Blood, guts and dead foxes abound in bio-disaster horror Human Animals

Steve Hogarty
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Ian Gelder and Stella Gonet in Human Animals at Royal Court

Who doesn’t love foxes? Those pointy orange chaperones of the night. Those bushy tailed wardens of the bins. Not quite a dog, but not quite a cat either, so-called scientists have yet to explain away their alluring vulpine mysteries.

In dystopian horror Human Animals, the foxes (along with the pigeons and the mice and every other enterprising creature that’s managed to thrive in our cities) are feral, diseased and multiplying out of control. Off-stage and unseen, a distorted and malevolent force of nature is reportedly spilling out of our local parks and into our urban centres, a pox seeping out of the soil through cracks in the concrete.

The unfolding bio-disaster is gruesomely symbolised on stage, as viscera drops from the ceiling and frequent arterial spurts paint the stage’s floor-to-ceiling windows a bright red. In front of this violent mess the focus is on three pairs of neighbours – two young lovers, a middle class mother and her activist daughter, a suspicious businessman and a widowed pragmatist – who find themselves transformed by the plague.

Inherently limited in its ability to emphasise the wider scale of the catastrophe, Human Animals is often let down by “have you heard?” style exposition – it tells more than it shows – but it better succeeds in exploring the small scale impact the event has on its cast of six diverse characters.

A shocking play that’s poetically surreal at times, Human Animals is a revolting, unique and gutsy production that shines a big old guilty spotlight on our abusive relationship with inner-city green spaces.

The Royal Court | ★★★☆☆

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