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London Zoo | Southwark Playhouse

London Zoo, written and directed by Farine Clarke, explores the internal corruption that sadly exists within corporations and the declining need for physical newspapers. The play has a clear idea of what it sets out to do, and occasionally does, but ultimately fails to strike an impact. 

London Zoo follows UKNNG (UK National Newspaper Group) Board members Arabella, Charles and Christian along with their Manager Sunil and CEO Alex as they negotiate an acquisition for 'The Daily World' and it's CEO, Kelvin. With corruption and in-fighting running through each level of authority, heightened with the decrease in sales and the looming threat of digitalisation, it's a losing battle for all involved. 

The play tries to tackle one issue too many, and ultimately muddles itself and doesn't quite reach the level of insight that it could have if it has focused more on one or two issues. 

The actors do their best yet the script doesn't allow for the characters to develop beyond their initial design. Natalie Lauren, as the more sensible Arabella, portrays the exhaustion and wariness of Arabella well. Simon Furness brings warmth to Charles, an aging kinder naive board member. Odumegwu Okoye as Kelvin is the show's stand out performer, with his passionate rant about the inequalities he faces everyday due to his skin tone. 

The play uses characters Christian, Sunil and Alex, (Harris Vaughan, Anirban Roy and Dan Saski) to really emphasis the prejudices that women, people of colour, people with disabilities and more genuine people often faced at the time. However with repeated wildly offensive dialogue, with little to no prompt and unnecessary to the plot, these seem forced and ultimately fade into the noise of the power hungry men, with no consequences. 

Unexpectedly and almost admirably, the plays most racist character is Sunil who openly challenges and belittles Kelvin, leading to an interesting exploration into racism amongst people of colour that is rarely commented upon. This further prompts a powerful outburst from Kelvin (Okoye), which achieves a sense of sympathy and guilt from the audience, and is the show's strongest moment. 

London Zoo plays out entirely through conversations and heated discussions, which makes it quite hard to engage with. Existing solely within its own little bubble, the performers often deliver lines with their back facing the audience, and whilst it's still audible, it pushes the audience away further. There is little to no sound or music, and thus results in awkwardness cutting through the repeated lines of dialogue. Set in the newspaper office, there are two tables and chairs, yet it feels quite underwhelming, and doesn't quite capture the chaotic and overwhelming office atmosphere that is discussed. The plays ending however may be its biggest let down, with a rather bewildering attempt of a smart solution. 

London Zoo is a play that with reworking could develop into a fine piece. The themes and premise hold great potential and are doubtlessly what continues to draw audiences in, but this particular production of London Zoo will sadly and unfortunately not be one to remember.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Lidia Crisafulli


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