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Edinburgh Fringe 2019

Sir David and His Animals


Genre: Comedy, Physical Theatre

Venue: Gilded Balloon at Old Tolbooth Market


Low Down

“The magic of David Attenborough live on stage! A blue whale swims through the ocean depths. Racer snakes pursue a young iguana across the desert. Watch as two hapless but enthusiastic clowns recreate extraordinary scenes of the natural world – a world teetering on the brink of disaster.”


The MC announces the star of the show enthusiastically, then stuff happens! The duo from Clownfish theatre company manage very well, under the circumstances. Out of necessity Jess Clough-MacRae and Jonathan Tilley put on a show like no other!

Emulating David Attenborough’s renowned and popular wild life series, where Sir David’s narration with that unmistakable voice cadence and vivid descriptions are legend, Tilley rises to the occasion through his humorous character with the right amount of humility and gung-ho spirit that immediately connect with the audience.

His eager assistant, dressed in safari gear is immediately persuaded to help and the only thing missing from this scenario is some animals. Clough-MacRae obliges and without further ado she offers a couple of solutions, which are rejected, but then she shapeshifts into a variety of animals: Large animals, small animals, insects, you name it she can do it!

Both performers are creative physical storytellers and they use the entire space of their small stage area and some of the theatre to bounce, strut, peer and waddle.  While Clough-MacRae is silent, other than making animal sounds, Tilley not only narrates in his character’s version of Sir David but he often narrates while joining his partner in the animal movement. The way this happens seems normal and adds so much to the storytelling and humour.

Watching Clough-MacRae contort her body and stretch her face, eyes and mouth is fascinating and she has quite the repertoire of facial gestures. Her entire body is enlisted and her limbs becomes wings and appendages when she finds the essence of the animal as well as the (sometimes exaggerated!) movement.

These two characters are playful, they have fun and so do the audience. Their sincerity is genuine and the humour comes from the physicality and how they both interact with each other and relate to the audience. They are direct and focused, playing out to the audience with wit – yet without forced jokes.

The environment changes and we find ourselves in the rain forest, then a desert. A crab has a pulsating tongue with twitching limbs and an octopus is imaginatively created from their physicality. At one point there is a fun play-by-play commentary of a deadly insect arriving on the scene.

A soundscape is well designed and includes bird song, sound effects and an unexpected song or two that all add atmosphere and humour to the piece.

We also learn something about animals from this show, without realising it, about their sounds and attributes and an awareness of the environment, which is compelling!

Their two characters contrast well and so we see two different points of view to what they are doing, which is interesting. The story moves along and there is never a dull moment, and people of all ages will enjoy this show. It is a wonderful way to spend an hour in the company of this energetic and entertaining duo.