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  • Flora Gosling

Review: Chicken (Summerhall)

The perils of fame as told by a fabulously feathered storyteller

Often at the fringe, a kooky concept can be a red flag: the sign of an overly-eager young theatre-maker who wrote the promotional material first and the story second. With Chicken, it is as though theatre-makers Eva O'Connor and Hildegard Ryan were dared to write a solo play starring a chicken and make it dazzling – even profound. It sounds too silly to be true, but by god did they commit to it.

O’Connor enters the room dressed in a sequined chicken outfit that distorts her figure and pushes her feathery rear towards the sky. She plays Don – an adopted chicken and a proud Irish man who dreams of making it big as an actor in New York City and Hollywood. O’Connor creates a cocky persona that is hilariously over-serious, and she makes it all the more real by punctuating her sentences with a flutter of her feathers and making unnerving eye contact with each of us in turn. Audience members who come just to see her play a chicken will not leave disappointed.

Photo Credit: Hildegard Ryan

The story she tells is one we have all heard before, with beats such as the big break, feeling out of place in Hollywood, addiction, redemption and so on. Plot-wise, the only thing that makes it stand apart from others is the presence of anthropomorphic birds – birds who are as likely to have a career as they are to become dinner for humans. But even if the plot points are familiar they are made up for by strong storytelling and a marvellous ending, featuring a revolution with animal rights overtones.

But it would be wrong to categorise this strictly as an animal rights piece – a singularly minded carnivore could enjoy it and read it as a satire of overzealous vegans. I’m inclined to think that is best read as a comedy that, while funny in its own right, is underpinned by the very real horrors of the meat and dairy industries. It is reminiscent of Simon Amstell’s mockumentary Carnage that way. It will make you laugh, but the vividly described details will also make you squirm. Four stars.

Whispers from the Crowd: "I really enjoyed it: it was bizaar and weird." "It had an extremely well-polished script. She had us eating out of her hand like chickens being fed"

Chicken runs at Summerhall until August 27th


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