TRCH Ranulph

Theatre Interview: Zoo Indigo

29 September 17 words: Alison Kirkman

The Playhouse presents a week of local, home grown Nottingham theatre this October during their Playground festival. Here's a peek into the minds behind one of the new shows, Celluloid Souls.

Zoo Indigo is a two-woman theatre and performance company founded by Ildikó Rippel and Rosie Garton in 2002. After meeting as students of contemporary theatre at De Montfort University, the pair discovered common themes in their work, which seeks to present feminist issues in a self-ironic, humorous way. They have since toured several productions across the UK, making audiences an integral part of their shows through their innovative use of technology. Their show Under The Covers even gave spectators the task of “babysitting” their three children via a live Skype connection. 

Their new production, Celluloid Souls, premieres at Nottingham Playhouse’s Playground Festival in October. Alison Kirkman spoke to Ildikó to find out more…


Okay, first of all I have to ask – where did the name Zoo Indigo come from?

Ha! Well, the first show we did was about having the blues and we used song by Nina Simone called ‘Mood Indigo’. We had a couple of goldfish in the performance, each in their little lonely bowls. They were supposed to represent being in your lonely bedsit, going round in circles to the same routines day in day out. The name is really a metaphor for the human zoo.

What’s Celluloid Souls about?

It’s about our obsession with the cinema in a very celebratory way on the one hand, with shared memories of certain films, but also looking at how some movies manipulate us. We look at Hollywood movies and how they reinforce things like heteronormativity, cultural identity and gender representation. We look at how we romanticise cinema and our lives so we're all waiting for these boy meets girl moments with the happy ending.

We also look further back historically at propaganda films from Nazi Germany. I'm from Nürnberg, which is a medieval town in the south of Germany and has some very problematic Nazi memories. I’ve wanted to explore my hometown’s difficult past for a long time. That sounds very serious but it's really a playful show – a patchwork of movie memories. It’s all performed to a live cinematic score created by Matt Marks, similar to that heard in a silent movie. He is Jewish so we were interested in both our experiences of propaganda films.

 Do you play characters from the films?

We take on film characters but we’re not necessarily trying to re-enact films. There is a sense of pastiche, of mocking some of these genres. We don’t necessarily mean to portray characters faithfully. Rosie becomes a cowboy because she's critiquing all the roles women used to have in old-fashioned Westerns where they were all back at the ranch looking after the kids and the horses.

 How does it relate to works you’ve made previously?

It still has similar themes around feminism, it explores how women are represented in films and there’s quite a strong focus on gender. Most of our previous shows have references to cinema, too.

 We were always interested in elements of the real and including something that opens up chance or accidents as well as involving the audience. I have children and so does Rosie and we did this show called Under The Covers where we set up live Skype video links to our children asleep at home. We attempted to re-enact Thelma and Louise while the audience were keeping an eye on the babies! Our husbands were at home the whole time though, so we never actually left our children alone!

This time we wanted to invite the audience to actually write part of the show. Rather than us coming up with the material, around 80% of the script is stitched together from audience contributions submitted as part of the ticket booking process. We will use contributions right up until the day before, so it’s not finished yet!

How do you rehearse?

Slowly! Some of the sections are pre-written so we can rehearse those, but as it is with most devised performance you kind of work on it until the very end.

So it's a brand-new piece and this is the premiere?

We did a scratch performance a couple of years ago but this will be a full-length show. Each time we perform it, it will be a little bit different because it’s tailor-made.

Some people are put off by the word ‘interactive’ in a show’s description. How would you reassure them and persuade them to come along?

Ah, no one will be dragged on stage – we’ve never done that. It’s all from pre-submitted material rather than participation on the night so no need to worry!

What do you hope people will get out of it?

Our performances move from hilarious to quite serious and heart wrenching and then back again. We hope the audience will enjoy seeing their own memories of movies they submitted badly re-enacted! I really just hope they will be moved, that they will laugh, be stirred, and be inspired to think rather than us telling them what to think. 

You have the prime Saturday evening slot of the festival – you’re basically headliners. How do you feel about that?  

I didn't think of it that way! Many of the other shows have sold out already so Saturday can be difficult because people have other plans. Maybe Thursday night would be better, I don't know! Although we have performed at NEAT festival before, this will be the first time we will be performing in the studio so we’re very excited about it. I just hope people will come!

What's next for Zoo Indigo?

We will be developing this show and have a few gigs lined up next year. We’re still touring with No Woman's Land and hope to take both shows to Edinburgh next year, so that will be our main focus.

Playground Festival runs from October 3-7 at Nottingham Playhouse. Celluloid Souls will be performed in the Neville Studio on Saturday 7 October at 7.45pm.