Saturday, 17 December 2016

Animal - Midsumma preview

For three nights during Midsumma Festival, audiences will have the opportunity to unleash their inner animal with Mikey J White's new work, Animal. This multidisciplinary piece incorporates theatre, music, burlesque, multimedia and spoken word to explore what it means to be 'human' in relation to sexuality, relationships and society through the duality of man and beast.

Earlier this year, White presented SXIINS (TWELVE SKINS), another multidisciplinary piece, which looked at identity and how to 'be a man'. Animal grew from what was conceived in SXINNS (Twelve Skins), but this time, his focus has moved broader by looking at how to 'be a human'. "Both these shows are about self exploration and identity. I like to constantly question and challenge myself and conventional social norms on what is the correct way to 'be a man' or 'be a human' or just to be," White explains. "I think a lot of this comes from being a queer man in a straight world and it has forced me to look at my views not only on sexuality but on the world in general."

White believes that theatre and performance should continually keep evolving and not allow itself to be restricted from what it can be. "I enjoy theatre that isn't defined by one particular genre and think that there are many ways to tell a story. My work in Animal is conceptual and not a single narrative, so the fusion of different mediums allows me to frame ideas in various ways and hopefully create a more interesting and engaging performance."

While much of what is presented in Animal is based on White's own experiences and thoughts, he has also researched how people perceive animals and looked at historical references to animals in popular culture. "I love people watching, observing and learning from others and their differing viewpoints so this has all helped in shaping the show and exploring what makes up the 'human animal', so a lot of the ideas expressed are my own views that I have formulated without research. I've also been collecting a lot of other artists, poets, songwriters, historians and writers references to animals, many of which are in the show to portray a broader view than just my own but my work is always very personal," White says. "I think that for something to be engaging and honest and real, it need to come from a personal place. At times that can be very revealing, raw and confronting to perform as it is almost like a physical embodiment of my mind up on stage to be experienced. I never place any real limits to how much I expose as it always depends on what is appropriate for the work."
Image from SXIINS (TWELVE SKINS) Photo Credit: Mikey J White

"In asking people what the word 'animal' means to them I was surprised by the overwhelmingly negative connotations that most place on it. They viewed it as 'primal', 'base', 'lesser', 'dumb', 'sexual', 'wild', 'dirty', 'messy', 'rude', 'uncultured' and 'un-evolved' so I want to challenge that notion and make people question if they aren't all those things too," he explains. "Are we above that or we have just convinced ourselves that we are? When we take away all of the trappings of the modern world aren't we just animals too? And has consumerism, capitalism etc. changed us from our true nature and made us forget what to really value?" 

When asked what animal White would use to describe himself, his response is fittingly tied in to the issues he raises in Animal. "A Human. That's the crux of the show. We are all animals so we need to take care to check and remember what's important. Stop being caged up by superficial things, expectations and societal pressure and learn to be ourselves, to live and enjoy life, because at the end of the day that's all we have. We eat, we sleep, we shit, and we die. Human animals."

Venue: Hares & Hyenas 63 Johnston St, Fitzroy
Season: 19 - 21 January | Thurs - Sat 9pm
Tickets: $23 Full | $17 Conc

Bookings: Midsumma Festival

Photo Credit: Mikey J White

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