Review by Ian Keogh
Publicity specialist Paul Rourke has a problem. It’s been exposed that the government minister he represents has concealed human cloning for five years. In a brilliantly cynical opening sequence Rourke considers any dip in pubic acceptability can be solved by a press release announcing the minister has just adopted a dog from the homeless shelter, ordering his underlings to acquire a three-legged one to maximise the sympathy.
A clever first page is presented as if a clickbait website, while simultaneously providing the essential background to much of what follows, a device repeated to progress the story between scenes. These pages are a distillation of stories typically found on British newspaper sites, and Hannah Berry sets barbed aim at those and the interests of the people who own them. The title is well considered for a story taking as given that our politicians, their advisors, consultants and spin doctors view the population as one generic mass to be tamed into compliance. This involves entwining celebrities and soap operas into a political process where everything is orchestrated to ensure the antics of the famous receive disproportionate attention, and disclosures of real importance to humanity are buried.
Berry’s considered art presents people every bit as manufactured as the news, the pop star Clementine so stuffed with botox she surely leaks a dripping trail as she moves, thinly disguised versions of British TV personalities, and politicians fearful and slimy in equal portions. At the heart of the story are the desperate attempts to spin unregulated cloning by private companies as positive, Berry deliberately suggesting that for all the humanity present, her pop star might already be a clone. It’s only in the final pages that she’s allowed a scene not choreographed by her minders, and it’s strangely touching. That’s amid some very dark humour, the elements in passing most memorable, such as the scene of a bunch of middle aged white people concocting the lyrics to some hard hitting gangster rap.
If there’s a problem with Livestock it’s that it’s too obviously a howl from the heart, everything so contrived and the players so complicit, that it’s difficult to engage in any form of sympathy for anyone, even the angry voice of reason introduced toward the end. Ultimately, Livestock is a dispiriting concoction, because it’s so truthful it hurts.