The Assembly of Animals

Review written by Flossie Waite
Presented by the Bamboo Network
DISCOVER Children’s Story Centre
For ages 4+

It all starts with a pair of very big, very red curtains. And behind them? More curtains, a series of curtains, that gradually reveal… I don’t know what. Inventions? Experiments? Demonstrations? All of the above? None of the above? The Assembly of Animals left me grasping a a handful of question marks (which, you may have noticed, I have liberally sprinkled throughout this review). Was that a hairdryer, or a vacuum cleaner? Were they using magnets or machines? Did I like it? Do the performers like it? I can’t remember ever leaving a piece of children’s theatre so unsure. Isn’t that great?

The Assembly of Animals is not about a collection, or even a gathering together, of animals. The word ‘assembly’ actually refers more to the putting together (and taking apart) of animals. One animal, to be precise. Which animal, I have no idea. A cross between a sheep and a dog would be my guess. This animal is the constant – pulled apart and rearranged, made out of different materials, blown away, deflated – all across the range of what look like Victorian mechanical arcade games.

Whilst Tim Spooner has created 20 hard-to-define minutes, descriptions I’ve seen call it a performed sculpture” combining “puppets, magic, and scientific demonstration” or an “installation performance”. The performers themselves, however, do not ‘act’, they ‘execute’, carrying out an intricate but seemingly random choreography of switching on buttons and moving figures. Wearing buttoned up costumes, they stay mute and remain blank, completely neutral except from the occasional shaky hand.

The Assembly of Animals demands your utmost attention even if you have no idea what is happening, and gains the hushed respect a museum of odd, but precious, things deserves. Absolutely fascinating, undeniably bonkers.

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