Steven Whinnery Co, Lying with the Animals

Review in Issue 19-2 | Summer 2007

We are often told that the British are an animal-loving nation which sentimentalise the animal kingdom and anthropomorphise its behaviour. UK artist Steven Whinnery reinforces this assumption, his Lying With The Animals being a mask show that blurs the boundaries between the animal and the human. Whinnery’s excellent masks here force the body to work hard, struggling to retain both its obvious humanity and its unmistakable affinity to the animalistic. Unfortunately this strategy seems mainly to work on the slightly twee level of the comic link between the two worlds (even the most miserable amongst us permits a rye smile at an animal ‘acting up’). Perhaps what might be of greater interest could be the human falling into the animalistic, into a pure bodily emotion and action. This possibility was touched upon by the wonderful soft-toy puppetry conducted by Sophie Powell and Daniel Gentely. Here an elephant and some strange naked female form come to life (as do toys at midnight) to act out a very human drama of love and despair – Romeo and Juliet for preschool. Rather than seeming bathetic, however, this scene seemed to convey something of the emotions that the mask theatre seems ripe to reap, coming across as far less twee than the sheep, the cheeky monkeys or the dogs doing their tricks. Lying With The Animals bills itself as inspired by Gary Larson’s The Far Side cartoons, and this is apparent, and well performed, and yet I think has the potential to be much more that a re-enaction of a comic tale.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Jan 2007

This article in the magazine

Issue 19-2
p. 26