Theatre review: Like Animals, Summerhall, Edinburgh

In the 1960s, the US space agency NASA launched experiments in communicating with dolphins: if we could talk to other animals, it was thought, or make them talk to us, we could do the same with aliens.

Like Animals, Summerhall (Venue 26)
Like Animals, Summerhall (Venue 26)

Like Animals, Summerhall, Edinburgh * * *

One woman trainer discovered male dolphins responded best when it came to pillow talk.

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There’s fertile material for this show. A couple meet eyes at a disco, gyrating and mating, so to speak, creeping closer, like animals: Kim Donohoe, and Pete Lannon, a real-life couple who wrote and perform this piece. An exploration of love and communication between species begins, comic and tragic by turns, based on true historic experiments with Alex the parrot, who learned hundreds of words, and Peter the dolphin. Donohoe and Lannon turn in amusing performances as the animals in question, who formed intimate relationships with their human teachers, from vocalising “I love you” to sex – Peter and his handler Margaret lived together 24 hours a day. They preen and squawk and spell and click, for the benefit of scientists who are dismissed by their colleagues as quacks. It’s a nicely conceived and performed piece, quirky and watchable; but a little slow to develop, and we wait for a point that isn’t quite made.

Until 24 August

Tim Cornwell