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Review: JACK! PLAYING IS BELIEVING..., Chickenshed Theatre

Jack goes into a video game and finds more than he expected

Review: JACK! PLAYING IS BELIEVING..., Chickenshed Theatre

Review: JACK! PLAYING IS BELIEVING..., Chickenshed Theatre Jack is that kid. We remember them from school - always on their own, disengaged, head down, overly invested in a solitary hobby, an easy target for bullies. Still disentangling our own emotional lives, we might not join in with the cruelty, but we don't help much either, at least not unprompted, and such individuals fade, not without a little guilt from our older selves, from our minds quite soon.

Not this Jack though. He trades a handheld console in the future where it is a sought-after piece of classic kit, for three lives in The Beanstalk video game into which he climbs, choosing avatar guides (who, like most people one meets in real life, are both less and more than they appeared to be). There he takes on challenges level by level, meets a giant who is strangely familar, delivers enough cash to set his family back on its feet again and finds the self-esteem anyone needs to get through the days, weeks, years ahead. It's one part Tron, one part the traditional story and one part Star Wars.

This being Chickenshed, it's one whole part everyone, a great cavalcade of young people pouring on to the stage to act, dance and sing with still more upstairs playing an eclectic and catchy score. Such inclusion (and we're talking hundreds here) has been the hallmark of this company's work for years, its Christmas extravaganza an annual highlight.

It was a special pleasure this year to attend a matinee packed with primary school parties who went through the full range of excitement during the show from nervous chatter in anticipation, to wide-eyed and open-mouthed amazement at monsters and video effects to wildly appreciative clapping at the curtain. But, whether it's a first visit to a show or a thousandth, there's plenty to applaud in this production.

If we lost a little in storytelling clarity, we gained much in the episodic plotting which meant no kid was allowed a moment's drift in attention as the next scene was just around the corner and almost certainly more spectacular than the previous one. It was a day few would forget.

With everyone involved a student, graduate or teacher of Chickenshed, it's a rare chance to see a slogan made real before your very eyes - Theatre Changing Lives. As with all such ventures, costs are rising and funding, especially state support, is falling. It's impossible to see what theatre is doing up at the end of the Piccadilly Line (and on other locations around the world) and think that there are more effective ways to spend money in education. Go see the show and you'll know what I mean.

In the spirit of the show, here's the cast and creatives included in the review - not forgetting the multitudes who join them for every show in the run.

Jack - Hector Dogliani

Lil'un - Sylvie Hammersley-Fox
Mum - Lauren Cambridge
Fred - Will Laurence
Tech support 1 - Michael Bossisse
Tech support 2 - Bethany Hamlin
Dance Avatar - Gabriel Palmer
Dance Boss 1 - Courtney Dayes
Dance Boss 2 - Amber Ogunsanya
Monster Boss - Demar Lambert
Pinball Wizard - Ashley Driver
Pinball Avatar - Cara McInanny
Giant - Jonny Morton


Script and Music by Dave Carey

Directed by Michael Bossisse, Bethany Hamlin, Cara McInanny and Robin Shillinglaw

Set and Lighting design - Andrew Caddies

Sound and projection - Phil Haines

Costume design and wardrobe Emma Gale

Production Manager - Zeeta Jacobs

Jack! Playing Is Believing... is at Chickenshed Theatre until 7 January

Photo Credit: Chickenshed

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