Review: Sean M Whelan’s ‘All the Animals We Ate.’

Review by Freya Dougan.

Does anthropomorphism lead to misunderstanding? Do our pets know we love them, even when we’re not there? And did dinosaurs really perish because of an asteroid, or was hedonism to blame for their demise?

All the Animals We Ate is a new play by Sean M. Whelan and James Tresise, currently showing at Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall, as part of Melbourne Fringe.

The show is only partially about eating animals, both in its literal meaning (Sean is a vegetarian, James isn’t) and in the sense of desire expressed as consumption, like in Where The Wild Things Are — ‘I’ll eat you up, I love you so!’

Billed as ‘a love letter to the beast within and without,’ All the Animals We Ate explores human beings’ relationship to animals — from the complexities of the food chain, to Sean’s simple and innocent love for his dog Cady and subsequent mourning of her death. At times the show reads as a eulogy for Cady, and taps into the deep love expressed for a pet after they are gone.

At first I was unsure what to expect. One promotional poster features Sean in a fuzzy grey wolf hat, about to mournfully tuck into a bowl of tiny plastic zoo animals.

What I did know was that I was in for a treat. I’ve been a fan of Sean’s poetry and DJing for some time. I was new to the actor and theatre-maker James’ work, and found the pair to have a fantastic energy together working as a duo.

All the Animals We Ate is an incredible production. Poetry, stories, music and visuals — including dream-like video projections and cute animal figurines — combine in a truly magical experience.

Sean and James have created a narrative that jumps effortlessly from a retelling of the story of Noah’s Ark, to YouTube cat videos, to wondering whether dinosaurs developed cancer from carcinogens consumed through too many volcanic bong rips. The show is beautiful, hilarious, absurd and very touching. It will make you think deeply about your relationship with animals, and appreciate the beauty and wonder of the animal kingdom that little bit more. You’ll want to go straight home and hug your dog.

Projections are by Thomas Ingram, with music by Damian Stephens, and support from Maize Wallin, as part of a Nothing Hurts production.

Come for the animal figurines, stay for the feels.

All the Animals We Ate is showing in the Rehearsal Room, Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall, until Sunday 24 September 2015.

Annie Solah