Monday, April 22

Vigil – Traverse Theatre 2

Dashing about the flat before heading out, Radio 4’s News Quiz opened with Andy Zaltzman’s tongue-in-cheek introduction announcing the relegation of the human race from the top 1,000 species on the planet. Putting everyone right in touch with the 26,000 endangered species the creator & performer from Mechanimal (Tom Bailey) attempts to dignify via a combination of mime, clowning and some sparse dialogue…

Centre stage sits a small glass cube full of assorted skulls and bones, above it a screen carrying the words ‘Colombian Lightbulb Lizard’. Which has everyone chuckling as they take their seats but wait, it’s actually a thing. In Columbia, to boot. AKA ‘Riama Columbiana’. Like a resource dedicated to aspiring bands searching for a name, a cornucopia of Peel-esque nomenclature unspools, our creator tasked with representing each one, with hilarious, varying results: Even-Fingered Gecko anyone? Tajikstan also has ‘open-fingered’ variety if it’s easier… or Snow Trout? Just don’t mention Fire Millipede From Hell. Definitely don’t mention Problematic Flasher. Just quietly, go google insects from Zambia.

Did you have any idea how many types of Grasshoppers populate our sphere? Or how hilarious some of their names are?

This show has everyone chortling from the start but at two-thirds in turns, justifiably, serious. There are voiceovers from Werner Herzog, Greta Thunberg and (I believe) Bernard Manning. Tom’s struggle to keep up with the speed at which the names change on the screen illustrates how mind-bogglingly fast our flora and fauna are being exterminated. In case the point’s not made there’s an unsettling couple of minutes of machine gun fire. Less violently the font on the screen shrinks several times to accommodate the number of species. Finally in front of us stands the Penitent Mussel, delivering an appropriate speech. More accurately, a lament.

This is yet another illustration of theatre’s importance, specifically The Traverse, and why everyone should encourage everyone else to go. I seem to say this every time, but until I see something rubbish, it bears repeating. The audience leaves buzzing, but like the Crotch Bumble Bee, not in an entirely comfortable way.

Reviewer: Roger Jacobs

Reviewed: 16th February 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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