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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Chicken
Trafalgar Studio 2   Summer 2012

There's a point, about midway through the rehearsal process, when the actors pretty much know their lines and their moves, but haven't worked out their characterisations – who they are, why they say and do what they do, how their behaviour in a late scene connects to what they did in an early one, what the reality is that they inhabit. That's the work of the rest of the rehearsals. 

And that's where this production seems to have stalled. 

To be fair, American playwright Mike Batistick hasn't made the job easy. His play is full of loose ends, undeveloped digressions, withheld information, abrupt changes in personalities and a constantly wavering focus. 

But I have enough faith in the theatrical process to believe that a stronger director or perhaps just one with more rehearsal time could have given the final product more shape and reality than this production has. 

Wendell and Lina are an ordinary working-class New York couple except that, without his knowledge, she is drinking and smoking her way through a pregnancy she doesn't want and, without her knowledge, he has been subsidising the marriage of his buddy Floyd for years. 

Now, pretty much out of nowhere, the guys decide to train a rooster for a high-stakes cockfight, not considering that even if they make a bundle they'll still be the same people they were before.

I've actually made the play sound more coherent than it is, by omitting several off- and onstage characters, abrupt plot twists and fragmented bits of undigested back story. (Why, for example, has one secondary character had a stroke? Batistick may have an answer, but he hasn't shared it with us.) 

Director Sam Neophytou and a hard-working cast try to make sense of things from scene to scene, but they can't bring us into any of the characters, connect what happens at one point to what happens at another, or make more than the occasional moment seem real. 

Perhaps the play's flaws are unconquerable. Or perhaps they just needed another week of rehearsals.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -  Chicken - Trafalgar 2012

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