Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Only a Hippoposthumous will do

Point Pleasant Park's Quarry Pond stands in for Columbia's Magdalena River in Logan Robins's tragicomic play about invasive species at this year's Halifax Fringe Festival.

While Gayla Peevey may have sung about wanting a hippopotamus for Christmas, Halifax Fringe audiences won’t have to wait for the holiday season as The Unnatural Disaster Theatre Company is getting one for this year’s Fringe Festival.

To be performed in and around Point Pleasant Park’s Quarry Pond as part of the 2021 Halifax Fringe Festival, in this Q&A, we learn more about Hippoposthumous, the warm-hearted tragicomic play about invasive species from local playwright Logan Robins.

Hippoposthumous plays as part of the 2021 Halifax Fringe Festival from September 7 through September 12. Visit halifaxfringe.ca for tickets and information.

This interview has been edited.

Tell us about Hippoposthumous – what can audiences expect?

Hippoposthumous is a young, slightly nervous, and surprisingly polymathic hippopotamus living in Colombia’s lush Magdalena River- misplaced in time and space. With their future hanging in the balance, they wallow into the spotlight to explore through rhythm and rhyme the idea of “invasive species”. From starlings in Halifax to giraffes in Paris, Hippoposthumous embarks on a poetic odyssey to discover where they’re from and what it takes to truly belong.

Audiences can expect a journey. Audiences can expect to laugh and cry. There will be poetry and music and storytelling in ways they’ve likely never experienced. Audiences should expect not to see ‘invasive species’ the same way ever again. Audiences should expect to fall in love with a hippo.

Where did the inspiration for Hippoposthumous come from?

The inspiration for this play comes from the true and currently unfolding events happening in Colombia surrounding their wild invasive hippo problem.

In his prime, Pablo Escobar has an entire zoo at his estate, Hacienda Napoles, including four imported hippopotamuses. After his downfall, most of the animals were relocated, but the hippos were left to fend for themselves due to their size and temperament. After breaking free into the Magdalena River, these native African animals found a paradise in South America, and their population now stretches past one hundred.

As a theatre maker and environmental educator, I am constantly searching for stories to tell about our often fraught connection to the natural world, and the idea of diving into the concept of invasive species through the eyes of one of these hippos was too good to pass up.

After each performance, we will be collecting donations for the African Wildlife Foundation to support their conservation work for all animals, including hippos.

Tell us about the significance of the title?

The title came to me on a whim one chilly January night. I had just read an article about the pros and cons of allowing the invasive hippos to “be fruitful and multiply” in Colombian lakes and rivers. It occurred to me that this whole chain of events had only come about because of the death of Pablo Escobar. Each hippopotamus who calls the Magdalena River their home and whose fate rests in our hands exists posthumously, “occurring or appearing after the death of the originator.” Thus Hippoposthumous. I also love a good pun.

The play is being performed outside in Point Pleasant Park. Was the play specifically written to take advantage of this location?

It was immediately clear in my head when I began writing Hippoposthumous that it was a show meant to be performed in a body of water. The connection that all life on earth has with water transcends the walls of traditional theatrical space, and the significance of the river to our story begs to have an actor not merely by the water but in it.

With the incredible support of Halifax Fringe and Shakespeare by the Sea, we were granted permission to perform this show in and around the gorgeous Quarry Pond at Point Pleasant Park, and the play was written specifically for this location. For a show that shares so many stories intrinsically linked to nature, it is the greatest gift we can give the audience to experience this production while engulfed in nature themselves.

What will surprise audiences about Hippoposthumous?

I think audiences will be surprised by what they discover they have in common with these hippos and our young protagonist, Hippoposthumous, in particular. The way we are connected to invasive species. I think many will be surprised by how much fun this show is to experience and just how endearing and sweet our lead hippo is.

I truly believe that this will be a show unlike any audiences have seen before, and I expect them to be in for a rollercoaster of surprises from the moment the play begins to long after it has finished.

Give us your elevator pitch. Why should someone see Hippoposthumous at this year’s Fringe Festival?

An elevator pitch for a show about a hippo is sure to be a tight squeeze.

There is no other show at the Fringe Festival this year quite like Hippoposthumous. To gather around a body of water just before the sun sets, to hear the wind rustling through the trees and the crickets chirping, and to be immersed in the landscape while telling stories is an experience unlike any other. If you’ve ever felt like you didn’t belong, come see Hippoposthumous.

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