Organic and minimalistic, Alice Canton’s one woman show, Orangutan, is an engaging and beautiful piece of theatre that features one mammals experiences in a changing landscape, while also commenting on greater, universal social issues.
Entering the studio theatre at The Basement last night felt like entering another world. Thomas Press’s sound design and piles of rich dirt were combined to create an encompassing environment of the native rainforest of Borneo. A large audience and small bleacher seating gave plenty of opportunity to study the human orangutan that was Canton settled on stage. As the lights dimmed and the performance proceeded, Canton’s approach was revealed. The impressive actor utilised muteness and movement to shape her primal character. For the first act of the play, I was enticed but slightly apprehensive of this mute approach; Canton was impressive but I was weary of how much could be revealed through this singular, non-speaking character. However I was quickly appeased with Canton’s silence allowing for a deeper evoking performance than dialogue could possibly achieve. Through engagement with both mandarins and the audience, Canton gave her character personality, charisma, and experiences. Brad Gledhill’s lighting allowed for a particularly poignant moment that highlighted and enforced the group action of the audience studying the orangutan, and as a result, allowed the audience to become a part of the story itself.
Inspired and birthed during Canton’s own experiences in South East Asia, Orangutan is a provocative play that through its silence, allows for a multi-faceted exploration of modern globalisation issues. Orangutan’s programme reveals ideas about decolonisation, industrialisation and racism. Through its satisfying minimalist approach, these ideas are able to be explored alongside an entertaining and simple narrative. Thought-provoking and educational, Canton delivers a sublime performance worthy of future seasons.
Orangutan performs until this Friday at The Basement Studio. Tickets are available here.