Five performers move slowly, oddly, across a stage empty apart from a few metre-high balancing rods and a trapeze overhead. The lighting is spare and there is no backdrop.

What’s going to happen? From the festival blurb I expected imitations of animals – we would guess what they were and be entertained by the impersonation. What occurred was quite different and far wilder.

Fauna – name of the show and the company behind it – is an impressionistic, hybrid thing exploring ‘primal behaviour in the animal kingdom’, attempting ‘the transformation of these extraordinary bodies into all sorts of non-human otherness’ (show programme). No whimsical impersonations of cats or monkeys, then. Instead, a combination of mime, circus, expressive dance and amazing acrobatics that amounts to one of the best shows in the festival. The audience couldn’t help themselves; they applauded, laughed and wondered aloud, more animated than any crowd I’ve seen so far.

What is so electric about Fauna is the sheer oddness of the movement – unbeautiful and deliberately non-balletic, jutting, staccato with elbows and knees thrust outward – uncertain, doubtful negotiations and violations of the performers’ personal spaces – one body clinging onto the other trying to walk away – one body playing dead while another drags and rolls it about – all kinds of weird and funny encounters that seem to say ‘we do not relate, we are alien to each other, yet we are discovering and exploring our attractions and revulsions, our play and our love and our aggression in the way we run and fight and hold each other’. It was all a brilliantly funny and deeply fascinating take on human and animal interaction.

I haven’t even mentioned Geordie Little, whose onstage live music was as extraordinary as the physical performance.

No one in the packed theatre could get enough of it.

Fauna: Daniel and Rhiannon Cave-Walker, Enni-Maira Lymi, Matt Pasquet, Imogen Huzel.

Performed Weds 16 May, 7.30pm at the Theatre Royal, Brighton.

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