Home » Reviews » Off West End » Psychopomp and Circumstance, The Hen and Chickens Theatre – Review

Psychopomp and Circumstance, The Hen and Chickens Theatre – Review

Written & directed by Michael Eckett
★★

Pros: Energetic and dedicated performances and some genuinely funny moments.

Cons: Some of the plays were stronger than others; at certain points I was baffled and my attention drifted.

Our Verdict: A great subject that could be better exploited for both drama and/or comedy. Some more background information would have been helpful to get the best from the production.

Courtesy of Sigil Club Productions

The Hen and Chickens is a theatre space above a bar and located just a stone’s throw from Highbury & Islington station. On a cold wintry evening I was relieved to escape from the chill into the warm, candlelit bustle of the bar.

A quick visit to Wikipedia will inform you that “psychopomps” are creatures or spirits whose responsibility is to escort newly deceased souls to the afterlife. I thought this was a potentially great topic for theatre so I was really looking forward to the show. The evening consists of five short plays spanning two hours and including a ten minute interval.

It’s a Living started the evening off well. Newly qualified psychopomp, Clarion, is nervous and excited about attending to her first kill. She’s swotted up on all her notes and instructions but all her theoretical studies haven’t prepared her for a belligerent, uncooperative soul. Sylvie England is enthusiasm personified as the eager Clarion and like a puppy with boundless energy she keeps bouncing back from all the setbacks presented by Gerty Steiner (Rachel Cash) who is none too pleased to discover she is dead. Daniel Farley as the Higher-Up was splendidly matter-of-fact about the dispatching of new souls but singularly unhelpful to the struggling Clarion.

And They All Lived Happily Until They Died and What We Die For both left me a little nonplussed. No comedy here but just rather monotonous dialogue. My attention drifted from the stage and at some points I have to confess that I hadn’t a clue what was going on.

The Hollow Point presents Gog and Magog, two infamous psychopomps, trapped in an empty space. They don’t know why they are they or how they got there, but being stuck they speculate about what’s going on and indulge themselves by recounting their best work. James El-Sharawy (Gog) and Kate Quinn (Magog) provide some wonderfully grisly and entertaining stories. Despite being master craftsmen of death they clearly have a strong bond and admiration for one another. They work well as a team, both as characters and actors, and delivered some of the high points of the evening. I especially loved Gog’s description of a demise he had planned; the pride and relish are clear in his attention to the finest detail.

The Final Balance was the final offering. Another reluctant soul is forced to take stock as Clarion takes her through an inventory of her life. In the background two eerily white-masked assistants slowly and silently box up her worldly belongings. As we hear about the highs and lows of an average life the viewer can’t help but turn the same attention to his/her own life if such an inventory were to be taken. Dark comedy but with food for thought.

It was a mixed bag generally. There were laughs, drama and some good performances but personally I think it would have been helpful to have a little more background information provided in the programme in order to better appreciate the show. Niche subject matter is all well and good but an audience should depart having been entertained and possibly educated but not puzzled.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Psychopomp and Circumstance runs at The Hen and Chickens Theatre until 30th November 2013.
Box Office: 0207 7042001 or book online at:

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