A photograph taken mid-performance. One person is squatting while the other two are sat on a tree stump.

Carrion review

Sure, (most) humans are concerned about climate change, but how do the animals feel about it? Directed by Rosie Morgan-Males and written by Max Morgan, Carrion is a three-person play by Nocturne Productions showing at the Michael Pilch Studio from 30th January to 3rd February, tackling the politics of adaptation.

The three animals, Suzi Darrington as the Fox, Aravind Ravi as the Bear, and Ethan Bareham as the Crow, don’t wear animal-themed costumes, but instead street clothes in the theme of their animal. My favourite part? All three actors don Doc Martens combat boots.

In this forest-set psychosocial commentary, the trio of creatures yearn for a tomorrow where they will not have to catch their own prey whenever they feel the throb of hunger. The answer to their prayers, Bear and Fox believe, is the nearby dumpster, which is just out of reach of the woods in the sphere of the ‘two-legs’. Fox’s newfound love affair with the chicken causes him to rethink the ethics of only eating animals. However, Crow dislikes the idea of relying upon the scraps left by humans, but says nothing to Fox and Bear. 

The Pilch is a square black box theatre, with audience seats lining all four sides. The set, designed by Maddy Shepherd and Lizzie Stevens, is basic yet meaningful: the meeting place for the pack consists of a patch of artificial grass with a single stump in the center, and the floor is dotted with real acorns, leaves, and stick fragments. The 360-degree set pulls the viewer into the forest, as if they are perched on nearby treelines and hilltops, looking down at the occurrences and watching the story unfold from all sides. Glazed leaves dangle from the ceiling, shimmering and reflecting the glares of the spotlight. The beauty of the set serves as just another distraction from the cunning and viciousness that arise from the wonderings of three meat-eating forest dwellers.

There is not much background music, save for a light and cheerful orchestral number that plays as the audience takes their seats. The mood switches as Crow takes the stage. Most of the scenes are set to silence, echoing Crow’s opening monologue where he ponders the age-old question: “If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” Aside from a few claps of thunder and bird chirps, the audience is left pondering the same throughout the piece.

Darrington’s portrayal of the Fox reveals an inquisitive but foolish character, who is so desperate for care and affection that she falls in love with a chicken. Emerging from hibernation, Ravi’s Bear is insecure and timid, haunted by what he believes are nightmares that will foretell the future. He proclaims that he will do anything to protect his mate and their cubs, but his trust in others becomes his demise. Bareham’s Crow serves as an unreliable narrator, his monologues both opening and closing the play. He laughs along with and comforts his friends, covering up his plans for redemption and rule.

The anthropomorphic trio are searching for their place in the world while in competition with the overreaching arm of the humans. Human expansion into the land of the animals feels threatening to the pack, and they hatch a plan to put out the flame of two-legs industrialization. The plan goes awry, and Crow’s true plans for power are divulged as his friends and their families fall apart. But Bear and Fox, two animals known for their perception and awareness, only become aware once it is too late.

The play is extremely well-written—the plot twist of Crow’s ploy for control is veiled beneath a quilt of comical lines aligned with existential statements. Fox says to Crow at a time of crisis, “You haven’t even got a f***ing penis!” Crow’s response? “Actually, it’s called a cloaca.” For a three-person cast, the actors’ performances are truly gripping, revealing that in a world where climate crises and hunting have nearly dried up their sources of nourishment, it is not only the fittest that may survive, but also the most devious.

Image credit: Coco Cottam