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On contemporary stage we often see performers dressed like animals or human figures with animal heads. Even though zoomorphism, or the humanization of animals is a typical feature in mythologies, its invasion on contemporary stage has probably followed different routes.

One possible route is connected to the absurd or the uncanny and starts from the Rabbit of Alice in Wonderland leading to the films by David Lynch. The uncanny emotional state caused to the spectator by the conversation between, or the coexistence of, human and animal creatures on stage is one of the quests of contemporary performance, and such an image could transform any commonplace dialogue to a sophisticated conversation. In order to explain this phenomenon one could explore the significance of the masks and of zoomorphic creatures in mythology texts, such as the Indian epics – an approach probably adopted by creators in the past – there are, however, other parameters regarding contemporary performance. We should also consider the importance of zoomorphic beings as symbols which converse with the unconscious in the work of important directors of past decades.

Another possible route is Japanese Pop culture and the obsession of Japanese society with animals (Tamagotchi). In the end of the ’90s zoomorphic heroes from comics books started presenting on stage, a tendency reinforced by the infantilism which invaded the Berlin avant-garde live performance scene. The fact that in the European scene animals often appear as toys and not as real animals comes to confirm this idea. 

Perhaps the uncertainty in which humanity got immersed after 2001 created the conditions of an onstage dialogue between the lonely, frightened human and an innocent and safe world: a reference to childhood, which could easily transform into a nightmare – perhaps the scariest of all, when the symbols of safety transform into the most dangerous enemies.

Author: Christiana Galanopoulou
Translator: Efrosini Protopapa