Chicken Shop, is the third production at Park Theatre by the multi-award winning theatre company Epsilon Productions. Its success is drawn from being a finalist in the Soho Theatre’s Verity Bargate Award 2011. Its observant writer, Anna Jordan, who won the Bruntwood Playwriting Prize in 2013, under Jemma Gross’ directorship, has spruced up its fierce and personal script, gluing eyes to the compact stage.
At times, plays with intriguing storylines get dragged down by poor diction or lack of pathos from its characters, yet that is not the case here with Chicken Shop. In this brutal, grim and dark show, which takes its audience to unexpected scenes and scenarios, characters become real and alive through gripping depictions of different worlds. This is seen through the eyes of a teenage boy struggling to become a man and a female migrant worker desperately trying to escape human trafficking.
The stage is dividing into three sections; Hendrix’s (Jesse Rutherford) adolescent bedroom, which is splattered with rock band posters; a warm living room, reduced to a comfy sofa and Luminita’s (Lucy Roslyn) lifeless bedchamber – a sex prison located on top of a chicken shop. Gradually, the spotlight moves along the stage, which isolates the other sets, but doesn’t prevent the audiences’ thoughts of the other characters to linger.
Human connection, loneliness and miscommunication are the running themes in the text making Chicken Shop an insightful piece of drama. At the outset, the lead character is bullied at school due to his mother’s (Angela Bull) lesbian and rogue-like behaviour and searches for alternatives to awaken his manhood. This is stifled by his warped perception of Katie (Millie Reeves), his mother’s young and pretty girlfriend, which also provokes him.
Yet, once the colourless life of Luminita sets in, the play takes a turn for the worse, but in a good way. It’s a scary and eerie atmosphere welded together by, some, passionate acting from both Roslyn and John Last as Luminita’s pimp, Leko. The audience gathers all the ingredients of a perverted Hungarian from Last who portrays a vulgar and money hungry bastard. On the contrary, Luminita, through Roslyn, is not so innocent, either, and is in fact, quite self-destructive. Her life may be pitiful and limited to fried chicken, drugs and sex, yet she victimises Hendrix too which renders the audience speechless.
Similarly, Rutherford shows unexpected cues of violence in Hendrix from a naïve and troubled schoolboy in his introduction, complaining over gluten-free cereal and all things he lacks control over. Yet, this is dramatically pushed aside, in the closing finale, where all characters are active – simultaneously unstable and aggressive. Reeves acts as a manipulative irritant, whilst Bull plays the disappointing mother who unconsciously puts her son down.
Life is a far cry from rose tinted glasses in Chicken Shop; it is packed with unexpected surprises and the writer, Jordan unreservedly imparts how frail, flippant and flawed human nature really is in this topsy-turvy play.
Review by Mary Nguyen
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Hendrix is growing up. Or at least he’s trying to. But he’s sick of his mother and her constant preaching on the virtues of an organic lifestyle. And he’s sick of her girlfriend, a twentysomething stunner who winds him up relentlessly. But most of all he is sick of the bullies at school who target him viciously, thinking if his mum is gay then he must be too. In a desperate attempt to prove his masculinity, Hendrix enters a very adult world and gets far more than he bargained for. He meets Luminita – a young girl enslaved into an unbearable life. She finds comfort in Hendrix; a chance to connect, to be seen as a human being. Though from completely different worlds, their secret friendship grows in snatched moments in a sordid room above a Chicken Shop.
Epsilon Productions presents Chicken Shop By Anna Jordan
Cast: Angela Bull as Hillary, Jesse Rutherford as Hendrix, John Last as Leko, Lucy Roslyn as Luminita
Millie Reeves as Katie
Plays until: 28th September 2014
Performances Tues to Sat Evenings 19.45
Sat & Sun Matinees 15.15
Book tickets at http://parktheatre.co.uk/
Sunday 21st September 2014