EDINBURGH 2019: BWW Review: COMRADE EGG AND THE CHICKEN OF TOMORROW, Pleasance Courtyard
Welcome to the monthly meeting of the Chicken Appreciation Society. Over the course of the next 50 minutes, ardent poultry fans like yourself will enjoy chicken impressions, informative lectures, beauty pageants and even interpretive dance - all in celebration of our feathered friends.
Chairing the meeting is Tania (Bronya Deutsch), a nervy figure who works in the evisceration department at the chicken farm where we meet. An old school friend got her the job, but it is evident the work is ruffling Tania's feathers.
With the emotive topic of the use of animals for meat central to its premise, Comrade Egg and the Chicken of Tomorrow could have gone down the heavy-handed and preachy route. Luckily, this production - directed by James Baldwin - keeps matters light for the most part.
The structure of the society meeting allows for a series of quirky vignettes, all feeding in to the central narrative. There is audience interaction here, as we are occasionally expected to be active society members, reciting oaths and practicing chicken calls. This is lightly managed and adds to the comedic atmosphere of many scenes.
These interactions are intercut with short breaks from the meeting structure, where arresting sound design and visual effects suggest the psychological impact of Tania's work. Rather than the confrontational approach of an animal rights campaign, it is the gallows humour and the hints towards the desensitising nature of such work that make this piece effective. When Tania pleads for the chickens to be allowed to be simply chickens, there is a sense that she is speaking for her own repressed horror.
Bronya Deutsch's intense focus as Tanya is intriguing throughout, while her clowning-influenced physical control allows her to slip deftly between the different attitudes the vignettes require of her. While there are plenty of clues as to where Tania's journey is headed, the resolution does come rather suddenly, suggesting overenthusiastic script cutting, or a need for further development.
Overall, Comrade Egg and the Chicken of Tomorrow is a cracking little piece that holds the attention throughout. Often both funny and dark, it handles a challenging, provocative subject with an inventive structure and surprising levity.
Photo credit: Ali Wright