Review By Lucinda Naughton
Chook performed at the Butterfly Club is a piece of experimental theatre that looks at yes, the chicken. The play explores the concept of the chicken and what the chicken has done for us and how we have treated the chicken in return. It has a ring of George Orwell’s Animal Farm; however, it is purely concerned with the chicken.
The production explores themes of animal cruelty, Western society’s materialistic nature, and what would happen if the chicken took over the world in the future. There is much ground the play covers, quickly jumping from one scenario to the next, yet perhaps the depth of each idea is not as fully developed as it has the potential to be. Some ideas feel a little lacking in universal meaning, which can create a little confusion. The constant shifting of new scene after new scene while can be unclear at times, does keep the production fresh and versatile. It is sad, honest, physically and emotionally confronting, brutal, funny, and always energetic.
The highlight of Chook is certainly the cast of nine. There is no weak link. Their energy is abundant, and their performances never stop engaging their audience, even during the weaker moments of dialogue or themes within the play. The physicality each actor brings to their role, particularly of course, the chicken impersonations, is both hilarious and accurate. It is a wonder why watching humans acting as chickens is so enthralling.
There are many theatre techniques used to deliver the chicken performances, such as mime, physical impressions, and toned chicken noises in replacement of dialogue, which is still possible to understand and gain meaning from. Who knew squawks could have so much weight behind them or be so moving. This use of a wide variety of techniques makes for very engaging theatre. The variation means there is no moment of down time, or repetition, every new scene is somehow a new way of performing or delving into the chicken.
Chook is fast paced and flips from one scene to the next without any breath. However, there is a sense of ebb and flow in the content of each scene, as some are incredibly confronting, while others are endearingly funny. This structure works very well, and highlights the astounding energy the cast brings to the stage as even during the quieter moments of mime, there is still so much life on the stage. The cast have no fear to get physical, which is exciting and challenging to watch.
The costumes are quite interesting creative choices. Minimal blacks (underwear) are used with colourful aprons worn over the top. There is one particularly detailed chicken character, who theatrically works as a narrator and is chained to stage right throughout the play. This chicken is covered in feathers and bloodied up in some parts to create a realistic dishevelled-looking chicken, which is both sad and confronting to watch.
The production certainly takes you on a wild ride, where occasionally the themes or points can become unclear, the interest never wanes.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.