Lost Soul Animal Rescue/A Story Of Change  (Review – Online)

Lost Soul Animal Rescue/A Story Of Change  (Review – Online)

It’s International Earth Day today (April 22) and as with last year I wanted to engage with some theatre that addressed the ongoing concerns posed by the continued environmental issues which seem to hover in the background as an almost permanent feature of modern life. Having also recently been to the most biodiverse country on the planet with its extensive collection of animal life this was a particular topic of interest. After contemplating various options, I decided upon a couple of productions aimed at younger audiences which is the arena in which most of these pieces seem to operate – maybe it’s too late for we recalcitrant adults.

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Towards the end of last year. I’d been alerted to the Sound The Alarm project from Vancouver’s Theatre For The Ears. Their audio play Lost Soul Animal Rescue fitted rather neatly into the parameters I had drawn up for myself so I gave it a listen. As with their previous pair of pieces (Starman and The Eternal Sailor) this is an immersive piece which places the listener at the heart of the action as a wild life ranger. It’s a fable based on Chinese ghost stories and that culture’s notion of filial piety (in essence, respecting one’s elders) as symbolised by the central character of a crow (Kenneth Tynan). This is quite different from western notions of the bird which stress that it is an ill omen. Together with a she bear (Ingrid Nilson) and guided by a fellow ranger (Elfina Luk), crow travels through a world which has undergone an environmental disaster; they try to make sense of the situation in which they find themselves.

Gary Mok’s script resonates with several layers of meaning which are made more explicit by listening to the accompanying podcast conversations – indeed they highlight a number of features which might otherwise be missed. Aleksander Zecevic’s aural creation of the featured world(s) is truly evocative and work well on the suggested headphones. Although it is aimed at a primarily young audience, there is more than enough going on to keep adults fascinated as well and at just seventeen minutes it packs an awful lot in.

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This is even more true of the even shorter  A Story Of Change, one of a number of videoed performances from Verba Shadow Group. This one was made a few years ago for the 20th anniversary of the WWF (World Wildlife Fund)  and looks at how environmental issues are affecting the planet’s fauna. While there’s nothing particularly new about that as a theme, the way the piece is put together can only be described as unique. Bringing the ancient art of shadow plays bang up to date, their work features a troupe of dancers rather than the more customary puppets, who form backlit 3D tableaux to glorious effect. This video was made in conjunction with WWF Vietnam and so the first creature shown is their only recently discovered (1992) saola, an antelope like creature actually more closely related to cattle. Unfortunately, it has been subject to hunting and remains one of the rarest species on the planet. Other threatened species also feature and when the troupe morph into a giant panda (the WWF’s symbol) the effect is stunning. Do yourself a favour this Earth Day and give up less than five minutes of your time to watch this truly remarkable piece.

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And if that isn’t reason enough, it turns out that the Verba troupe hails from Ukraine. Now what could currently be more fitting than that?

Lost Soul Animal Rescue is available as part of the Sound The Alarm Project – click here

A Story Of Change is available on You Tube – click here

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