Review: Zoo at Assembly George Square Studios

Top-class performances and a smart script make this curious tale of animal attraction and psychological trauma a genuine pleasure.

Lily Bevan’s deceptively light and very funny play tells the story of Carol and Bonnie, a couple of misfits who are both more comfortable with animals than people, but whose unlikely friendship brings each woman strength and a new outlook on life.

Bevan herself plays Florida zookeeper Bonnie, a people-pleaser who’d much prefer to spend time with her anteaters, flamingos, meerkats and snakes – so much so that when a deadly hurricane threatens the zoo and her colleagues flee, she opts to stay and protect her charges. Over in Yorkshire, meanwhile, her friend Carol (Lorna Beckett) – bristling, spiky and hilariously plain-speaking – has troubles of her own. Her speciality is bats (Yorkshire is teeming with them, apparently), and she’d rather be communing with them alone in a dark cave than spending time at home with her teenage son.

The two women seem like opposites, but they share a common core; bruised by life (there’s an abusive ex-husband and a bitter drunk of a mother in there), they see and appreciate the strength in one other. The hurricane, alas, is going to get the better of Bonnie, but her sacrifice is not in vain. Although devastated by her loss, Carol finds new reason to go on and, in fact, slowly begins to move out of the black cave of her misery and into the light.

The priceless value of friendship is at the heart of this witty piece of work – along with some of the most entertaining nuggets of animal trivia you’re ever likely to hear.

Zoo, Assembly George Square Studios, until 27 Aug, 11am

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