In the infant artform of online theatre, Thaddeus Phillips is already shaping up to be its most imaginative exponent. In 2020’s Zoo Motel, the Colombia-based writer and performer turned inwards to transform a tiny motel room into a palace of possibility. Now, in Zoo Mundo, he faces outwards.
From the same small studio in his family home, he tells an epic tale of three globe-straddling journeys that follow the route of mankind’s 3.4 million-year trek from Ethiopia across the continents. There’s an explorer doing the whole thing on foot, an artist touring his exhibition about human bones and a man discovering the fate of his mother who never returned from a trip home to the USSR.
Phillips does this by means that are both ingenious and endearingly handmade. With the Zoom audience looking on – and occasionally joining in – he takes us rapidly from the swanky Caffè Florian in Venice’s St Mark’s Square and onwards, via overnight train, to an electrical factory in Siberia, the jungles of South America and, eventually, the Coffee House at McMurdo Station in Antarctica, the last cafe on Earth.
Working with designer Steven Dufala and co-director Tatiana Mallarino, he inserts himself into his cardboard cut-out landscapes, sometimes an eye peering in, sometimes his whole body in view, playfully warping our sense of scale and perspective. With a blend of magician’s tricks and object-theatre techniques, he builds the story before us in a way that feels theatrical, despite its dependence on the camera.
Although the journey is more important than the destination, he neatly brings its three strands together to conclude a delightful show about our big place on the planet and small place in the universe.
Originally posted 2022-01-17 08:41:03.