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Jeremy Crutchley in "Sacred Elephant" by Heathcote Williams, directed by Geoffrey Hyland. Photo by Rob Keith.
Written by Heathcote Williams
Performed by Jeremy Crutchley
Directed by Geoffrey Hyland
Presented by Sheernerve Productions in Association With Cockpit
At La MaMa E.T.C., 74 East 4th St., NYC NY
Reviewed Sept. 6, 2013 by Larry Litt
If ever I think about elephants it is always with great respect and sympathy. They are magnificent beasts that haven't managed to avoid or live well with predatory humans. Dogs, cats, even ferrets do better coexisting as pets. Why? Well that’s the subject of the intensely profound monologue by Heathcote Williams, "Sacred Elephant."
Firstly Mr. Williams' poetic text evokes the wondrous lives of Indian and African elephants amid incredible struggles and travails. As if poaching on preserves isn’t enough, capture for enslavement in zoos and circuses is as degrading top these beasts as it would be to humans. Why? We learn as Jeremy Crutchley explains the similarities of feelings shared by humans and elephants.
After a while listening I learned that these beasts aren’t really mindless wandering beasts but an ancient race that has survived from prehistoric times by its ability to adapt to climate changes and feeding patterns. Survive that is until humans expanded their residences and farming. But worst of all is the Asian belief that elephant tusks are a cure for male sexual dysfunction. Perhaps but I think eating less pork and meat would accomplish the same goal.
What I question about this monologue is director Geoffrey Hyland's and actor Jeremy Crutchley’s physical acting choices. I felt that Crutchley was parading his intense movement techniques without considering the text. His costume and makeup were styled for 'commedia dell arte' rather than an evening designed to create empathy for an endangered species.
If you’re interested in how theater can be a force for educating audiences about wildlife protection then Heathcote Williams poetics are a must. However you may need to overlook the elephant dance.
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