Keepers by Ben Clare
OSO Arts Centre
OSO Arts Centre - 19 October 2018
Won’t Someone Think Of The Animals?
by Ben Clare
Lifelike Theatre at OSO Arts Centre, Barnes, until 19th October
Review by Matthew Grierson
If Kerry is awkwardly natural when she introduces Amy to the zoo, Tom is naturally awkward on meeting his new colleague. Small talk and business-speak combine in Kerry’s opening monologue, which is nicely observed both in terms of Ben Clare’s writing and Ally Staddon’s performance as the upbeat but dim-witted keeper. The scene serves not only as Amy’s orientation but also our own introduction to the dynamic of this three-hander, a new play that looks at first to be a study of the relationship between Amy and Tom.
Once Kerry has waved a cheery goodbye, Tom (Craig Bates) and Amy (Emma Miles) are soon chopping carrots in synch. The small talk between the two becomes bigger, with a sometimes stilted rhythm that complements their hesitantly developing chemistry. The music cues – appropriately enough from the Penguin Cafe – underscore the tender atmosphere of Tom and Amy’s relationship. And with the dialogue both deliberately and accidentally awkward, the cast are also able to make good use of silences, with those when Amy bandages Tom’s cut finger and Tom waits for a tapir focusing, rather than losing, our attention.
Before too long, however, the play puts larger issues at stake. Kerry tells Amy about a staff vote on whether the zoo should leave the International Zoo Federation. As an incidental gag this is laboured; as a sustained plotline it is still more so, and sees the play’s careful establishment of characters solidify them into argumentative positions instead. I won’t insult anyone’s intelligence by suggesting what the elephant that is not in the room might be, but Clare’s script has no such reservations. Moreover, he takes a very one-sided view, with the sympathetic Amy and Tom positioned as remainers and the chirpy but superficial Kerry not allowed the ability to mount a convincing counter-argument.
This political agenda co-opts even the play’s better-crafted moments, such as a pub quiz question on the function of zebra stripes … …
Read Matthew Grierson’s full review at www.markaspen.wordpress.com/2018/10/17/keepers
Photography courtesy of Lifelike Theatre
Lifelike Theatre at OSO Arts Centre, Barnes,