“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.
“This is a play that will move you as well as warm your heart this Christmas”
When you think of theatre during the festive season, a play about a junior doctor’s experiences around this time of year may not be one of the first things that comes to mind. Tania Amsel has written, and is the sole performer in, Blood Orange, which centres around Amy as she works in Swansea A&E on Christmas Eve.
Amy has been out for drinks with her colleagues the night before which ended with her vomiting over the shoes of a surgeon she is clearly in awe of. She then has to deal with the shame of this the next day, whilst seeing to an array of patients including a man dressed as Santa who quite literally got stuck in a chimney. Here, it’s not hard to feel empathy for Amy, whilst laughing at some of the situations she finds herself in.
One patient, a young boy with cancer, strikes a chord with Amy and we see her enter into a mild panic, but it isn’t clear why at this point. With time, we learn that this particular patient has brought back childhood memories, with a trip to London for an interview at Great Ormond Street Hospital only strengthening her flashbacks.
Throughout the piece, lighting (Jamie Platt) and sound (Tingying Dong) prove highly effective. Everything from sounds of the hustle and bustle of a busy Oxford Circus to the intense lighting design when Amy is having flashbacks means we can engage well with the story.
On the subject of engaging well with the story, Tania Amsel’s performance style means we can do this without difficulty. She directly addresses the audience with ease, allowing us to connect with Amy and her experiences. It’s always interesting to see how one man/woman shows are delivered and Amsel’s energy and likability is proof that they can be a success. The fact the set includes only a fold up chair and what resembles the frame of a hospital screen is further testament to Amsel’s ability to consistently engage an audience.
In addition to shining a light on life as a junior doctor in the NHS, Blood Orange highlights what can happen when the pressures of a job become too much and a person’s personal and professional lives collide. Directed by Hamish MacDougall, Amsel has created a likable character and tackles her subject matter with sensitivity, warmth and humour, along with bucket loads of energy. This is a play that will move you as well as warm your heart this Christmas.