THE ANIMAL, THE ANIMAL AND THE LITTLE CREATURE 8+
A musical fairy tale about an ordinary eight-year-old girl
Every morning, a dog walks to school on the other side of town with two dinos. She very much enjoys Mr. Octopus’ class, even though she has some trouble concentrating. A shark goes to supervise her in class. How can they help her? Should she be looking to switch schools? With her paws/fins/wings quivering, she gets in the hippopotamus’ taxicab. Will the teacher be just as nice over there? And what about the party she was planning, in the springtime?
Within a diorama filled with animals, heartstrings and good intentions, Theater Artemis transforms the mundane into a dream-like ‘musical’. A fairy tale with live songs about school counselors, badminton, and being the odd one out.
SELECTED BY THE THEATERFESTIVAL
From the jury’s report:
Funny, critical, and challenging. The animal, the animal and the creature is a hit on all counts. In weaving the tale of Sterre, an eight-year-old girl struggling through school, Director Jetse Batelaan profoundly reconciles comedy and tragedy.
In any good children’s play there’s also something for the adults in the room: it’s one of those cliches that are invariably true. And anyone who has ever seen a play by director Jetse Batelaan knows that his works reinforce this truism. His latest, The animal, the animal and the creature is another outright home run.
The play is centered around Sterre, an eight-year-old girl who is talented in many respects, but has trouble keeping up at school. An army of aid workers is brought in. Sterre is examined and observed and eventually hears she will have to go to a special school, far away from her village and her friends. She is utterly heartbroken.
Batelaan would not be Batelaan if it were just this relatively straightforward narrative. Not only does this double as a musical with sung-through dialogue, but, for instance, all characters are played by animals. Sterre is a dog, the teacher is an octopus, her brother a piglet, and one of the aid workers is a shark. These are represented by toy animals, actors wearing animal costumes, or simply cardboard cut-outs. While the constellation of animals on stage varies, the scenery remains unchanged; a fairylike mountain range with a babbling brook.
These absurdist touches allow for a rare amalgamation of comedy and tragedy. A lot of the banal-realist dialogue becomes humorous when sung by a cacophony of zoo creatures. Meanwhile, Sterre’s predicament is heart-wrenching.
For example, it becomes painfully obvious that, throughout this whole process, there are plenty of conversations about Sterre, but very few with her. With as a definitive low point the fact that it is only on the last day of Christmas break that her parents let her know she will be going to a different school the next day: a deeply heartbreaking moment.
Batelaan delivers refreshing social criticism that questions our beliefs of what we consider ‘normal’, investigates our educational and health-care institutions, and shows how easily the rat race can drive parents out of touch with their children. Not to mention that he does this while subverting common theatrical conventions. Batelaan lets form playfully collide with content. Even those who never go to children’s theatre are sure to have a truly wonderful experience.
Het TheaterFestival will take place from 3 to 13 September in Brussels. The animal, the animal and the little creature will be performed on September 6th at 3 and 7 pm in Kaaitheater Brussels, the beating heart of the festival.
Won’t somebody please think of the children?
“Its originality is without parallel. ”
“It is incredibly clever how Batelaan manages to create a disruptive balance between humour and drama in this bizarre musical: the presentation is intensely humorous, but Sterre's heart-wrenching loneliness remains palpable.”
“A bizarre, unsettling, and highly original theatre experience.”