jovial audience from scene to scene across Edinburgh Zoo in the telling of their tale : Dr Stirlingshire’s Discovery. The story involves the return of Dr Vivienne (played by Nicola Tuxworth), back from the dark continent with a hitherto unknown mammal. Also on the scene is her brother, Henry, which provides a familial subplot of conflict & reconciliation. He is played by the bearded Anthony Strachan, a perfectly formed Graham-Norton/Oliver-Reed hybrid, whose eloquence & acting ability outshone all others.
Alongside the principle parts, the supporting roles have been taken by other members of Lung Ha, conducted with unadulterated passion. They work, & work well; a Herculean effort of man-management, perhaps, but well worth it. Lung Ha’ speciality is discovering & excavating the creativity in people with learning disabilities: & this time they have excelled even their own startling efforts of the past.
But was it any good? Eccentric & erratic, colourful & cordial, surreal & sweet, Morna Pearson’s script contains a ‘zany concoction of characters’ which are perfect for the children, whose long wait to see the mystery animal would receive its denoument with touches of excellent stagecraft. As for the adults, just being there is a pleasure, & the Monty Python moments rather enjoyable. Heartwarming also was the sheer professionalism of the performance, lending a sense of tender universality to the proceedings. This play is indeed for everyone.
Reviewer : Damian Beeson Bullen