Few stories of friendship begin at an anteater conference, but if Lily Bevan’s Zoo is anything to go by, many more should. Centered on upbeat Bonnie Young (Lily Bevan) as a Miami zookeeper getting the animals ready for a hurricane and the much more cynical Carol Alsop (Lorna Beckett) as a bat enthusiast from North Yorkshire, this show is a beautiful testament to personal growth and the friends who stand beside us.
Bevan particularly should be praised for her masterful writing. These two main characters feel like people you could meet, and the revelation of their backstories, personal tragedies and flaws feels like a completely organic experience. Their friendship too feels completely believable, which is no easy feat considering how different they both are.
Beckett and Bevan perfectly play off each other. Both are obvious pros when it comes to landing jokes, and their diametrically opposed dispositions highlights the others’ most interesting traits. Bevan’s perpetually smiling, enthusiastic Bonnie just makes Beckett’s dry, suspicious, no-nonsense Carol all the more entertaining and vice versa. For a good chunk of the show there’s an almost constant chittering from the audience as simply watching these two characters exist can be extremely funny. Personally, I could watch all day as Carol angrily judged a group of school children for not knowing enough about bats.
However, not only is this a very funny show, but when it gets serious, the emotional beats hit exactly as they should. Bonnie and Carol are instantly fun to watch, but over the course of an hour their resilience, their flaws, their struggles emerge, and we see them for the full people they are.
While Bevan and Beckett are at the heart of this show, the sound and lighting design must also be mentioned. Mike Winship does an awesome job with the sound. In such an empty space, he allows us to be there for a sadly hilarious bat death, a nail-biting hurricane, and claustrophobic caves. With just the amount of animals that are meant to be on stage for a few scenes, it’s a testament to his abilities that we can believe those creatures are there without getting distracted from the main action or second guessing what’s supposed to be going on.
Tom Clutterbuck too works to transform this space. The lighting works perfectly to set an emotional tone for the scenes. There is a particularly breathtaking moment with Beckett at the end of the show as a single light illuminates her from under an audience member’s seat and casts a goliath of a shadow behind her that cut through the scene.
There’s so much more I could say about this show, but at the end of the day, if you want to see something both funny and heart wrenching at VAULT Festival this year, Zoo is the right choice.
Written By: Lily Bevan
Directed By: Hamish MacDougall and Lily Bevan
Produced By: Anteater in association with VAULT Festival
Booking Link: Booking Until: 1 March 2020