Friday, February 23

Vigil – Physical Fest

Mechanimal’s Vigil, created and performed by Tom Bailey, with movement direction by Philippa Hambly, is a desperate and poignant illustration of the devastating effects of climate change on animal and plant life endangered as a result of both that and other environmental concerns.

Opening in a small wooded area, Bailey walks around with a glass box which he slowly fills with twigs from the ground, some of which are too big to fit into the small confines of the box, indicating from the start that what we are going to see will feel overwhelming in many ways.

Moving into a plain room with a white screen, Bailey sits on his box, seemingly full of foliage, when the names of plants and animals on the red list, those at highest risk of extinction begin flashing up on the screen. Bailey watches these names rapt, in an apparently meditative state which is shadowed by a sense of deep sadness.

He then slowly begins to morph into the shapes of each of the plants and animals being displayed on the screen, often making subtly humorous nods to the double meanings held within their names. There is some beautiful physical skill displayed and vocal sound effects create a sense of realism and depth to the pieces.

However the countless names are soon moving too quickly for Bailey to keep up. A loud clicking as each name appears, increasing in rapidity, creates a real sense of urgency as Bailey becomes obviously confused and bewildered at the enormity of it all.

The sounds of the natural world are contrasted with overpowering city noises and differences in volume are used to maintain the pace and emotion of the piece. Ominous snippets from documentaries conflict with nonchalant stand-up comedy as we see Bailey lost in flashes of natural landscape. The piece becomes very dark and incredibly poignant as brutal imagery starkly illustrates the urgency and desperation of the situation.

Vigil is a haunting and incredibly poignant piece of physical theatre which disorientates in its deceptively simple, and curious depths. Mesmerising and thought-provoking, this respectful acknowledgement of our natural world, must be seen to be believed.

Vigil is being streamed by Physical Fest until 2nd July 2021. Tickets are available here  

Reviewer: Donna M Day

Reviewed: 26th June 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★