From our Artistic Director: What are the Hippos Saying?

Zum Zum Teatre are one of Spain’s leading theatre companies and, after 25 years, have just made their first outdoor show.  Hippos comes to Hounslow on 20 July.  Three dancing blue hippos will be at Bell Square. Yes, that’s right.  Three.  Dancing.  Blue.  Hippos.  So I talked to Zum Zum about their work and their experience of making an outdoor show for the first time.

Zum Zum Teatre is based in Lleida, in Catalunya, in Northern Spain.  The company was set up by Ramon Molins in 1994 and he still leads the company to this day.  My first experience of Zum Zum’s work was seeing Hippos last autumn, so I was interested to find out about their previous work in indoor theatres and how it had led to these dancing hippos!

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Ramon told me ‘The company’s slogan is that we make theatre for adults aged 4 years and up.  The shows introduce different levels of issues so people understand them in different ways, depending on their age and background.  But children and young people are very intelligent!  They understand the shows and we believe that the youngest amongst us have the right to enjoy high quality theatre, too!’

We also like our shows to raise more questions than answers.  Hopefully they excite people so they go home and talk about what they’ve seen.’

We also talked about their new outdoor show, Hippos.  Zum Zum’s descripton of the show is:  ‘In a world where animals and people live together, we encounter hippopotamuses that choose a middle path.  Are they humans disguised as the animal they wear?  Or are they hippos that are searching for themselves inside of the individual that inhabits their body?’

When they were first starting to create the show, they also wrote a short poem which defined what they wanted the character of the hippos to be:

                To be a hippo is to understand that we are dangerous animals if someone wants to take on           what we are.

                To be a hippo is to demand that you not be taken by surprise.

                To be a hippo is to go wild.

                To be a hippo is to be multiple.

                To go on being.

                To be a hippo is to reevaluate loneliness in company.

                To be a hippo implies letting be.

 Has this has raised more questions than answers for you?  Yes, me too!  

 I asked Ramon what they want the audience to take away from the show?

 He says ‘Hippos is an idea, not a story.  You can enjoy it with your own imagination – you don’t have to ‘understand’ a story.  So people will bring their own different interpretations to it.  Many people interpret it as being about the threat of extinction to hippos.  But some have thought it’s about bullying, and others have had completely different ideas.’

The hippos’ statement at the end of the show is, ‘I will survive if you let me be’.  Whatever the show has meant to you personally, I think this is probably a quite poignant moment. 

As Hippos is Zum Zum’s first outdoor show, after 25 years of working indoors, I was also interested to know what the company’s experience of going out into the street has been.

According to Ramon, ‘It’s been totally different!  Indoors, our shows are not at all colourful, they have quite a ‘brown style’!  But it’s completely the opposite outside – the hippos are bright blue!  We wanted a completely different style on the street.

 The audience is totally different, too – outside it is much more spontaneous.  This is also our first show with no text and our first show with dance in it.  So it’s a real adventure for us – we’re having great fun with it! We’re getting to really love the hippos.  We would like to develop the characters of them, so        people can just find them, behaving like a person.  Maybe sitting on a balcony, drinking a coffee?’

Who knows what a hippo might do next!

Come and see the Hippos on Saturday 20 July at Bell Square.  They’ll be dancing at 1.00pm and 3.00pm.   

And let us know what you think, using #BellSquareLDN

You have also told us previously that you would like to be able to look up more information about the artists and follow them on social media:

Zum Zum Teatre can be found at https://zumzumteatre.com/en/

And you can follow them on Twitter @zumzumteatr