Reviewed by David Savage
Starring: Lee Ingleby, Liz White, Anne Reid, Peter Wright, Ralf Little
Running Time: 350 minutes
Number of discs: 2
Number of episodes: 6
Release date: 27 October 2014
Our Zoo is a family 1930’s period drama based on the true story of one man’s dream to build a zoo – Chester Zoo and the impact it had on his life, his family and the people of the small village of Upton.
George Mottershead (Lee Inglebury) is an ex-soldier who served in the Great War (World War 1). After leaving the army he is working in the family shop and one day while out picking up supplies he stumbles into the quarantine area of the docks and purchases a monkey that was going to be destroyed along with a parrot which he takes home for his young daughter June (Honor Kneafsey). June loves the animals but the rest of the family are not so impressed and while trying to re-home them he ends up buying a camel and housing in the shop yard. He then decides that he wants to build a zoo without bars – using natural barriers so the animals can roam free without being a danger to the public.
He then stumbles across an old ramshackle house, Oakfield House, on the outskirts of Chester in the small village of Upton which with the help of a large bank loan and the selling of the family shop and home he manages to purchase. This is the beginning of his dream to build a zoo like the British public have never seen.
With George’s single-mindedness to realise his dream it puts a terrible strain on the family especially his loving wife Lizzie (Liz White), his children June and Mew and his parents Albert (Peter Wright) and Lucy (Anne Reid). But with the help of his family, Lizzie’s dodgy dealing, mischievous brother Billy (Ralf Little) and his mysterious neighbour Lady Katherine (Sophia Myles) he hopes to build his dream.
Overall, Our Zoo is a delightful heart-warming tale of the struggle to build the now famous Chester Zoo. Showing how one man’s dream can’t affect the lives of his family, friends and an entire village but with determination and hard work, with escaped animals along the way, it is a drama that has a good mix of humour, mystery and sadness.
The is not one weak member of the cast and Ralf Little is perfect as the mischievous brother-in-law supplying a long of the humour. Even the animals are great, Mortimer the monkey is great and seeing penguins matching through the village is a sight to see.
BBC drama at its best.
Available to buy from BBC Shop here.