Zoo

Zoo

05/08/18

Assembly, George Square

Zoo is a charming and extremely likeable play, inspired by real events and sensitively acted by Lily Bevan and Lorna Beckett. Its greatest strength lies in the characterisations of two very different people, who both harbour incidents in their pasts that have shaped the women they have become.

Bonnie (Bevan, who also wrote the script) is the ever-smiling, ever-optimistic keeper at a wildlife centre in Miami. As Hurricane Hector bears inexorably down on the sanctuary where she’s based, she works frantically to keep her animal friends safe from harm, whilst simultaneously attempting to record an interview with CNN. Meanwhile, in North Yorkshire, dour and practical Carol (Beckett) dutifully guides school children around the bat sanctuary that is closest to her heart.

The women are unlikely friends – they met when they were both on a course at Chester Zoo and have stayed in contact ever since. Clearly they have recognised something in each other, something unspoken that makes them form a bond. Each of them prefers the company of animals to humans – and both will be touched by tragedy as the hurricane approaches. If the flashback sequences in the final third slow things down a tad,  there’s nonetheless, a heartfelt conclusion that sends you away with a smile.

Directed by Hamish MacDougall, and simply staged, this is a poignant yet often amusing tale about heroism and the power of friendship.

4 stars

Philip Caveney

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Peer Gynt

28/08/17

Zoo Sanctuary, Pleasance, Edinburgh

Gruffdog Theatre’s Peer Gynt is a theatrical triumph: a joyous romp through Henrik Ibsen’s script, with a sprightly physicality that has us utterly enthralled.

Look, it’s the last day of the Fringe, and it’s all winding down. Everywhere we turn, we can see vans being loaded, posters being removed. Venues that just yesterday were pulsing with life now have their doors shut, their windows dark. We’re not sure we even want to see another show (we’ve seen a lot; we’re pretty sated). But a friend has recommended this play and it’s a now or never thing. So we pick up a pair of tickets and set off across town.

And we’ve definitely made the right decision; this is a glorious Fringe finale, chronicling the tale of the feckless Peer Gynt as he swaggers his way through life, leaving a trail of heartbroken women and abandoned children in his wake. The ensemble work is wonderful: a well-oiled machine with all the parts working in harmony. Literal harmony at times, as the whole piece is soundtracked a capella by the cast. It’s eerie and unearthly, and a little bit unsettling – just like the strange green eye make-up they all wear, and the funny little outfits, all identical.

The physical theatre is precise and well-crafted, performed with ease and poise. I especially like the shipwreck, which is beautifully done. The puppetry is excellent too – that troll! – and the multi-roling works a treat.

Sadly, you can’t see this in Edinburgh now, and Gruffdog Theatre’s website seems to indicate this is the end of their UK tour. But, if they revive it, I recommend this play whole-heartedly, and I for one will be checking carefully to see what they do next.

5 stars

Susan Singfield