We sat down with Farine Clarke, writer of London Zoo to find out more about her play which explores the characters surrounding the newspaper industry at the turn of the millennium.
What inspired you to write this play?
Subtext! I’ve always been interested in the difference between what people say and what they really think. We’re sociable animals so brutal honesty can be damaging and hurtful; often it’s kinder not to voice our inner thoughts. But when our ‘harmless’ words mask ingrained prejudice, then that’s more sinister. I was a doctor and then worked in business at a senior level and in both I witnessed situations where the spoken word masked the inner thought. I love using humour to draw attention to the ‘thought conversation’. However tragic it can be, it’s also funny and ironic, and just makes people smile and think, ‘yes’. This dichotomy applies in so many different situations that it resonates with us all.
You wrote this play many years ago. Why stage it now?
My biggest concern was that it would be out of date. London Zoo is about the balance of power in the workplace and prejudicial layers, not just sexual or racial but between races and against ‘perceived weakness’. Over ten years later, when Sassy and Velenzia at The Bread and Roses invited me into their Playwrights’ Circle to have a scene read, I was convinced things had moved on. I’ll never forget the first piece of feedback from one of the contributors who said, “There’s good and bad. The good is it’s really funny and the bad is, nothing’s changed.” That really shocked me and getting it staged became a bit of a mission! Sassy put me in touch with Samantha Pears (our director) and here we are!
You describe the play as a ‘pacey parody of life’; what do audiences have to look forward to?
If the feedback from the rehearsed reading we held on Zoom in February is anything to go by, I think audiences will enjoy it, find it funny, and also recognise that in life you just can’t make it up. Lots of people have said it ‘chimed’ with them and that’s important. It’s satirical but it does have an edge which can be slightly uncomfortable. It also has a fantastical ending which everyone says they didn’t see coming. I hope the audience leaves feeling they’ve seen a stimulating as well as entertaining play.