ZOO Venues: Past, Present and Future
ZOO started in 2002. It started just as an idea between me and two of my friends. We wanted to start a Fringe venue and we’d been helping other people run venues for a number of years so thought it would be good to give it a go and see what would happen. So we looked around, found a space and started ZOO.
We started with just one space and five shows. We decided that we wanted to try and run a venue with a slightly different approach to the way in which we had seen other venues being run before. What we really wanted to do was to see if we could run a Fringe venue with quality shows only. We also wanted to see if really looking after our companies needs properly would help to expand the business. It did. Our company expanded and is continuing to do so. We try to make sure that the companies have a great time and this then attracts other bigger and better companies.
Over the course of the years we’ve found ourselves specialising in dance and physical theatre as well as innovative theatre work. This year is our tenth festival and we are running nine theatres across ZOO venues. Our programme is from all over the world, from the Czech Republic and Bulgaria to the very best of British work. We have a lot of dance and physical theatre this year; it’s an incredibly exciting year with some big names.
We see ourselves as an artistic venue on the Fringe. A lot of the fringe is general and is comedy so we programme really strong and artistic work that gives Fringe audiences something a bit different and a bit special.
First Edinburgh Fringe experience?
My first time at the Fringe was taking a school company up. They first came up 16 years ago and we brought in a show of John Godber’s Bouncers and Shakers; a classic sixth form show. We ran our own venue with just two shows which I was heavily involved in. I did that for a number of years and this is where I caught the fringe bug; everything else has developed on from that.
Picking ZOO’s programming
The acts that I’m looking for have to be innovative and they have to be of a really high quality. I also look for a real mix across the genres so that our shows will appeal to a variety of audiences. We get incredible companies and we try to provide them with the best space so that they don’t have to limit their imaginations, given the constraints of the Fringe environment.
This year’s line-up
This year I am excited about the return of DOT504, a Czech company who have been with us before. Every time they bring a new show it’s always very exciting and different from the last ones. It’s always something unexpected. I’m also very excited about 2Faced’s new work as they have a triple bill from three different choreographers which is a new direction for the company, and that should be really exciting. Finally, I think that Protein, an established company who are doing their first Fringe show, will be great. It’s really good that established companies such as them are willing to give the Fringe a go.
Edinburgh Festival. What makes it so special?
The draw is that there are thousands of shows performed by more thousands of people all in a very small, tightly knit space; Having that amount of brilliance, performers, technicians, admin staff, all in one place leads to a really fantastic atmosphere. It is completely addictive. Once you’ve been, you feel compelled to go back.