Zoo Story – from Ken’s Pen

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I joined The Little Theatre in 2017 – I’d realised life was too short to miss doing what I loved the most.

I performed in Fallon Mayne’s self-written piece, ‘Secret Obsession’ in Play Parade 2017 too.

Phil Wintle mooted Zoo Story in Summer 2018 and I was immediately enthused: I’d seen 2 friends do it way back in 2001 at Leicester University Theatre and I was really eager to get the part of Jerry.

3-4 weeks ahead of auditions I set about reading the play and working on character at my kitchen table; I WANTED that part!

Phil Norman and I began work under Phil Wintle’s direction in the autumn and it was a joy! Mr Norman is a very talented actor and we had a great personal rapport too. Phil Wintle is flexible with the direction actors take but has a great ear for the delivery he needs from the actor and is detailed and clear when giving notes and direction. The play is so good: from an actor’s point of view, the script does most of the work.

I fitted in rehearsals around my first professional tour – so I was learning and working on 2 plays simultaneously and travelling round the country, plus doing my day-job!

Play Parade is a fantastic experience – co-operation between the teams is really tight so that everyone can get rehearsal space and tech access too. And you get to hear about 2 other very special plays whilst working on your own. We were looking for that silence when a pin drops – and I think we got there!

After Play Parade in November 2018, we were selected to go ahead to the All England Theatre Festival preliminary rounds, scheduled to begin rehearsals about 3 weeks before. I was faced with an actor’s dream: reprising a part I loved, with the time to add nuance and detail to the character on every page if I could. One massive snag – Phil Norman couldn’t do it!

Luckily we gained the talents of one of Leicester’s most gifted actors, Charles Moss.

Charles was incredible, doing most of an actor’s groundwork in the space of about 10 days! Lines learned, character arcs analyzed and a clear sense of his character’s reactions. His performance was detailed from the start and we had very productive, workshop style rehearsals.

The competition was tough from the beginning, with Market Harborough and Oadby Drama running us very close in the First Round at The Little Theatre, March 23rd. That night was incredible: The show went well and the whole 3 day festival of 1-act plays was of a very high standard. Our team won ‘Winning Play’, ‘Best Direction’, ‘Best Supporting Actor’ and ‘Best Actor’!

We couldn’t shake Market Harborough for the Quarter Finals on April 14th, and they progressed alongside us to the May 4th Semi-Finals in Burton on Trent. We again had the chance of improving what by now was a detailed performance and worked hard the preceding week.

In Burton, the standard of competition was amazing and we faced the titans of Total Arts Community Theatre from Tamworth – they’ve won the National competition many years running. They put on a Frankenstein-inspired, gothic piece with fantastic performances. The incredible writing of Zoo Story was enough to carry us through, and Charles and I both felt a tight connection on stage and a tremendous energy – And we won the day scoring 88 points out of a possible 100!