music / theatre

The perfect show for everyone

29 May 2024

Last Friday we swapped the bright lights and skyscrapers of Croydon for the bright lights and skyscrapers of the Barbican, as we attended the press night of Zoo Co’s Perfect Show For Rachel.

Zoo Co, in case you don’t know, is a Croydon-based theatre company who champions creative accessible theatre. Deaf and disabled artists are leaders on every project and Zoo Co shows are signed and captioned as the norm. Their mantra is that theatre is better when everyone is invited. And indeed it is. We missed the premiere of this delightful show at the Barbican back in 2022, so we were very glad to be able to enjoy it this time around.

This is a very personal production for Zoo Co’s (usual) artistic director, Flo O’Mahony. I say ‘usual’ as in Perfect Show for Rachel she hands over the director’s chair to her sister Rachel – a 33-year-old Kylie Minogue fan, who also happens to be a learning disabled care-home resident.

The show is devised of a possible 50 different scenes that the multi-talented ensemble cast of 12 performers (which includes Flo, and sometimes Flo and Rachel’s mum Wendy) are poised to act, play or sing, with a backdrop of family videos and immersive projections on walls that are styled with Rachel’s artwork.

Rachel sits at the director’s desk with 50 buttons in front of her, and gets to choose which scenes she would like to see throughout the hour-and-ten-minute show by pressing the corresponding button (with an image prompt). She can repeat the scenes if she so chooses, or take long pauses if she likes, and she can even fire cast members (I think she fired three of them in Friday’s show). She freely chats to the cast throughout the show (particularly Nick, who she evidently has a soft spot for), and her words are live-scribed and projected on screens, so we can read what she says.

The scenes are all themed around Rachel’s likes and interests. Sometimes we are given an insight into Rachel’s day-to-day life in her care home, when she selects scenes which include videos of jokes and chats from her friends who live with her. Sometimes we are presented with musical performances from the ensemble cast, such as Kylie’s ‘Can’t get you out of my head’, Queen’s ‘We will rock you’, Dirty Dancing’s’ I’ve had the time of my life’ (where Wendy crowd-surfs) or even a song Rachel’s dad sang in a local choir. We enjoyed a scene dedicated to farting, and even one which was an Eastenders-style set-up where the cast individually speak French, Arabic and Gibberish, but can’t understand each other – Rachel directs whether she wants them to act louder or quieter, sadder or happier, faster or slower in this one. The overlap between the direction and the clash of languages makes for a rather hilarious sketch.

However my favourite scene I think had to be the song about olives, bourbon biscuits and ready salted crisps (Rachel’s favourite snacks) where three of the cast (dressed as the aforementioned foods) compete for Rachel’s vote by singing songs in character. (Yes you know I’d vote for the olives). On Friday the bourbon won. Rachel obviously got some real bourbons at the end of the scene as a prize.

The ‘choice’ element of the show reminded me of YouTube, but a much more charming real-life version, where Rachel is able to select the ‘clips’ that take her fancy on any particular day.

The whole show was joyful and funny but also touching and sweet. And I’d recommend it for anyone… Although the show age is suggested as 14+, there were some younger children in the audience who were evidently enjoying it too. Usual theatre rules are left at the door here, and it means adults can let their hair down and laugh at whatever Rachel wants to present to us. It’s a riot of fun and colour.

Go and see it. The perfect show for everyone.

Perfect Show for Rachel is on at the Barbican until Sunday 9 June 2024. You can book tickets here.

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

All production images courtesy of Zoo Co, by Ikin Yum.

Posted by Julia

No Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *