Hen and Chickens, London – until 18 March 2017
Theatre of Heaven & Hell presents this quirky one act comedy by Dario Fo – but it is difficult to enjoy due to the number of different ideas thrown into the production and the play that makes it feel slightly chaotic.
The Italian playwright’s one act farce is undoubtedly a difficult one to put into one category. Filled with plenty of slapstick, philosophy and class wars it never can seem to make up its mind what it wants to be and despite the great effort made by all of the cast, this production doesn’t make it any clearer. Even on doing some research on the play it remains obscure, with even wikipedia only able to sum it up in two lines and nothing more.
The plot sees a man escaping from the scene of a love affair – wearing absolutely nothing at all, eventually being forced to hide in a dustbin, where he is discovered by a road sweeper. Together they have a number of philosophical conversations while trying to find him some clothes to wear, while along the way a number of different characters wonder on and off the scene adding to the chaos as the problem seems to get bigger.
It has to be said that director Micheal Ward has assembled a great cast who do their best with weak material in an attempt to draw out as much of the humour as possible. But the main problem with the production is that it never seems quite sure what to do with the material, able to bring out the exploration of people being pigeon holed into certain stereotypes due to class or political stance – but never really exploring it properly.
The other issue is spacing problems with everything feeling like it has been crammed on, with even the cast looking as though they don’t have enough room to move around properly.
However, what lifts the production slightly is the cast who really get into the spirit of the farce and perform it with enthusiasm and energy. In particular Nicholas Bright as the dim roadsweeper who is drawn into the naked man’s situation reluctantly (yes there are no character names here either) and Darren Ruston as naked man still managing to be pompous despite the situation he finds himself in. Out of all the characters that appear, they are the most formed, but the other cast members are still able to make an impact even though perhaps it is on a lesser scale.
There are some interesting ideas that are formed in the play, with regards to people’s attitudes to class but it still feels very obscure and ends up being a frustrating watch because it doesn’t have one strong message that carries through from beginning to end. A great, enthusiastic cast but sadly weak material.