Edinburgh Festival Fringe theatre review: Chicken, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Andrea Mullaney
To TAKE bloody revenge on a dystopian society in the aftermath of a fundamental change in the British state. Not a joke – though there are some darkly comic scenes – but the premise of an intriguing new play by Molly Davies, the most recent, and first female, winner of the Royal Court Theatre’s Pinter Commission award.
It’s set in an undefined future when Scotland, the north of England and East Anglia have seceded from the rump of Britain, while London has become a hellhole (make your own “what’s new about that” gag here), forcing every citizen to choose whether to permanently settle down south or return to their home territory.
Why did the chicken cross the road? In East Anglia, southerners’ second homes are burnt or seized, while the new state consolidates its economy into two areas: chickens and bicycles (the North has steel, Scotland has sheep).
Returnee Layla signs on at the chicken factory, where long-running worker Lorraine shows her the procedures; her former crush Harry takes an unsettling interest in the slaughterhouse and teenage Emily broods about old local legends of witch trials.
There are a lot of interesting ideas fizzing around – regional identity, the politics of food production, repression of female power – in this beautifully staged and well-performed work, which is played out in the round on a floor gradually covered with chicken feathers (those with allergies are warned at the door), which vividly represent the unspoken violence of this society.
But unlike 90 per cent of the Fringe, its 50-minute length is too short: just as those ideas are coming together in an exciting way, it ends. It feels a little like the first draft of something that will be a magnificent 90-minute work. However, what’s there at present is still great.
Roundabout @ Summerhall, until 30 August, 5:05pm / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 15 August 2015
Edinburgh Festivals 2015: complete coverage
• Get everything on our Festivals homepage – on desktop, mobile or tablet
• Looking for reviews? Check out the latest Scotsman reviews – or browse all the reviews ranked by star rating
• Watch all the latest videos from the #WOWwagon
• Get distracted by our Festival Blog
• Check out today’s half-price ticket deals
• Follow our social accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – and join the conversation with #WOWfest