Zoo at Dublin Theatre Festival


At first, two performers seem at unease before us.  We are all equally unsure of whether they have begun or if they ever will begin. And so from the very beginning, Zoo – created by Manuela Infante and Teatro de Chile – has us exquisitely fooled. But what magnificent fools they are! They are glorious fools in the old style, in the Marx brothers’ tradition of thick-rimmed glasses and high-waisted striped trousers. They have the well gestured humor of bald headed over earnestness. In their overwhelming earnestness, they promise us that we will see things that have never been seen before. And they do not disappoint.

The performance begins in the guise of a presentation. There is an urgency in the information presented to us about the dying out of the Tzoolkman people. A television is wheeled out to show us slides about the Tzoolkman’s history. As Charles Darwin is quoted, the performers intricately, nervously perch the audience somewhere between fact and the fantastically unreal.

Words are carefully underlined for us on the screen in red marker, in case we miss anything. No detail should be missed because there is a gloriously exquisite efficiency at work in Zoo. Each gesture, each glove, each fact, and each neatly arranged colored pencil, serve a distinct purpose on the stage. Even the subtitles are used as components of a greater experiment. Within this beautiful, brazenly structured investigation, the components of video and the soundscape are stunning works unto themselves.

There is a thrilling, scientific exactness of the performance, which allows for complex ideas to flourish alongside vital silliness. In the throes of this investigation/ spectacle, the audience becomes thoroughly captured in our own inherent fascination with the other, in our inability not to stare.

Zoo is wholly captivating and should not be escaped.

Isadora Epstein

Zoo runs at Smock Alley Theatre from 25 – 28 September. For more information visit Dublin Theatre Festival online.

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