Two immensely talented actors perform the uniquely charming Zoo. Inspired by a live TV news interview in 2017, of a zookeeper preparing her animals for a storm. We explore the relationship between two female zoo keepers.
We start off as visitors to the Zoo where we meet Bonnie and Carol. Who tell us funny and very interesting animal facts such as: ‘Sloths don’t fart’ and ‘Penguins are the biggest sluts’. The two are opposites in every way, but form an unlikely friendship. Managing to bring out the best in each other.
Bonnie is like a mixture between Cyndee from ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ and Molly Solverson from ‘Fargo’. Played by the ambitious Lily Bevan. Who not only performed as Bonnie, but also wrote and co-directed the piece. She is what we in the industry call a triple threat. And in this instance she’s played all roles beautifully. Bonnie is an upbeat Canadian, who charmingly over-annunciates British words and place names. Her motto is K.I.L. Keep it light. Even in her darkest hours Bonnie keeps it light, her love for her animals never wavering. There are moments where we learn of her difficult relationship with her mother. Not everything in her life was so happy but her smile remains permanently fixed.
Carol is a Northern soul, uptight but warm. A tough broad from North Yorkshire who takes no-nonsense, even from her beloved bats. Handing a small ‘bat’ to an audience member and declaring ‘you can name her, she’ll never know.’ She is a self-described ‘crap with people’ person. Lorna Beckett manages to capture this rough edge but also a softer side. Not so much a strict and imposing matron, but a woman who has had to act tough to survive. Her quick rhythm and hilarious observations had the audience in stitches.
The relationship between these two women was loving, encouraging and loyal from their first meeting. A breath of fresh air from the usual comic, bitchy, competitive narrative that we see all too often. They bond over their mutually shared embarrassment of kissing Ian. Their sleazy, insufferable co-worker who gave us a lot of cringey laughs.
But this play isn’t a comedy, there’s a lot of tragedy in the mix of humour. The death of a friend, domestic abuse and the distance grown between a mother and child.
Mike Winship and Tom Clutterbuck provided simple yet very effective lighting and sound design. Transforming the space into a zoo during a storm, a dark cave, and even a dance club. The play did shift between countries and places very often, which did get confusing and a bit unnecessary. With only two actors, the other male characters were merely voices. The technical changes were slick, professional and perfectly timed. Capturing their environment and never slowing down their powerhouse actors.
Despite their early time slot, I urge people to visit this hidden gem.
You can get your tickets here: