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100% Chance of Rain – Chickenshed Theatre – Review

100% Chance of RainRain, so I was told as a schoolboy, is a sign of God’s blessing, or at least it is according to the Old Testament. I take it the brainboxes behind 100% Chance of Rain don’t agree: proceedings draw to a close with a rousing rendering of Johnny Nash’s ‘I Can See Clearly Now’, in which, as ever, the prospect of a ‘bright sunshiny day’ is seen as a Very Good Thing. I mustn’t, of course, begrudge the many faces and characters in this broad and occasionally breath-taking production from wanting cheery optimism, especially in a show that seeks to explore mental health and surrounding issues.

Last year’s Chickenshed spring production, according to a couple of fellow theatregoers who saw it, was about (in their words) “how we’re all going to die”. I didn’t see Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow, about climate change, but this time around the message about there being help available for people who are stressed, depressed or just finding life very difficult to cope with, came across clearly enough. I found it difficult to warm to Liz Abulafia (Belinda McGuirk), some sort of psychotherapist or other whose monologues – there were eight altogether – became increasingly ‘me, myself and I’. The youngsters on stage telling their stories, not always using words, were far more intriguing than whatever Abulafia was up to, such as shifting inanimate objects around in a sandbox.

The music used included ‘Back to Black’, made famous by Amy Winehouse (1983-2011) and the 1990s dance record ‘Insomnia’ by British electronica band Faithless. Although the forms of storytelling were varied, in the first quarter of the show, expressions of mental ill health started to become formulaic, with several characters, in turn, becoming melodramatic and yelling a statement of declaration repeatedly, each time with increased emphasis.

Few, if any, of the characters (of which there are many) aside from Abulafia, are named, and there wasn’t (at least to my mind) a discernible narrative to follow from start to finish. The issues covered are plentiful, but none are explored with much depth. For instance, a scene called ‘Statistically Speaking’ rattles off the number of people who were taken by their own hand in 2017 by age bracket. Having proved that the old are as susceptible to ending their own lives as the young (and vice versa), there isn’t any further consideration as to why this might be, or how the target audience for this production might reach out to older relatives who are feeling overwhelmed.

The second half is considerably more abstract than the first and would have worked infinitely better if the show had dispensed with the interval – or at the very least, the interval could be shifted to an earlier point in the show. ‘Between Chance and Mystery’ would have worked wonders in a one-act version of this production, giving both performers and audience a break from the relatively heavy content of the show as a whole. But the audience is already refreshed having enjoyed an interval; as it stands, this (admittedly very creative) scene feels like a filler, when it could feel like something to really enjoy while the audience’s minds re-energise and re-focus.

A visual feast, the lighting (Andrew Caddies) is an extraordinary achievement, enhancing the performance throughout. The show preaches, but only occasionally and in fairly general terms, such as when it issues a call for society to render more respect towards single parents. Other times it simply acknowledges that certain issues, such as video game addiction, are complex, and as there are no easy answers in the first place, none are supplied. There are, evidently, some triple threats in the young cast, who could go on to have successful stage careers should they desire them. A diverse (in more ways than one) and thought-provoking production.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

Beautiful, inspiring and uplifting, 100% Chance of Rain will offer insights and reflections through this unique theatrical presentation. It is estimated that one in four people in the UK will experience mental health problems each year. 100% Chance of Rain will explore the individual and universal truths behind the statistics, and also offer the chance to reflect on our own experiences through the creative power of performance.

Ages 12+
Running Time Approx. 90 minutes, with no interval
7th – 30th March 2019
Rayne Theatre
https://www.chickenshed.org.uk

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