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Play It Through

Zombie Zoo

Dominic McHale and Kevin Short star in Zombie Zoo, a story about a man trying to interrogate a zombie who has maintained a small slice of humanity. Can the zoo keeper negotiate with the zombie? Do zombies make deals? Does this zombie remember who he was before? Does he have the key to stop the zombie invasion?

Zombie’s are a recurring horror within fiction and popular culture, from Frankestein to Michale Jackson’s Thriller to Shaun of The Dead. A zombie is a reanimated corpse – the un-dead. A creature capable of movement but not of rational thought. Zombies are neither at peace nor alive. Often slow moving, often cannibals.

Zombies originate from folklore from Haiti where a dead person is revived by a bokor (sorcerer) and then remains under their control as their slave. The bokor may capture the zombie’s soul and may then sell it to others for luck or healing. The un-dead remains a zombie until god reclaims their soul.

Sometimes the word zombie is applied to people who seem to show some of the qualities of a zombie – a person who is engrossed in watching a TV show, a tired teenager who has been woken up early in the morning, people who join cults, someone with an acquired brain injury. Often this relates to a loss of rational thought or personal autonomy.

“Buried but not dead: like a zombie that maintains us in an existence of being only partially alive, we are not fully able to experience our joy, our hurt and our pain: as a result it is hard for us to be truly happy.”

Schrader, C. (2012). 4. ‘We Don’t Need Therapy, We Have Ritual’ An Overview of the Work of Malidoma Somé and a Personal Experience of a Dagara Grief Ritual. In C. Schrader (Ed.), Ritual Theatre: The Power of Dramatic Ritual in Personal Development Groups and Clinical Practice (pp. 79-93). London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publisher. Page 91

Robert Landy includes the zombie is his taxonomy of roles or recurring archetypal characters which appear in fiction:

Role type: The Zombie

Quality: emotionaly frozen, lifeless, amoral

Example: Robots (R.UR by K. Capek)
Krapp (Krapps Last Tape by S. Beckett)
Peter (The Zoo Story by E. Albee)
Charlotte Corday (Marat/Sade by P. Weiss)

Function: to shut down all feeling in order to protect oneself from memory and intimacy.

Landy, R. J. (1960). Essays in Drama Therapy: The Double Life. Gateshead: Athenaeum Press. Page 122.

There is something both repellent and intriguing about the zombie. Perhaps there is a certain appeal to not having to feel or being able to play the villain. There is also a horror of not being able to think or be in control of yourself.

There is also a link to questions of mortality – is it possible to communicate with the dead? If so how would that be? Would they be a soulless version of their living self like a zombie or vampire, would they be a body-less soul like a spirit or ghost? Would they be resurrected as a different body or an angel? I think one of the reasons there are so many different versions of the un-dead is that we want to know what has happened to our deceased loved ones and what will one day happen to us.

A zombie apocalypse scenario has been used by scientists to predict the spread of infections and in those scenarios the zombies always win eventually. Because the zombies can not be stopped, they just keep coming. In the same way, our own mortality creeps slowly ever closer. Yalom talks about how his clients engage with bereavement in therapy:

“They call out to those who are forever lost—dead or absent parents, spouses, children, friends: “I want to see you again.” “I want your love.” “I want to know you’re proud of me.” “I want you to know I love you and how sorry I am I never told you.” “I want you back—I am so lonely.” “I want the childhood I never had.” “I want to be healthy—to be young again. I want to be loved, to be respected. I want my life to mean something. I want to accomplish something. I want to matter, to be important, to be remembered.”
So much wanting. So much longing. And so much pain, so close to the surface, only minutes deep. Destiny pain. Existence pain. Pain that is always there, whirring continuously just beneath the membrane of life. Pain that is all too easily accessible.”

Yalom, I. D. (2013). Love’s executioner. London: Penguin. Page 3

The keeper in the Zombie Zoo stares at the captive zombie – this creature which is not quite human, not quite dead. He tries to communicate, he tries to reason, he tries to bargain, he tries to get the zombie to remember. The zombie responds but the gulf between their planes of existence is vast – can they cross it?

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