Review: Isabella Rossellini presents Link Link

Isabella Rossellini and her Link Link co-star, Pan
Jane Hardy

NOT many film stars have had insects from Borneo named after them, but Isabella Rossellini has. We got this enticing factoid last night during one of the most bizarre, beguiling shows, Link Link, the Grand Opera House can have seen.

This well endowed beetle with evolved reproduction habits was one element in a kind of Open University lecture on the connection between the animal kingdom and us. And we weren't necessarily at the top of the scala natura or nature's hierarchical ladder.

Although Ms Rossellini claims to have thought up her science show as a kind of mental movie, it's totally theatrical in its presentation. She's the circus master in appropriate costume, when she is not being a frankly mad duck illustrating cryptic female selection (more animals mating, a reference to her previous show Green Porno, although as she said this entertainment was meant to be "waist up, not waist down"). There are surreal moments, she appears on film as Jung and Darwin. There are also hints of Brecht's alienation technique and at one point, Rossellini reminds us she is an actress who can lie. Or distract, but that's a prelude to an examination of whether animals do the same thing. Which would prove their brain power.

Nowadays Rossellini farms chickens, trains guide dogs for the blind and is still wondering about the link between us and the other animals inhabiting the world. Not explicitly political, there was a benign subtext, suggesting that if the show's title is correct, we ought to treat animals better. Isabella Rossellini's own canine companion, Peter Pan, is clearly much loved and has learnt to imitate her mistress' thespian abilities. Puppeteer Schuyler Beeman sets the whimsical tone perfectly, handling Pan in different costumes and puppets with ease.

It's a funny, thought provoking evening and we romped through many a theory from evolution to Pavlovian conditioning and the issues surrounding learnt and instinctive behaviour. Ultimately, the question of whether animals have equivalent consciousness remains unanswered. We like to think we're unique but that may not be the case. The moment when Pan, via King Solomon's ring, is able to converse with Isabella was uncomfortable, Disneyish, maybe prescient. Who knows? We unquestionably got a star turn, albeit with the odd stumble.

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