A great war has taken place. Humanity has almost been destroyed and the planet is uninhabitable. The survivors build a new society beneath the ground, keeping individuals segregated for their own good—"contact only leads to conflict"—and leaving the general running of things to a super machine whose inventors are long dead.
Real human relationships are against "protocol" but somehow Koto and Miri manage to find each other and fall in love, spurred on by a letter from a soldier to his lover that Koto finds concealed in the wall of his standard issue 8’ x 8’ cell (how a letter written years before the colony is founded finds its way there is never explained).
There are a few inspired moments of physical storytelling—Koto’s illicit journey to the barren surface of the earth for example—but the originality stops there. Plot-wise, it’s a derivative jumble of 1984, The Matrix, and WALL-E; we’ve met all these characters before and Human Zoo do nothing new with them.
Stylistically, it’s a mish-mash. Alongside the engaging choreography there’s puppetry, naturalistic dialogue and interludes of narration in verse. Intended to lend proceedings an epic quality, this technique achieves the opposite effect, giving the show an unfortunate air of Dr Seuss that undermines the seriousness of the drama.
Not long after curtain up, sound designer Jason Nolan’s mechanistic accompaniment to the ensemble’s dynamic representation of daily life in the Hive makes for a promising start to the action. It’s a promise on which Human Zoo unfortunately fail to deliver.