Piper Theatre Productions’ Edinburgh Fringe debut is utterly captivating. With a cast armed solely with suitcases and bandages, accompanied by Lucas Syed’s cello and cajon drum, every scene is performed to perfection, with fully fleshed-out scenarios and characters magicked out of thin air.
H.G. Wells’ tale of a shipwrecked doctor who comes across Doctor Moreau’s experiments and his island of monstrous creatures is a compelling story and the company never lose momentum in the telling of it. Transitions between characters and scenes are instantaneous, with the performers taking it in turn to play the protagonist, whilst switching effortlessly between characters and creatures in the blink of an eye. The mix of third and first person narration creates an intimate but claustrophobic feel to the narrative and the incessant pace gives the audience no time to rest. Exploring issues of humanity, morality and religion, it is thought-provoking without beating you around the head with some sort of explicit message. The ending offers little explanation or solace but is moving nonetheless.
The stark score is spellbinding, adding movement and pathos to the piece, as well as contrasting with the perfectly-timed haunting silences. Everything about the production is choreographed to perfection, with every person’s movements embodying their character, using the space, and aligning with their fellow performers for all synchronised movements and speech. There are some stellar performances, with Christopher C. Cariker’s Doctor Moreau touching the right sinister notes without ever becoming pantomime. However, every single performer was able to perform a stunning range of characters, from half-witted pig creatures to a wild female puma to a conference of scientists to the creepy alcoholic sidekick to Moreau. An absolute must-see.