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Britain’s Got Talons, Hen and Chickens Theatre

James Morton

Directed by James Morton and Chris Lawson
★★★
Pros: A topical and fresh idea which will appeal to a young audience. 
Cons: The play (and its audience) would benefit enormously from an interval. In its current format, it is difficult to give the play your full attention, especially towards the end. 
Our Verdict: An interesting idea for a play, but an older audience may struggle with the concept. The play needs an interval and the length of some scenes, particularly surrounding ‘the big reveal’ at the end, are too long and laboured. 
Courtesy of Embers Productions
The Hen and Chickens Theatre is a small but perfectly formed North London venue. The theatre is on the first floor, in a reasonably sized room with seating for about sixty people. It is simple, but an ideal venue for Embers Productions’ black comedy, Britain’s Got Talons. Unless you have been living on Mars for the last few years, you will already have a fairly good idea of what the play is about, just from the title. Yes, the play is based on the relatively recent phenomenon of reality TV and the numerous talent shows which fill our TV schedules every Saturday night. 
The play is set backstage as tyrannical producer, Veronica (played by Lorna Baillie) swiftly takes over the reigns after a gruesome murder on the show. Bad news is quickly turned into opportunity and Veronica uses the death to boost the show’s ratings. She is assisted by two spoilt graduates, Dante and Dervla (played by the writer James Morton and Nathalie Barclay respectively). Neither would score particularly high on a Mensa test! Along the way they draw in naive talent show applicant, Pippa (played by Claire Austin) and production assistant Stephen (played by Jimmy Ryan-Shedden.) Ambition rules them all and they will stop at nothing to achieve their goal of higher ratings and a recommission for a further TV series. 
At the start and end of the play, we are treated to a solo performance by Amy Gallagher, who plays Roxella. She has been accused of the murder and arrested. It is a real shame we do not see more of Roxella. Her character is the most intriguing and three dimensional of them all. It is a great performance by Gallagher and the play misses a trick by not utilising her more. The remaining characters are still interesting, but none of them are particularly likeable. 
The dialogue and action, more often than not, is slick and humorous. At times though, the play does slip towards panto, rather than black comedy. Some of the scenes towards the end of the play, particularly between Stephen and Veronica, are too long and wordy. Either fifteen minutes needs to be cut from the run time and/or an interval inserted. There is room for improvement, but all is not lost: some simple reworking of scenes would vastly improve the play. 
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below! 

Britain’s Got Talons runs at the Hen & Chickens Theatre until 4th May 2013. 
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