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Inspired Series: Studying people through theatre with Flo O’Mahony and Rosalind Hoy

Flo O’Mahony and Rosalind Hoy talk about Zoo Co.

Zoo Co. is an ensemble-based theatre company making theatre inspired through interesting, trending and progressive topics. Engaging with local communities in workshops and focus groups, their work reflects the views and moods of the community and environment surrounding them.

Zoo Co.’s use of movement, puppetry, poetry and music with fast-paced, visual and very moving story-telling, shakes the stereotypical notion of ‘theatre’. We sat down with Flo O’Mahony and Rosalind Hoy to find out more.

What made you want to start Zoo Co.?  

RH: The acting/ theatre industry is notoriously difficult to get into. As actors starting out, the constant auditioning, waiting and rejection can be disheartening and not the most stable way to earn a living. Zoo Co. was founded in response to that by a group of school friends who shared a love for theatre. Making our own work offers us the opportunity to be proactive in doing what we love; rather than sitting and waiting for roles to come along. We have much more control over our paths, and careers in an industry that doesn’t offer much control. Being a start-up theatre company has meant we can incubate a supportive and experimental environment that often involves community focused work as well as creating and performing original theatre.

What made you want to come to Croydon?

FO: Although we grew up in the leafy suburbs, Croydon has basically been our home town, so we know the area well and have a certain affinity here. Our work previously has been on the road which has been great but can feel fleeting.

Being rooted predominantly in one place now means we can root ourselves into the community and really grow our offering here, transcend various groups, be more accountable and serve our community better. There is a massive outcry in Croydon for arts activity and events – it is London’s most populous borough and people are looking for creative experiences.

RH: Part of our move here was to try to access groups that aren’t your typical theatre goers. Croydon has such a diverse mix of people. Our recent project, Theatre on the Market, which was held on Surrey Street Market was an incredible experience as we were in constant contact with all kinds of people from all walks of life.

Where do you get your inspiration for projects?

FO: The environment has a massive influence on our work. Our last project GIANT, which is about generation identity, brought us in front of people from different walks of life and age groups. We ran a workshop to talk about their experiences – and that directly influenced our script – there were some really interesting and surprising things that really challenged our perceptions and assumptions.

Our next play in Croydon is about women and queer women. We will be visiting women’s groups to discuss their experiences. The subject of the piece will often lead us to seek out interesting groups that trigger dialogue with the area and its people.

RH: Participants tell us their opinions on a subject and our challenge is to then interpret and translate that into theatre. We are looking forward to developing the dialogue with the Croydon communities and then performing it to them.

What projects are you working on that you are excited about?

FO: We were commissioned by the Croydon Council to do the Christmas Projections at the end of 2017, which was an adaption of The Monotone Man projected onto the side of buildings in the city centre.

RH: We are doing some collaborations with Turf Projects, an artist-run contemporary art space in Croydon, based on one of the art exhibitions they are doing, and working with Status Employment on some workshops for people looking to get back into work.

FO: We are also involved in the steering committee for Croydon’s London Borough of Culture bid – we feel quite privileged to be part of that conversation.

What would you like to see in Croydon?

FO: I would love to see a multi-form arts centre –a creative space for people to make work. There are some interesting spaces in Croydon but not having that clearly defined space has meant we have had to think outside the box.

Money no object – what project would you want to do?

RH: An immersive show is something we would love to do. We would love to take over a massive car park, unused building or industrial space – and do a big performance of a well-known story, with our trademark visual style and dark comedy, with music and a bar. We would love to make something truly site responsive and really cool.

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