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Diary: Royal Court is goat-to theatre for a night on the hoof

Tabard has often thought that being a director must be a bit like being a shepherd – keeping the flock (or actors) together, not losing any cast members on the hillsides (or stage), clearing up their droppings. Okay, maybe it’s not that much like being a shepherd… unless you’re working at the Royal Court.

In an escalating series over the last year or so, the central London theatre has been getting real-life animals involved in its productions. A fox in Anthony Neilson’s play Unreachable [1] last year, a real-life baby and a real-life goose in Jez Butterworth’s The Ferryman [2] (director Sam Mendes clearly misunderstood the dictum about never working with children or animals, deciding instead to plump for both).

Now, for Liwaa Yazji’s play Goats, the theatre is employing six to eight pygmy goats to join the cast, essentially turning director Hamish Pirie into a goatherd.

Interestingly, in ancient times, goatherds were known for writing songs and engaging in dramatic scenes while they passed the time on sun-kissed Mediterranean hillsides. In fact, the first form of stage play as we know it – ancient Greek tragedy – owes something to goats too: the word ‘tragedy’ itself is thought to be derived from words meaning ‘the song of the goat’.

So maybe these onstage goats aren’t as baaa-rmy as they first seemed. In a statement, the theatre promised “a stress-free environment and experience” for the goats. Tabard wonders whether the same can be said for the non-goat actors.

Send stories to tabard@thestage.co.uk [3]