A fun show for everyone of every age to enjoy, as the natural world is brought to life on-stage in front of your very eyes
Presented by Clownfish Theatre
Reviewed 23 February 2021
From our TV screens to the stage – Attenborough and his Animals brings David Attenborough’s famous and beloved animal and nature documentaries to life in front of our very eyes – and with a laugh-out-loud comical touch.
From being a young child to growing up and watching Youtube videos (look up “How Animals Eat Their Food” if you haven’t seen it) – animal impressions have always tickled many of our funny bones, and this show certainly won’t disappoint on that front. The dramatic scenes that we witness in Attenborough’s documentaries, backed by an emotionally driven orchestral soundtrack, are live on-stage here in our very own Adelaide and full of perfectly exaggerated facial expressions and extensively researched body movements.
The hosts, John and Jess (Jonathan Tilley and Jess Clough-MacRae), with only themselves on stage and no set and little-to-no props, transport the audience from the beaches on islands in Indonesia, to the animal-filled canopies and bustling undergrowth of tropical forests, as well as deep into the depths of the wide ocean and high in the sky above mountain tops – all the places in this wonderful world that animals (and insects) inhabit. The variety of animals shown knows no bounds with the audience enjoying a breaching blue whale who blows water (literally), as well as a quick-witted blinking crab with snippy claws and Australia’s many loud (and we mean LOUD) cockatoos. It’s all rather silly, but it’s perfected silliness that is fun for all, while also being educational (who knew meerkats barked like small dogs?) – a wonderfully delightful interpretation of David Attenborough’s beloved nature documentaries and the animals and insects who fill them.
Just like in Attenborough’s famed series, Attenborough and his Animals doesn’t ignore the realistic gore of nature, but deals with it in a humorous fashion so as not to traumatise any little ones. It is, in fact, rather amusing to watch Jess act out the rather graphic death of a rabbit who has been dropped from a great height by a Golden Eagle (who then realistically feasts upon its smushed carcass – comically of course).
What makes Attenborough and his Animals stand out from other animal impersonations is their ability (especially Jess’s) to transform their bodies and movements into those of an animal so realistically that audience can immediately guess what it is. You can tell that they (and, again, especially Jess) have studied these animal’s movements in-depth and learnt the small details and intricacies that take them to the next level – like the casual hanging slouch of an orangutan with its lips curling back and forth, or the stiff leg movements, limited flexibility and frequently retracting tongue of a Komodo dragon.
Jess deserves an honourable mention as she transforms into a zoo of animals (and insects) with incredible dedication in her body and mesmerisingly humorous facial expressions. She sometimes even jumps between two creatures within seconds of each other (picture the face off between a spider and praying mantis). Jess and John pair together perfectly and their comfort with each other is clear to see – they even create animals together, such as a crab-eating octopus. John has nailed an Attenborough narration reminiscent of his younger days, with almost identical pitch, pace and tone and this is crucial to the show being a success – you can’t compare yourself to the legend if you’re unable to recreate his signature narration.
The timing is spot on, as anything more than sixty minutes might wear the audience out and detract from the talent that is behind these masterful impersonations. Towards the end, the show also includes Attenborough’s advocation for looking after the planet and the incredible natural elements it houses. We have to be realistic about things like deforestation and a sea full of plastic that will destroy the animals we admire so much, and it’s only right to include this within the narrative on stage, hopefully playing as a timely reminder to all audience members.
In life, you might not have the pleasure of meeting Sir David Attenborough himself, and the real life animals he brings into our homes and advocates for, but Attenborough and his Animals is definitely not a poor substitute – they’re second best only to the man (and legend) himself.
Reviewed by Georgina Smerd
Venue: Hillside Theatre (open air) at Gluttony, Rymill Park/Mullawirraburka, Cnr East Tce and Rundle Rd, Adelaide
Season: 24th Feb – 7th March 2021
Duration: 60 mins
Tickets: $22.50 – $32
Rating out of 5: 4