live scripted performance | 1989

Duration approximately 75 minutes

Performers apologise as they tentatively tread through a mass of soft toys on the stage and wince as one stomps through without care. They hold and talk to each other through the toys, avoiding eye contact. The toys are strangely animated; the performers appear part mechanical. They fail to recognize one another and do not understand facial expressions. Empathy is a problem. One talks into another’s face as if it were an intercom. One is extraordinarily obedient and pleads with another to stay, knocking him off his feet with excitement on his returns. He  seems to be an articulate dog in a smoking jacket. The performers project personalities onto the toys at one moment and treat them as dead matter the next. Two performers play the hands of a third who watches with interest as the hands perform a task. Soft toy puppets become extensions of the performer’s arms. Another performer is hardly seen; she hides behind furniture and animates the toys like a puppeteer.

Performed by Andrew Davenport, Kate France, Neale Goodrum, Penny Skerrett and Gary Stevens.

Designed in collaboration with Geraldine Pilgrim.

Lighting and technical assistance by Beth Hardisty.

Previous performances
  • National Review of Live Art, Third Eye Centre, GLASGOW
  • Green Rooms, MANCHESTER
  • Powerhouse, Trent Polytechnic, NOTTINGHAM
  • Chapter Arts Centre, CARDIFF
  • Leadmill, SHEFFIELD
  • Ashcroft Centre, Fareham & Gosport
  • British Art Show 1990, McLellan Galleries, GLASGOW
  • Leeds City Art Gallery, LEEDS
  • Purcell Room, Hayward Gallery, LONDON

“Gary Stevens… is an unappropriated alien.”

“The… actors represent a family locked in the domestic traumas of separation, reunion, small talk and breakfast. The search for one particular rabbit is savagely conducted, the whole menagerie is thrown to the back of the acting area. Thence the animals re-surface as puppets, arm extensions and nerve ends…”

“as interesting as it is delicate, It extends the language of domestic sit-com into the realm of the literally unspeakable, the beast beneath the stairs.”
Financial Times

“Nowhere else in town will you find 75 minutes of metaphysical speculation which is also so profoundly entertaining: the dancing potato had me doubled up.”
City Limits

“The imagistic vigour of his mind-stretching charades make entirely appropriate the tag ‘Beckettian’. It is impossible to imagine Stevens’ work being staged by anyone other than himself and his company… one scene dissolves into another with astonishing rapidity. Animal is bold, brave and challenging…”
The Listener