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Polly Creed’s Humane at The Pleasance

After a hundred and ten minutes of heavy-handed dialogue and about seven acts of this play, I am oddly none-the-wiser as to what this play is about. Polly Creed’s new play covers a lot of important subject matter but fails to settle on any and, in doing so, loses the weight and gravity it aspires to.

HumaneHumane opens with a monologue describing the death of a man with no other context. From there, we meet a mother struggling with the burden of living alone with two kids, she meets a friend, and they become deeply invested in battling an animal produce company that transport livestock through the town.

In the following show, racism, classism, police brutality, and animal welfare are the carousel of topics this show touched. The backdrop of this play is framed oddly. Animal welfare is a compelling subject matter, however where the sensible choice is to focus on the corruption and ethics of corporations, this show uses it as the setting to half-tell many stories that never get much depth.

I am a firm believer in picking a subject and delving deep into it, exploring its nuances and complexities. The danger of choosing so many issues is that we do not gain much insight throughout the play. I am uncertain why Creed has taken the second path, I understand the intrigue of wanting to find the individuals within a movement, but this play is not faithful to its initial premise. Instead, the play tangents wildly, and incidentally, these are all tangents that demand enormous depth in themselves.

The performances are mixed; Francesca Isherwood (Linda) could be more convincing as a young lonely mother of two, while Colette Zacca (Alice) is more convincing as an older woman better versed in protest.

Design (Daisy Blower) choices are peculiar; the soundtrack ranges from the strange meditative instrumentals to out of place hip-hop anthems. The performance space is thickly slathered with haze from start to finish, a technique that can be tacky and, in this case, never quite makes sense.

The final twenty minutes of the play deals with the racism that lurks beneath rural communities and its devastating impact. The dialogue in this last twenty-five minutes is the strongest in the play, and its depth showed the potential of what this show could have been. I cannot put my finger on what this play was about, so little time is spent on any issue that I do not come away with any concrete thoughts on any of the issues raised.

2 gold stars

Review by Tom Carter

25 years after a small group of local people from rural Essex came together to protest the cruel conditions of livestock exports, Humane sheds light on the nearly forgotten story of a small community, their struggle for justice and the unshakeable friendships they made during the Battle of Brightlingsea. In 1995, lorries thundered through a small port town carrying live animals in horrendous conditions and motley crew of grandmothers, housewives and school children took to the streets in a series of demonstrations.

Producer True Name Theatre in association with the Pleasance
Director Imy Wyatt Corner
Writer Polly Creed
Movement Director Ruby Portus
Designer Daisy Blower
Lighting Designer Claire Childs
Composer Tingying Dong
Sound Designer Anna Short
Stage Manager Amy Hales

Cast, in order of appearance
Alice – Colette Zacca
Linda – Francesca Isherwood

Humane
The Pleasance, Carpenters Mews, North Road, London, N7 9EF
Wednesday 3rd – Sunday 21st November 2021
https://www.pleasance.co.uk/

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