FringeReview Scotland 2016
Craig Manson, ably helped by his two assistants, provides a naked and uncomfortable hour as the performing seal who does all the tricks and then finds his voice. Like a childlike innocent the SELKiE then comes amongst us to ask all the questions that we never wanted him to ask. In a cabaret style performance this takes the cause of animal rights into a new arena.
Two beautiful assistants are blowing up a pool. They then fill it with water before asking the SELKiE to come out and perform his tricks. Enter the naked Craig Manson who has his head all greased up to look like a seal. He then performs as any seal would be forced to at a SeaWorld near you. Mid way through, having been forced him to jump for the ball to near exhaustion, we are informed that this SELKiE can speak. Manson finds his voice and proceeds to ask the intimate questions that the innocent children in all of us get a massive kick out of asking. Having found out where his luck might be in for the night, Manson then parades his goodbyes like a Christmas panto.
Underneath the fun and frolics, of which there was much, there would appear to be a very serious point to this exercise. If I take the issue of identity alone there was a PhD in the questions being asked of the SELKiE in the first half. How do we treat animals? Is it right, as the SELKiE asks, to own animals or own human beings? In terms of the animal rights movement alone there is a tour in here.
Perhaps the biggest question we were asked was whether we are who we say we are or whether we are defined by the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Manson’s work seeks to question how we respond to our environment, not just the physical but the emotional. When he arrives onstage we see a wide eyed innocence that belies the seriousness of his intentions. What we get from these three performers is a narrative wrapped in a dialectic that shifts regularly.
The first half was the equal of the second which was highly important. The potential to throw the dance moves away and concentrate on the funny and embarrassing stuff would have been obvious but Manson took as much care over the set up as the sucker punch line.
All three performers were a tremendous presence onstage and gave their all to create the ambient setting. Technically there was enough to make it all work and, even at a late night showing with the final Into the New performance of 2016 we wanted to stay on a wee bit longer.
This was exactly what was promised and more as Manson demonstrated that he is an artist with a stage presence that shall graduate and flower into yet another great theatre maker, made in Scotland.