This is Night Shift

21 November 2023

Last week I headed to the opening night of Zoo Co’s new production, Night Shift, which is running until this Saturday (25 November) at Stanley Arts.

Not having seen a Zoo Co show since Sirens in Autumn 2019 (and sadly having missed their award winning ‘Perfect Show For Rachel’ at the Barbican last year), I was eager to see their new work.

For those who don’t know Zoo Co, they are an accessible theatre company and charity who have been resident in Croydon for about a decade. All their performances are relaxed, as they believe everyone should be able to feel comfortable coming to see a theatre show. Lots of their work is also accessible for deaf audiences, and they regularly use creative captioning and integrated British Sign Language.

Night Shift is a play by Paula B. Stanic, presented as part of This is Croydon – London Borough of Culture. The story, which is neatly set in the Duppas Hill area of Croydon, is centred around a group of initially unconnected night workers, and details their intertwining lives over a single night – from on-call doctors and delivery drivers to train operators, cabbies, DJs, emergency workers and more.

Whilst waiting to enter the main hall at Stanley Arts, I enjoyed looking at all the neon posters that adorned the foyer walls, giving the audience a hint of the themes to come. Upon entry, the stage had been completely transformed and extended into a concrete and graffiti landscape, which throughout the performance flexed to the different locations for the night of the tale.

The ensemble cast of nine actors cleverly morphed between characters, and the dialogue moved seamlessly between being spoken and signed, without you really noticing. The cast brought both humour and sadness to the stories told. I loved the use of depth on the stage, with hanging translucent banners with projections towards the front, which both served as caption space as well as scene setting, and a mix of surtitles and night-time skies projected on the very back ‘concrete’ wall.

I know this sounds silly to say, but Night Shift really did evoke a feeling of it being the night, when us regular folk are usually sleeping. There was pouring rain and darkness, after-hours restaurants, club scenes, drunk people and late night cab rides. There was also a striking recurring theme of fluorescent tube lighting (which linked neatly to the neon posters outside) as well as being reminiscent (well for me at least) of being awake too long, wide-eyed and tired, with bright artificial lights.

Zoo Co’s co-founder and artistic director Flo O’Mahoney says of Night Shift, ‘it sees us raising our ambitions for what deaf and hearing led theatre can look like. The fact that we are doing this as part of London Borough of Culture, and in our hometown of Croydon, makes this show feel especially rich.’

If you haven’t yet seen Night Shift I hope I’ve whet your appetite to grab yourself a ticket before the run ends on Saturday. It is a mature and thought-provoking play, and I very much look forward to seeing what Zoo Co have in store for us next.

Find out more about Zoo Co on their website and follow them on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

All production images courtesy of Zoo Co, by Cam Harle.

Posted by Julia

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