Animal, 5 Stars

Park Theatre and UK Tour
March to May 2023

“Winner of the inaugural Through the Mill Prize and shortlisted for the Papatango Prize, Park Theatre and Hope Mill Theatre present brand-new play ANIMAL, exploring how disability, sexuality and lust co-exist for people who require round the clock assistance. Written by Jon Bradfield (Queers, BBC4; the Above The Stag Theatre adult pantomimes) and developed by disability activist and equality trainer Josh Hepple, ANIMAL is an authentic, hilarious, and heart-breaking look at hook-up culture, navigating relationships and how they intersect with practical needs and social barriers for disabled people. The play tours to Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester, the Tobacco Factory in Bristol and Park Theatre in London.
Christopher John-Slater (All of Us, National Theatre; The Dumping Ground, CBBC) plays David – gay, disabled and profoundly horny. David can’t eat, drink or shower by himself without an assistant, let alone the rest… Totally inexperienced and refusing to let his impairment stop him, David embarks on a sexual and romantic odyssey, armed with wit, charm and impressive nudes – although somebody else had to take them. ANIMAL looks at how one man tries to keep it casual whilst relying on completely non-casual care. Can David juggle the uncertainty of romance, the crudeness of sexting and navigating Grindr, all whilst relying on assistance? Or in the end, maybe prejudice is the biggest disability of all?”

Review by Richard Lambert, 5 Stars

An adult comedy not for the grandchildren. What do you do if you’re a young gay man with unrequited urges? Generally, find another young gay man for mutual benefits. There are hookup apps to help with this. But, if you have cerebral palsy and rely heavily on your friends and carers, this becomes even more of a challenge.

Here lies the basic premise of ANIMAL. Stripped back to base animalistic instincts, how do we cope. Will “civilised” society understand when it’s difficult to hide tsuch pursuits. Does the moral judgement of others become an additional disability to living your life?

With incredible casting, acting and story board this production doesn’t pull away from the raw subject matter. It maintains a fast pace with writing that’s poignant. Adding a couple of dramatic plots that don’t white-wash David into some angelic victim. In fact, some of his behaviour is reprehensible. Which plays a large part in making this all feel very real, and entertaining. Who doesn’t like a train-crash of a character?

The Set Design changes landscape regularly through some well-rehearsed scene changes that use the cast as the crew. The LED Tubes continue throughout to ensure the action is contained with a rectangular box – trapping the actors inside a virtual cage.

The sound compositions are original and brilliant. They range from pounding club beats to background soundscapes. The lighting equally allows the actors to be fully seen while telegraphing time of day, mood and locations. All come together well to take this production to the next level. The video design is truly outstanding. Using two large projectors there are mulptiple zones displaying the content at both stalls and balcony levels. It’s fast, furious and impeccably timed. A technically sophisticated show, high quality and held together in sync, the Creative and Stage Management team nailing the production elements.

The writing is clearly exceptional. To take such an important subject, showing the characters – warts and all – while delivering so much comedy is genius. It deserves to be seen by everyone!

Photo credit: Piers Foley

Tickets: Click here

David: Christopher John-Slater
Liam: Joshua Liburd
Jill: Amy Loughton
Derek/Nuno: Matt Ayleigh
Mani/Michael: Harry Singh
Rob/Ray/Alan/Dad: William Oxborrow

Writer Jon Bradfield
Story: Jon Bradfield, Josh Hepple
Director: Bronagh Lagan
Producer: Daniel Cooper
Set and Costume Designer: Gregor Donnelly
Video Designer: Matt Powell

Further Information
Running Time 2 hours approx. (incl. interval)
Performance Dates
9th March – 2nd April 2023 Hope Mill Theatre, 113 Pollard St, Manchester, M4 7JA
12th April – 15th April 2023 Tobacco Factory Theatre, Raleigh Road, Southville, Bristol, BS31TF
19th April – 20th May 2023 Park Theatre Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, London, N4 3JP

Producer Hope Mill Theatre & Park Theatre
Age Guidance and Notes 16+, scenes of a sexual nature and one scene of sexual assault
Social Media #AnimalThePlay @parktheatrelondon @hopemilltheatre @tobaccofactorytheatres
Twitter @ParkTheatre @MillTheatre @tftheatres