In an unusual take on a familiar rags-to-riches tale we follow Don, a chicken, as he pecks his way up in the world – progressing from rural Ireland to fame and addiction in America, with a lot of name dropping along the way. Chicken is a one-bird play, performed with absolute commitment to its theme.
With the audience packed into one of Summerhall’s less comfortable spaces and surrounding the performance area, the staging is reminiscent of a cock-fight. We meet the self-proclaimed “feather dynamo” and friend to the stars Don as he scratches his way around the room. Although small – and a chicken – Don is keen to be seen as the ultimate Hollywood insider, with achievements including being the celebrant at Pamela Anderson’s latest wedding and doing drugs with Colin Farrell.
His origins however are much more humble: rescued from an egg-squashing incident, he grows up in Kerry but dreams of bigger things. Along the way there’s Don’s very own #chickentoo moment, a burgeoning ketamine addiction and a supportive friend in a Glaswegian pigeon called Paulo.
Putting the bant into bantam, the script is tightly written with some very witty moments, even though this cockerel wants to be taken seriously. Actor Eva O’Connor, aided by a stunning costume, never comes out of character in what is an extremely physically demanding role.
Both setting and show are intense, and may be a little out-there for some – as it clearly was for a few members of the audience at the performance I saw. As the play relies on one voice you do need to feel invested in the character to sustain interest throughout, but thanks to the strength of the acting this wasn’t an issue for me.
A feathered friend trying to make it big in what’s quite literally a human-eat-bird world, this is a slick and imaginative play which sends up celebrity brilliantly, and has you rooting for all the Dons of this world.