Online – YouTube
It’s 1963. Bob Dylan releases the record Blowin’ in the Wind and Martin Luther King makes his incredible “I have a dream” speech. In a considered and informative production, the Chickenshed company brings together these key events with other historical moments of protest, via an imaginary bus journey with civil rights activist Rosa Parks. This remarkable show cleverly crafts a timeless, inclusive environment in which to examine struggles against injustice around the globe, across generations to the current day.
Rosa tells us she is just an ordinary person, but she represents how ordinary people are capable of making extraordinary things happen when they work together, which is paralleled in the success of this ambitious youth musical. Testing Dylan’s question “How many roads must a man walk down/Before you call him a man?” the strikingly diverse cast uses many forms of creativity and talent to underscore a message of inclusivity and give affirmation to different cultures and minority groups.
It must be an incredible feat of organisation to get so many performers on stage in the right order at the right time, but this is achieved brilliantly. The huge cast of energetic young artists combine a multitude of performance skills – acting, music, dance, poetry, song, film – to passionately articulate a message of unity regardless of difference.
Supported by an impressive choir and onstage band, a broad range of musical styles acknowledges the influence of cultures, both globally and in the UK, and is confidently performed; from folk to hip hop, and everything in between, there really is something for everyone to enjoy! The emotive historical struggles depicted are also beautifully complemented by sensitive choreography and effective lighting and projection, which would clearly be so much more impressive in a live space, rather than on YouTube in lockdown.
Replaying this thoughtful piece at the present moment in time is an admirable decision. I found it shocking that the walk on Washington DC depicted at the start of the show has needed to be replicated so recently, with so much still to change in society. However, the production’s core image of many different individuals travelling together on a bus, intent on listening to Martin Luther King’s call for solidarity and acceptance, creates an effective message of hope.
Clearly our journey together is one still in progress, but it is reassuring to see the next generation on stage positively demonstrating empowerment through knowledge of past mistakes and successes, and forging unity from abilities of many sorts. This is an inspiring production. Watch and learn how it’s done.
Conceived and directed by: Lou Stein
Musical direction by: Dave Carey
Director of Dance by: Christine Niering
Produced by: Chickenshed