jam packed with puppetry, poetry, brash clown make up and copious amounts of cardboard boxes
With direction from Florence O’Mahony, The Human Zoo - garbed in antique dusty pinks - they engage with the audience candidly with various ‘wink wink nudge nudge’ gags.
The piece explores humans of all ages fulfilling their ‘roles’ in society, with the stressed intern, the fed-up mother, the odd uncle, the forgetful grandmother and the old-fashioned grandfather. The actors are playful in their approach to these roles, allowing the audience to find enjoyment in these familiar characters too. Nick Gilbert mesmerises with his comical hand routine, portraying a clever microcosm of life, a theme prevalent within this piece; a box within a box, a life within a life.
The set consisted of a simple arrangement of boxes and doors, with two large red curtained entrances. Conventions were mixed, with various props being made from cardboard whilst others were not, causing a minor disruption to an otherwise well assembled aesthetic.
The actors are capable musicians and brilliantly underscore several movement and poetry numbers with the accordion, guitar and drums. Sound Designer, Charlie Jeffries, enhances the piece with excellent fusions of styles, from tinkling tunes to chaotic beats and electro-swing compositions. The Human Zoo’s self-confession of ‘questionable cabaret acts’ rings true, with comedic yet vague dancing.
Although the secret within the attic is set up well with frequent rumbling sounds, the appearance of the Giant is not entirely explained, creating confusion as to where it fits within this story. Despite minor confusion, the piece changes rhythm skillfully, from slow motion dancing to a chaotic office, with the pace only dropping in cabaret or poetry scenes that would have benefited from being a little snappier.
The only vital problem throughout the piece is the absence of that charming, youthful, urgent passion to perform. The ensemble feel overly casual in their approach and are often pre-empting movements. Overall, the themes explored throughout are relevant and appropriate to a wide audience and the ensemble must be commended for their ‘Relaxed Performance’ accessibility scheme. The stage came to life most when the entire ensemble was present, with their inventive, stylised storytelling providing chaotic visuals.