Cavern – The Vaults
Reviewed – 26th February 2020
“possesses many strong qualities, but Bevan’s ambitious script is overflowing with ideas at the expense of cohesion”
Ever wondered what zoos do with the animals during extreme weather? As Hurricane Jonas rages toward Cherokee Valley Zoo in Miami, curator Bonnie (Lily Bevan) talks us through her preparation routine. It involves herding flamingos into the zoo’s restroom. Meanwhile, across the pond in Yorkshire, bat expert Carol (Lorna Beckett) suffers through another school visit to teach children about the cave-dwelling creatures. Bonnie is an enthusiastic American who does her best to “surround people with light.” Carol is as reserved as they come in Yorkshire. The two women have almost nothing in common, except they both like animals more than people.
Bevan’s Zoo interweaves Bonnie and Carol’s stories, occasionally using flashbacks to trace their friendship, which began at a zoologist conference in England. Bevan is warm and energetic as the high-spirited Bonnie. She performs a humorous, intensely earnest monologue filled with weird and gross facts about animals. Did you know penguins will engage in necrophilia? Her bubbly narration is directly at odds with the increasing threat of the hurricane.
Beckett has a good sense of the comedy around her own, more subdued character, and skilfully draws it out. In scenes together, Bonnie and Carol’s dynamic is fun and engaging. There’s some excellent writing in this piece about female friendship and love for animals, but as a whole it’s uneven. What ought to be a tight hour meanders instead. The small, scattered digs into Bonnie’s backstory are too shallow to really expose much, and an unsubtle confrontation about Carol’s abusive ex-husband feels wedged in.
The show appears to lose its way somewhere around the middle in terms of both subject and tone. The first and second part seem like two different plays hanging together uncomfortably. Another sudden turn toward the end takes us to an oddly spiritual culmination of the story that feels out-of-step with the rest.
A highly distinctive show that’s fresh and frequently compelling, Zoo possesses many strong qualities, but Bevan’s ambitious script is overflowing with ideas at the expense of cohesion.
Reviewed by Addison Waite