Animal Studies Journal


The purpose of this study is to investigate animal and human relations as constructed, and as demonstrated, through the live performances at Sea World on the Gold Coast, Australia. Particular attention is placed upon the meanings generated by the intersection of the starring animals and humans in the two narrative-driven productions. The study employs participant observation at three performances of Fish Detectives and Affinity. Fish Detectives highlights the dangers of overfishing the Earth’s oceans in a play where the sea lions and pelican involved in the show perform alongside human actors. The animals do not perform their species but instead present anthropomorphic characters that have human traits. Affinity focuses on the long-held relationship between humans and dolphins and stresses the importance of keeping the oceans clean to protect the health of both. This show is one of demonstration with narrated information interspersed by impressive routines by the dolphins and human trainers. In both productions, audiences are encouraged to respond to the content and to participate directly at times by interacting with the animals. Over the last decade or so, there has been an increase of academic enquiry into animals in live performance and the performance of animality. For the most part, these studies interrogate the content of performances presented in circus and theatre environs, or in performance art. This paper contributes to the field with a particular focus upon staged live animal performances in a public aquarium setting.