DIRECTOR: Geoffrey Hyland
CAST: Jeremy Crutchley
VENUE: The Intimate Theatre, Hiddingh Campus
UNTIL: February 18
Sacred Elephant is vastly different from the other monologue now on the boards in Cape Town. Where Shirley Valentyn is an everyday character whose story is universal in its appeal, this particular production of Sacred Elephant emphasises form over story.
Of course, the poetic narrative is pretty amazing, too, but it is more about the delivery, which is beautifully expressed by Jeremy Crutchley.
From the second he shuffles on to the almost bare stage in a distressed leather coat, evocative of an ele- phant’s skin, with his hair pulled back into an elephant’s tail, he evokes all things elephant.
“The shape of an African elephant’s ear is the shape of Africa; the shape of an Indian elephant’s ear is the the shape of India,” says Crutchley.
Can any humans claim the same link between form and any claim to land ownership?
In his movements and stance, Crutchley is all about the pachyderm, and kudos to him for keeping that heavy coat on for more than an hour in the sweltering heat.
It’s big movements and nuanced winks to those in the know, sometimes inducing a chuckle and sometimes a knowing nod.
Lighting is subtle and the soundscape is evocative of elephants rather than definitively elephant-like.
You have to keep your wits about you as Crutchley holds up a bon mot to the light and sends you off on a tangent as you think about what he’s just said.
When you dip back in to the performance, he’s way ahead of you because he never stops and never repeats himself.
Crutchley also never harangues the audience, instead bringing together all the strands and snippets of information we know about elephants into one space.
This is, of course, the very purpose of the actual prose this monologue is based on – Heathcote Williams’s epic poem – and it concretises in your mind every amazing thing you already know about elephants and then some.
In examining traits and aspects about the elephants that we associate with humans, the prose examines not only the elephant’s soul, but also that of man.
What does it say about us that we destroy this creature, which by our own measurements is therefore greater than we are?
It’s all in the delivery and with Geoffrey Hyland’s direction Crutchley’s every move becomes laden with meaning, pregnant with the possibility of what it means about ourselves.
Still, it is preaching to the converted because the very people who are likely to go and watch a monologue about elephants are already checking whether their tuna tins are dolphin friendly.