Michael Cox reviews a 'delightful' production.
There's a lot going on with Dr Stirlingshire’s Discovery, so much that you'd be forgiven if you missed some of it while watching. Science vs the fantastic, sibling rivalry, the desire of being appreciated at work and man’s relationship with the animal kingdom are just some of the themes in Morna Pearson’s script for this co-production between Grid Iron and Lung Ha. There's so much happening that the dramatic action could have easily become confused and overly melodramatic.
Instead, the production is good fun from start to finish and can be summed up in one word: delightful.
There are many subplots and characters that are met along the way, but the crux of the play centres on the Stirlingshire siblings: Henry is a serious zoologist who harbours life-long jealousy of his sister Vivienne, who is a cryptozoologist and has returned to Edinburgh to present her discovery—a new creature named ‘Something or Other’. Henry decides he wants to scupper Vivienne’s limelight so decides to unlock the cage of the creature, allowing it to escape and run rampant.
Discovery allows both Grid Iron and Lung Ha to play to their strengths: it's a site-specific production that has fun with its location (this time at Edinburgh Zoo) and gives Lung Ha’s company a lot of fun characters to play. And it is a good addition to this year’s International Science Festival as its main theme is clearly stated within its title.
It's also a production that one could easily nitpick: the characters are pretty flimsy, the plot is scattered and while it's nice walking around the zoo after hours it doesn't fully utilise the potential of the space.
However, the production is so charming and willing to please that any of these flaws are easy to overlook and forgive. And while this is not the pinnacle of anyone’s work here, it has such a good heart that it's hard not to be won over.
Side note: as it's mostly outdoors and requires a lot of walking, it's worth noting that appropriate clothing and shoes are a must.Dr Stirlingshire’s Discovery performs at the Edinburgh Zoo until April 8th.