There are maybe a handful of times in your whole life when Pablo Escobar and God get to share a sentence, placeholders of equal weight in their respective creation myths—and the Halifax Fringe Show Hippoposthumous is one of them. A play examining the meaning of belonging through the lens of invasive species—particularly, the hippos now inhabiting the Magdalena river valley of Colombia, a non-native species Escobar unwittingly introduced to the ecosystem when he brought two to his estate—it’s a one-hippo show looking for home.
Arriving at Point Pleasant Park’s Quarry Pond, recast here as the Magdalena river, the first thing that strikes is the quiet. Camp chairs clumped along the pond’s edge, the audience sits and waits. First, it feels like an open-air radio play, as we listen to a recorded piece where three humans are hunting for hippos in the river to euthanize. Non-Spanish speakers will struggle a bit to catch nuance here, as the voices speak Spanglish for the most part.
Soon, Katherine Norris emerges as the titular hippo, and the play becomes a meandering musical, mashing together the influences of Liza Minnelli and Hamilton in equal measure. Norris keeps the audience rapt with the same enviable ease she slips into and out of the pond in her one-piece chest waders—but is at her peak when ditching the more intense raps for Catskills-y crowd work or sad banjo drumming that calls Holly Golightly’s “Moon River” to mind.
While the fate of the actual Colombian hippos is currently a hot-button debate among the region’s environmentalists, things aren’t so ambiguous for the titular Hippoposthumous. She never gets quite down to what she wants to say, but that is perhaps the point: How can we articulate what it means to be from somewhere but not belong there? How can home be somewhere you’ve never been? And how can invasive species—be they hippos or settlers—interact with their newfound home in ways that minimize harm?
See Hippoposthumous at Point Pleasant Park’s Quarry Pond Sep 8-10, 7pm; Sep 11-12, 2pm and 7pm.