When the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, owners of Edinburgh Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park, approached us with an idea for a collaborative project to raise awareness of their hugely important conservation message, we jumped at the chance: in a world in which the habitats of animals are being destroyed or affected through human activity, zoos perhaps play a more important role in conservation now than ever before. We were delighted to be involved in bringing their educational message to a young audience, and hope that, in ‘Bamboozled’, we have created something that will both entertain and educate cast and audience alike. It’s certainly been great fun to write: we hope it’s great fun to perform too!
The ensemble introduces the story and suggests to the audience that a visit to the animals in a zoo is a great day out for all and sundry (LET’S GO TO THE ZOO).
In her enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo, recent arrival Mei Sheng, a female panda, learns from her keepers, Aileen and Jean, that another panda is on his way from China. Mei Sheng is excited and talks with her new friends, the zebras, about her life in China and aspects of Chinese culture (CHINESE NEW YEAR).
Meanwhile, nearly 5000 miles away, Yun Zi, a male panda, is practising his English with his keeper ahead of his departure. Angus and Isla, keepers from Edinburgh, arrive to help. They go through the schedule for the journey, and describe the other animals also travelling to Scotland from other countries. Yun Zi is excited, but wonders what the journey will be like and how he will be received (WHY WE NEED A FRIEND).
The pilots of Yun Zi’s flight – and other pilots flying animals from South America and Africa – are nearing Scotland, but the weather is absolutely dreadful, with late winter snow everywhere. Air traffic control tells them to attempt an emergency landing at Inverness Airport. We don’t know if they are successful.
The following morning, Mei Sheng wakes up to snow. She is pleased to see it, but is worried about Yun Zi, and in particular whether he will arrive during the small window that she is fertile.
Back at Inverness Airport, the animals and keepers are safe. However, the snowfall has been prolific. Flying out is impossible and no vehicles can get through because the roads are all blocked. Yun Zi rallies the other animals, telling them that there is only one thing for it: if they want to make it to Edinburgh Zoo, they will need to do it under their own steam (A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION).
In the Cairngorms National Park, the resident animals have gathered to discuss the snow. Suddenly, a Scottish Crossbill arrives with news of a panda bear and various others who have entered the Park. They welcome the panda and his entourage, marvel at their languages, especially Mandarin which they have never heard before, and encourage them to spend the night with them in the beautiful Cairngorms (HAVEN ON EARTH).
Mei Sheng is becoming increasingly worried that Yun Zi won’t make it in time. She discusses her options with the nearby zebras, but they are not a lot of help. Her keepers have no information to offer her either.
From the visiting birds, the animals in the Highland Wildlife Park have heard about the travels of the animals: that they are now out of the Cairngorms and approaching the A9 near Perth. Concerns mount for their safety (CONSERVATION CONVERSATION).
The animals are growing very weak from hunger and exhaustion, especially Yun Zi whose bamboo is long gone. Some are frightened to confront the A9, recently reopened after the snow (WHEN MAN MEETS NATURE).
A television reporter is on location by the A9, updating viewers about the reopening of the road, when Yun Zi and the other animals walk into the shot. The reporter is terrified, and flees the scene along with countless others. Vets and conservationists arrive shortly after and tell the animals that their journey is over.
The animals arrive at Edinburgh Zoo to a hero’s welcome. There are photographers, television cameras, journalists and spectators, not to mention all of the zoo’s residents. As the new arrivals enter the zoo, Yun Zi wonders when he will meet Mei Sheng. He turns around and there she is, laden with bamboo. They greet each other in Mandarin and Yun Zi samples the bamboo. It is exactly how he likes it (ROOM FOR EVERYONE).