SHOW: SACRED ELEPHANT
DIRECTOR: Geoffrey Hyland
CAST: Jeremy Crutchley
VENUE: Intimate Theatre at UCT’s Hiddingh Campus on Orange Street in Gardens until February 18
REVIEW: PETER TROMP
Mankind is so out of shape at the moment that most of us can barely stomach the kinds of doomsday statistics that are trotted out daily. Any new evidence of the extent of our pillaging of the earth’s resource
es, or the latest corruption outrage just seems to fade away in the media white noise machine. Yet, I’m sure, artists maintain the hope of somehow penetrating that defensive fog of apathy that seems to be a natural by-product of the bad news industry to reach a heart or two, so that they can influence the way people feel and hopefully and ultimately act. In short, doing their job has become more difficult than ever. In his touching portrayal of The Elephant, or at least the conscience of an elephant, or the guilt of man reflected through his imagined wisdom of an animal who, unlike us, knows how to regulate itself, Jeremy Crutchley might just succeed in connecting with audiences on a fundamental level.
The actor somehow manages to exude both serenity and an almost cosmic level of anger at humanity’s darker side, something that must have led to quite a degree of cognitive dissonance during the rehearsal process, I’d imagine. But it all makes sense, because ‘Sacred Elephant’ is less a “tribute” to the magnificence of the largest earth dwelling mammal (the play is inspired by the poem by Heathcote Williams) than a requiem for man’s lost moral compass.
From the moment he steps onto the stage of the Intimate Theatre, Crutchley is utterly captivating, but not necessarily in the way we have become accustomed to of him in recent years. He is perhaps more endearing than I have seen him in a while, more vulnerable, but at the same time a little more unhinged. It is obvious that this was a personal project close to his heart, and these can often turn into insufferable vanity projects. Crutchley’s heart, however, seems to really be in it, and it makes for a deeply touching theatregoing experience.
There is no trace of the ironic distancing so common in most popular culture these days. His primary object appears to be connection. This is not meaning to say that the intended sincerity of the project makes it bland, colourless, despite the muted gray pallet of the design. He is working with Geoffrey Hyland after all, one of our most imaginative and wildly passionate directors and the result is utterly watchable. There are passages that perhaps go on for a little longer than they should, but this is easy to forgive, considering the breadth of the experience the artists impart on one. You are unlikely to leave ‘Sacred Elephant’ without having been touched.
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