The way writer and director Katherine Phelps has humanized elephants with her cast (Alanna Baschera, Victoria Haslam, Karanvir Malhorta, Suhasini Seelin and Harlene Hercules) is surprisingly clever and charming. Their basic movements and simple costumes easily convince you that they are indeed elephants - provided you allow the magic of theatre to do its work.
Phelps is clearly passionate about conservation and saving the elephants however, in order to make her point, the story loses its heart and its engagement with the audience. We spend close to an hour getting to understand how elephants live and the threats that surround them, but the final ten minutes seem chaotic and clumsy as Phelps attempts to cover too much plot too fast.
The stage design, while minimal is actually quite effective; the scene where the herd is bathing in water, the birthing of Mim and the lighting during the drought are creatively constructed. However, it would benefit the show more if the sound and lighting crew were not positioned at the front of the stage with the cast, as this was often distracting from the actual performance.
While Heard of Elephants has an important message to convey, it needs to rethink the story it wants to share and take its time telling it so that the audience can truly appreciate what is happening and being said.
Venue: SomaChi Yoga Studio, 15 Belford St, Collingwood
Season: until 2 October | Fri - Sat 7.30pm, Sun 2.30pm
Length: 70 minutes
Tickets: $25 Full | $22.50 Conc / Groups 6+ | $20 Children
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival
*Original review appeared on TheatrePress on 19 September 2016.