Clownfish Theatre has returned to the Edinburgh Fringe with an updated version of their show which saw sell-out audiences in 2019 as well as similar success in Adelaide. The concept is simple, David Attenborough has failed to turn up for a promised lecture, so Jonathan Tilley is going to narrate sections from Attenborough’s oeuvre while Jess Clough-MacRae embodies the animals. What follows in an hour of bizarre, rather silly fun that entertains and educates.
I’m not sure Attenborough ever pretended to be a rabbit pooping itself to death / OR / An hour of bizarre, rather silly, fun that entertains and educates
Both actors are graduates of École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq (a famous physical theatre school) and it shows in their performance. MacRae has an ability to mime animals that’s almost preternatural; instantly transforming from one creature to another and often playing more than one animal at a time. A section where she plays both an octopus and a crab as one tries to eat the other is particularly anarchic and hilarious. Eventually, Tilley takes the opportunity to join in with the animal mimicry and shows that he's much more than just a decent Attenborough impersonator. These two mimes have great onstage chemistry and comfortable physicality that makes them a joy to watch.
It's an odd sensation to see such well-known documentaries acted out for laughs. At first, I feel like I’m watching what should be a five minute sketch that’s been dragged out over an hour, and I worry that I’m going to grow bored of the gag but Tilley and MacRae give it such conviction that it’s easy to roll with the concept. It helps that, just like Attenborough’s acclaimed documentaries, they’re not afraid to show nature red in tooth and claw and touch upon the real damage being done to wildlife by Man. Although I’m not sure Attenborough ever pretended to be a rabbit pooping itself to death after being dropped by an eagle.