Chicken Shop by Anna Jordan and directed by Jemma Gross, is part of Epsilon’s summer season at the Park Theatre, an embryonic theatre at just over a year old, located in London’s Finsbury Park. The play examines themes of adolescence, sexuality and exploitation through a dark, and often comic, portrayal of the teenage son of a gay mother. The play itself is performed in thrust format in Park 90, an intimate, womb-like venue that makes every bit of awkwardness more excruciating.
The juxtaposition of a comic and cynical characterisation of two ‘alternative’ (hippy, vegan, muesli-munching, organic, yoga-doing, gluten-free… ad nauseum) lesbian feminists and a clichéd grumpy teenage son against a very serious depiction of the sexual exploitation of a trafficked migrant sex worker seemed a little clumsy and disjointed. Perhaps the layout of the set, which was simple – three rooms delineated only by floor space and physically very close – added to this because it wasn’t apparent how the stories interlocked in space or time.
Some of the events seemed unlikely and unexplained, but disregarding this element, the play was generally well performed. The acting was generally of a high standard, and Jesse Rutherford who plays the 16-year-old Hendrix, was excellent. Lucy Roslyn (Luminita), however, was a highlight for me. Able to capture the nervous, yet sadly resigned character of the Moldovan, she was incredibly believable and easy to empathise with. For a play with only five actors, having three different accents seemed ambitious, yet they were all done well. Although the play had some very morose themes, it was laughable frequently, which countered the effects of over-laboured and clichéd stereotypes and action.
The first act was definitely of poorer quality, and felt stiff and type cast. The play itself and the actors’ performances kicked off more in the second act and became more enthralling and moving. It was a shame, given this, that the ending was so abrupt and unexplained – much of the characters’ behaviour didn’t seem to stand up to scrutiny because there was not enough character development in the first act beyond fairly boring stereotyping. All things considered the play was worth a watch, although the exploration of the subject material was somewhat disappointing.