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Crips With Chips At Home Graeae | Review

‘Box set drama’ was the overarching theme for Crips with Chips, which seemed odd for an online scratch night – five ‘box set dramas’ in about an hour or so. The term ‘crip’ is, or rather was, a derogatory slang term for ‘cripple’, though it appears to be repurposed by the likes of Graeae and others for positive reasons. The word has been used by disability campaigners for decades – there was even a hashtag, #CripTheVote, first used for the 2016 United States elections to highlight disability policy issues in America. Anyway, this event was hosted by Sharon D Clarke and Leanna Benjamin, and like almost everyone seen by the audience, introductions were disabled-friendly, with detailed descriptions of what they were wearing and where they were (as in whether they were in their front room, bedroom or elsewhere at home).

Crips With Chips At Home GraeaeMoving On by Adam Fenton saw Frankie (Amelia Cavallo) recalling an unforgettable night out with Elliott (Evlyne Oyedokun), who doesn’t recall much, if anything, thanks to a “dangerous concoction of liquid”, though the narrative does not suggest a crime against the person was committed. There was a confrontation of sorts, however, in which the school bully (an off-stage character called Jordan) was given, it would appear, a taste of their own medicine, and the play is certainly relatable to anyone who gladly said goodbye to the problems and imponderables of school life and started new chapters in their lives.

DNA by Kathryn Golding was a period drama in which Suzie (Rachael Tse) met Cixi, Empress Dowager (1835-1908) (Melody Brown) on Zoom. (Well, okay, it might have been Microsoft Teams.) I hadn’t known anything about the empress dowager’s life and influence, so it was interesting to find out about some aspects of her legacy, as well as an (obviously imagined) perspective on twenty-first-century living. Rightly, the play made the hosts give thought to who they would like to have a conversation with from the past, and what insights they might have with regards to the modern world.

Lesser Spotted by Amy Bethan Evans took the form of a documentary, with some wry insights of the world from a visually impaired perspective. A university lecture is going on, with the usual disturbances that make things even more difficult for someone who must by default rely more heavily on being able to hear what is being said: some rustling, perhaps innocently done, forces the blind student to ask for the last piece of information to be repeated. Beyond that, the play provided food for thought, without being preachy, about what it is like for someone who doesn’t have the benefit of gauging body language or other sight-based non-verbal communication.

Selfie by Kate Lovell saw two characters, both called Sammy (Evlyne Oyedokun and Bea Webster), meet for a brief chat. The ‘other’ Sammy is from a parallel universe in which global warming isn’t a pressing issue and the Amazon rainforest is protected by international laws whose spirit and letter are keenly observed by governments the world over. But it slowly comes clear that the grass is not necessarily greener, literally or figuratively speaking, on the other side – a utopian world also means there is no triumph over adversity (because there is no adversity to triumph over) and much of the music that we enjoy in our imperfect world is also absent in the other place.

Supa Shero (I think that’s what it was called) by Nicole Joseph goes even further into the world of fiction, with a superhero narrative. Firmly in that genre, it comes as no surprise when the main protagonist is able to call on unique powers in such a way that good wins over evil. But the ending is good, inasmuch as there is a cliff-hanger conclusion, rather than a tidy one. It wasn’t the easiest of stories to follow, at least not for me, but when the future of a city hospital is at stake, even I couldn’t miss the (not so) subtle connection between that and the apparent privatisation of the National Health Service.

Overall, a very broad and rapid evening with some good ideas that could be taken forward and developed further.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

Recognising how many have turned to TV boxsets during the long periods of lockdown of the past year, Graeae has created its own version of the phenomenon. Playing on the theme of TV genres, Crips with Chips At Home is presented as a collection of work, stretching across a whole panoply of TV styles, from sci-fi to period drama, nature documentary to coming-of-age, with some super-hero action thrown in for good measure!

The work is read by professional actors Melody Brown, Amelia Cavallo, Evlyne Oyedokun, Racheal Tse and Bea Webster and directed by Cheryl Martin, Nickie Miles-Wildin and Naomi Wirthner.


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