Pros: Hundreds of performers on stage, sixteen different mini-plays and still, it all feels marvellously glued together by sheer love. Mindblowing stuff!
Cons: The show is a loud, carnevalesque mosaic. Don’t come if you want a quiet and uninspiring night out . . .
Imagine a world where diversity is cherished and disability is strength. Where you are a person, not a colour or a Visa. Where mental and physical illnesses are met by smiles and compassion.
This is the world of Chickenshed. The North London-based Theatre Charity Trust has opened many hearts by providing a Dance and Theatre Academy for people of any background and physical ability. Things have undoubtedly moved on a bit since 1974, when Jo Collins and Mary Ward used a chicken shed in the Enfield countryside to host their first visionary theatre collective. The purpose-built Rayne Theatre is a magnificent space, just about big enough to host all 659 (!) actors who took part, one way or the other, in this gigantic celebration show.
I’m still in awe and genuinely moved by An Awfully BIG Performance. A flurry of dance and music, puppet frolics and physical dance, joined together by heartbreaking personal disclosures and a frankly wonderful sense of love that the performers have for one another. The show spans sixteen mini-plays over two acts and two and a half hours, taking the audience through a rollercoaster of emotional bliss. An imaginative use of audiovisuals accompanies outstanding music and breathtaking acting and dancing. The direction and choreography was nothing short of genius, managing hundreds of young and not-so-young actors of diverse abilities moving together like clockwork. And the costumes, what a treat! I enjoyed all of the sixteen mini-shows immensely, from the perfectly executed ‘Turkish Wedding Dance’ to the groovy ‘Cirque in the Freefall’, from the moving ‘As the Mother of a Brown Boy’ to “A Drop in the Ocean”, adapted from Orwell’s 1984.
The sheer amount of work that must have gone into this production’s preparation is bewildering, and it shows all the way through to the deservedly bright smile on everyone’s face at the end.
Happy birthday, Chickenshed, and may you keep on celebrating anniversaries for centuries to come.
Director: Louise Perry
Choreography: Christine Niering
Musical Directors: Dave Carey, Jo Collins
Lighting Design: Andrew Caddies
Box Office: 020 8292 9222
Booking Link: www.chickenshed.org.uk
Booking Until: 23rd March 2014