Written by Oliver Emanuel
Directed by Lu Kemp
Grief, like a Tiger’s stripes – is unique, everyone’s process of loss is different, no two experiences are ever the same.
It’s something which writer Oliver Emanuel is fast becoming renowned for as a writer who finds delicate ease in communicating with younger audiences without gatekeeping the realms of loss and grief, exhibiting an articulateness in their writing – which offers a refreshing stance on the subject for both young, and older audiences. I Am Tiger, as a part of the Imaginate Children’s Festival, may initially speak to the 12+ bracket, it possesses an understanding and intimacy which will transcend far beyond the advertised age ranges, demonstrating a recognisable feature for all ages.
Rarely has Traverse One felt so vast and empty yet full of creative virtue. The wealth of dimensional alterations with the, quite frankly, gorgeous construction of Jamie Vartan’s design work – built in accordance to fully utilise Simon Wilkinson’s lighting design, magnifies the disorientation Laura undergoes as the dozen or so slanted squares make up a stage with cracks, divisions, and frequent powerful colour changes.
Her life reversed, plunged into an unrecognisable landscape where her parents fall back and retreat away from her makes Laura’s isolation after her brother’s suicide even more isolated. Not helping matters is her parent’s decision to unwisely purchase a rather real, and very illegal Tiger Cub in an effort to cheer, distract, and maybe even uplift Laura. But grief is a difficult beast to circumnavigate, and that’s without the additional worries of your 200-pound pet thrown into the mix. But as she grows with the creature, its primal nature becomes hers, and its claws and underlying fury all shift alongside Laura’s disposition.
Almost prowling in the later parts of the production, Chloe-Ann Tyler’s physicality is a marvel under Kemp’s movement direction and Emma Claire Brightlyn’s consultation. Punctuated with a numbing discomfort, Tyler channels an unforgettable performance as the younger sister of a young man who took his life, stunned into disbelief as she struggles to come to terms with the reality of it all. A touching performance, the production is handled with a delicate skill of depth but doesn’t downplay or brush away the underlying pain. A caged beast themselves, mentally, and at times physically, Tyler is only moments away from clambering the veering walls and discombobulating space.
I Am Tiger may position itself for a pre-teen audience and introduce complex and never truly resolvable concepts, but Emmanuel’s articulate construction brings a sense of authentic humour to the show, and with Tyler’s exceptional performance brings a subdued vibrancy of movement, physical and emotional; meeting audiences at their respective level – recognising the stripes we all share, each one as individual and important as the experiences we undertake.