The Theatreguide.London Review
In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic
forced the closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted
by putting archive recordings of past productions online, others
by streaming new shows. Until things return to normal we review
the experience of watching live theatre onscreen.
Of The Century
Chickenshed December 2020
recorded by Chickenshed in 2010, this powerful one-hour piece is
re-released to the sad discovery that it is no less timely a decade
subject is the seemingly inescapable path that takes some urban young
people toward gangs, crime, violence and early death. It is all the more
powerful by operating through indirection, generally avoiding lecture or
preaching and instead employing the tools of theatre to evoke the
emotional content of steps along the way.
of ten only occasionally speak, rather moving, miming or dancing to a
soundscape made largely of recorded voices. These range from the sermon
at the funeral of a fourteen year old, through textbook lectures on the
sociology of crime to the random words of young people themselves.
particularly powerful sequence, for example, reminds us that these are
just children by having them move nervously about while a string of
individual voices call out 'Mum?'
slow duet of movement between a male and female performer evokes,
without any explicit labelling, a mother's attempt to protect her child,
while a more active group sequence evolves from innocent schoolyard
games through competitive play to violent fighting.
episodes do rely more directly on text. A couple of kids with nothing
else to do work themselves up to a rage against an innocent stranger, a
policeman and an A&E doctor break the fourth wall to give the
audience some facts and statistics about what they see every day, and
some guys use rap to try to explain feelings they don't otherwise have
the words for.
least effective elements in the show are the recorded voices of
sociologists and educators, because of course we've heard it all before.
But authors-director-choreographers David Carey and Christine Niering
know that. Yes, you've heard it all before, they seem to say. But now
And the very inventive and evocative use of movement, music, mime, dance and acting by a fully committed young cast do indeed get through to us as if we hadn't heard it all before.
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