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Review - London Zoo

Southwark Playhouse Borough

Playing until 30th March 2024

Photo credit: Lidia Crisafulli

Review {AD-PR Invite}

London Zoo explores the concept of prejudice and bigotry in the workplace. Following a group of senior directors in a fictional newspaper group, UK National News Group (UKNNG), the play highlights the hierarchy that exist even among senior members of the company and that one often need to comply with rules set by less qualified or competent senior individuals in order to be part of the inner circle.


The core team at UKNNG is composed of three individuals, Christian (Harris Vaughan), Charles (Simon Furness) and Arabella (Natalie Lauren), with instructions from Alex (Dan Saski), who sits above the team. While there appeared to be hints of functionality within the team, this quickly crumbles as Christian allies with Alex to stay as part of UKNNG’s inner circle. Arabella and Charles initially advocate for investment in people and the guardians of integrity, they quickly bend to the will of Alex and Sunil (Anirban Roy), who appears to have even more power within the company. Despite the layers of hierarchical structure, this is a fair reflection of many companies and the way they operate.


This is a show of bigotry and prejudice, Farine Clarke’s script does not shy away from discrimination against women and race, both of these are explicitly demonstrated to a degree that is unrealistic. Sunil, Alex and Christian are stereotype bigots. While this in itself is not unusual, the exchange between Christian and Arabella on women’s mentality and capabilities is simply unfathomable overtly exaggerated to a degree that makes it far less relatable. Given the position these individuals have managed to reach, it is far more likely that any signs of prejudice would be more finely concealed and discrete. However, the antagonists don’t appear to be aware of their wrongdoings and are instead, appear as comedically ignorant. This overall, dampens the urgency of the situation.  


Among the two more righteous individuals, Arabella and Charles, both of who recognised to the need to bend to power and did not put up much a fight against the instructions of the senior company members, doing their biddings as instructed. It is also because of this, the story loses its direction and messaging quite early on, and develop into a slow jog towards the finish line, which I suspect is similar to how Arabella felt during the course of the play. Charles’s character is also easily influenced, swaying his position from scene to scene, which was rather tiresome to watch as it becomes more and more predictable as to how he would react. However, all these culminate to a rather unexpected surprising, but also rather unfulfilling finale that I did not see coming.


On the surface, London Zoo explores a pertinent topic for the current society, but is held back by the excessively exaggerated display of prejudice. The characters appear to simply follow the flow as the story progresses as they become more and more lost in a swirling vortex of stereotype bigotry and prejudice.   


Writer and Director: Farine Clarke

Special Advisor: Linda Marlowe

Lighting Designer: Chuma Emembolu

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