Wild things: Lizards feature in the famous ZooZoo family entertainment show coming to City Hall Theatre this month. *Photo supplied
Wild things: Lizards feature in the famous ZooZoo family entertainment show coming to City Hall Theatre this month. *Photo supplied

FRIDAY, FEB. 10: Creating a magical world of fur, feathers, scales and skin is no mean feat and ZooZoo creator Jerry Mouawad knows that more than anyone.

The artistic masterpieces of animal masks and costumes that make up his show ZooZoo are never thrown together in haste — they can take months upon months to perfect. This magical menagerie designed by himself and his wife Carol Triffle has left audiences past and present rubbing their eyes in amazement. Now the show is coming to the island as part of the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts.

Speaking to the Bermuda Sun Mouawad said: “When we create the masks and costumes we don’t really know where they are going and it won’t get on stage until it is right. We never know what the piece will be like until we go into rehearsals and start looking at how the character is coming to life, what emotions, traits and movements it has.

“For example, we have a giant 15ft creature that cost $15,000 to make that is to be performed by eight people but it is still sitting in a warehouse years after we made it — it never quite found its home. The creature is quite amazing but we don’t know what the right scenario is for it so it is still sitting there.”

Imago Theatre tours internationally and its critically-acclaimed FROGZ opened at the New York New Victory Theatre on Broadway in April 2000. The show also had a successful run on Broadway. It is made up of several four to seven minute pieces performed by acrobatic men and women dressed up as animals. Each animal has its own trait like the sleep-starved hippos, lively, leaping frogs and politely-mannered anteaters.

The actors in ZooZoo are never encouraged to shed their humanly traits but rather morph them into those of the creature they are emulating.

“We are not completely playing on the animal state, “ explains Mouawad.

“We try to create a piece about small moments in human lives. Let’s say an old lady gets on a bus full of young people and no one stands up, we could work that into the show.

“A lot of the animals are more about human beings perception of what animals are like. We try to get it a bit from the creatures but a lot of the times it is a hybrid.

“It becomes a case of — what is an anteater when it is crossed with a human? When Walt Disney drew Mickey Mouse he wasn’t a mouse, he was a very human personality.”

Not only do animals feature in the show but inanimate objects take on a life of their own — a ruffled paper bag will fold and falter in the wind or an accordion might suddenly spring to life.

“We play on the illusions and misdirection of perspective,” explains Mouawad. “The giant windbags are different sizes from 15ft to 2 ft and sometimes you get lost as to where the human body is inside as you don’t have a sense of perspective from the audience.”

Mouawad and his wife studied from the legendary French actor and mime artist Jacques Lecoq in his theatrical school in Paris.

When they began designing their phenomenal animal masks and costumes for ZooZoo back in the 70s, they were offended when people thought the show was just for children. There is no nose-honking or flower sprinkling slapstick in this show.

“We are a more universal than that,” explains Mouawad. “Like Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton we a have universal clown theme. There is a lot of physical humour — not necessary slapstick — the humour in this is a little more sophisticated.”

Show information:
: City Hall Theatre
Dates & times: Friday, February 24 at 6:30pm. Feb 25 at 2:30pm & 6:30pm. Feb 26 at 2:30pm.
Tickets: Tickets have sold out but organizers say there is always the possibility of returns. The best way to find out is call the box office on 232-2255. www.bermudafestival.org.