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Fringe Online 2020

A Manual of Fantastical Zoology

Tin Can

Genre: Fringe Online Theatre

Venue: RADA Festival commission in association with HOME, Manchester


Low Down

This has been adapted from Jorge Luis Borges’ The Book of Imaginary Beings. Devised by the Company, this shows these beings in a number of states that are all isolated and very fragile. Designed to question how we become different versions of beings, we are taken through a voiceover description of people performing and simply being, on camera. We have quite a few of these to get through and they all are filmed within houses and locations that are homely and in keeping with our current situation as it flits between performers who give us such diverse animals as the Brownie, the sirens and the A Bao A Qu.


The issues that arise with a film without framing or connection between the characters or animals is that it can feel like a visual Wikipedia of a book I never read. At times the fleeting views afforded to us make these creatures flesh but in only a shirt fashion. We do not build a narrative which tends to throw us into a scant experience that struggles to fully engage.

The camera work can be a little haphazard which either lends itself to the charm of the piece or leaves you feeling it too sketchy, too jumpy and without enough coherence. At times this managed to do all of this. It meant I saw some pieces that really did make me wonder and I wanted to know and explore more like in Double where the performer appeared animated, the technical abilities obvious and on display and the whole piece was trying to truly say something.

The narrative was nevertheless comforting and allowed me to relax into the visuals, informing me of each of the animals to allow me to have at least a basic knowledge of each; I was however after a better understanding. It could have done with a better overview or perhaps a stronger edit.

Performers were great though the material did constrain them at times, I think it needed a little more context to allow them to reach out beyond the lense.

The direction, due to the episodic structure, got me to watch, to want more and then at other times it dropped my attention. The dangers of such a process are here quite obvious but you have to say, the creativity hinted at was impressive.

Overall, this was a very interesting concept and execution. I felt as if, as theatricians we have two very good additions to the creative firmament; as storytellers they just need to work a wee bit more on the execution.