In the wake of The Shape of Water’s oceanic tale, Me & My Whale follows in the footsteps of the Oscar award-winning film, creating a love story between an emotionally-adrift human being who falls in love with an aquatic creature.
Narrated through the medium of sound and occasionally perforated with monologues from actress Hannah Mook, Xavier Velastin’s show unfolds on stage as an abstract art performance. The piece is better understood as an experience – for both the actors and the audience – rather than a conventional theatre show. With bowls of water positioned at intervals along the platform and strategically placed torches, Me & My Whale transported us deep into the ocean where we met a lonely submarine sailor (played by Mook). Dressed in plain white overalls, so as not to distract from the visuals on stage, the sailor finds herself falling in love with the whale through her subaqueous music.
Mook used various props in lieu of actual instruments in order to create the live sounds; some favourites included gently scratching a music stand with a microphone fixed underneath it which, when creatively altered by Velastin behind the decks, imitated the melodic tones of whale voices. Mook also employed a set of “magic gloves” that picked up the frequencies of four low tones when worn and moved around in a particular area of the stage. When combined, the tones started to “phase with each other, creating the sound of movement”, as Velastin described.
The first few minutes of the performance were a little shaky, with the two actors taking a second to compose themselves before settling into character. However, the laughing was in keeping with the tone of Me & My Whale, with Velastin claiming the show was “playful and quite silly”. Mook played her role very well – managing to keep a straight face during the conceptual sex scene between herself and the whale. Velastin’s control and manipulation of the sound effects, most of which came from bowls of water, was extremely impressive and created beautiful music that would not sound out of place on a Bon Iver track.
Not overlooking the fact that the show should be seen with an open mind, it was really a fun experience, something that was reflected in the manner of the actors themselves. Both Mook and Velastin fully immersed themselves in their roles keeping the audience entranced throughout.
Image credit: Xavier Velastin