Tiger Lady – Pleasance Courtyard (above)
It’s a sad story, because the audience is duly informed at the beginning of the show, but before it comes to melancholy and misfortune, there are many other emotions to go through, in a show that makes good use of a wide variety of techniques and styles in one hour. Mary Ann Haynie (1889-1968), known as Mabel Sands (Natisha Williams-Samuels) because Al G Barnes (1862-1931) (Antonio Victorio), who ran a circus bearing his own name, chose Mabel Sands as an appropriate stage name. Sands, placing more importance on joining the circus in the first place than maintaining the use of a surname which she didn’t care much about anyway, accepted it – it’s not not like she should be called something ridiculous or incriminating.
Stark’s parents, Lela and Hardy Haynie, died (separately) when she was young, leaving her an orphan at the age of seventeen. According to this production’s account, she was cared for by strict Presbyterian aunts, the kind of religious people who were clear about what they were against but vague about what they were for. The circus, they insisted, wasthe work of the devila position Barnes did not disagree with. Stark was hired for apparently having circus legs, which seemed to mean they were good at dancing. Being part of a traveling circus was better, according to Stark, than sitting at home with those stuffy, condescending opinions of obnoxious aunts.
She is impressed with the use of animals in Barnes’ circus and decides she most definitely wants to become a “tiger tamer– unsurprisingly, her request to become one was denied, at least at first, until it was pointed out that if the audience saw a woman in the ring with a tiger, it would increase the shock factor and the results of the circus company. In other words, people would like it to happen.
Massive sheets are used, more than once, to create waves. A particularly impressive moment comes when the tarp takes on the neat shape of an elephant. As for the tigers, they appear in a variety of ways, with puppets being the favored method. Throw in a healthy dose of actor-musician, too, and it’s a jam-packed production. Sitting in the front row at your own risk. I’ll say precisely why, but it’s too spoiler.
Then there’s Rajah (Edward Breckenridge), who is a bear cub when introduced by Barnes to Stark, but inevitably grows bigger and fiercer with the passing years. Stark isn’t exactly enjoying an injury-free career, and indeed, when a critical incident occurs (though not for her personally), the “health warning” at the top of the show that he This is a sad story seems justified. The fact that the focus isn’t solely on Stark may be cause for complaint for some, but misses the point: it’s often said in the industry that it takes a village to make a show. It was like that with the Barnes Circus, with a lot of people coming together to make things happen. It’s a show that roars with passion and charm in equal measure.
Comment by Chris Omaweng
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to a tale of love, excitement, danger and very sharp claws.
Unveiling the true story of a forgotten woman, Tiger Lady acts as a powerful vehicle to amplify underrepresented voices. Mabel Stark, Queen of the Circus at the time of The Greatest Show on Earth, was one of the first female tiger tamers and the only female to step into the ring with seven tigers.
Presented by Dead Rabbits Theater Company
Writers Kasia Zaremba-Byrne, Alex Byrne and the set of Dead
rabbit theater company
Production Manager David Hockham
Scenographer and costume designer Tina Bicât
Lighting Designer David Hockham
Stage Manager Leah Butterworth
Tech Support Matt Keywood
Sound Designer Greg Hall
Mabel Stark – Natisha Williams-Samuels
Art Rooney – Abayomi Oniyide
Al G Barnes – Antonio Victorio
Louis Roth – James Parker
Maggie talks – Chloe Waddilove
Rajah the Tiger – Eddie Breckenridge
Tiger Lady shares the untold story of the world
most influential animal trainer
Pleasance Courtyard (above), 60 Pleasance, Edinburgh, EH8 9TJ
From Wednesday August 3 to Monday August 29, 2022 (not on August 17, 22), 1:05 p.m.