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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me @markffisher and @writeabouttheat I am an Edinburgh-based freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian, Scotland on Sunday and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success, published in February 2012 and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers published in July 2015. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide. See my website for more information and comprehensive Scottish theatre links.
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Friday, May 07, 2010

Blue Hen, theatre review

Published in The Guardian

Blue Hen
Citizens, Glasgow
2 out of 5

They haven't made plays like Des Dillon's Blue Hen since the early 1980s. Its black humour recalls that era's working-class playwrights, such as Bleasdale, Godber and Russell. Its theme about male loss of dignity in a post-industrial world echoes the gizza-job camaraderie of The Boys from the Blackstuff. And its meat-and-two-veg presentation harks back to a time when you could throw on a play without worrying about fancy stagecraft.

It might feel as if time has stood still since the days of Thatcherite rebellion, but the production is warmly greeted by a sellout crowd. The plucky NLP company (motto: "Theatre for people who don't do theatre") has a sure grasp of its audience's tastes and preoccupations, offering broad demotic comedy that switches from the raucous to the tender, from the violent to the sad, with a humane, leftish politics to counteract the bleakness.

In Blue Hen, Paddy and John are neighbours with little left in their lives. They have lost their job and their wives; John has nearly lost his mind and is still on medication; and they have just lost an old workmate to suicide. Dillon makes it clear that their woes are caused by economics, just like the market for drugs that is ravaging their Coatbridge housing scheme. Yet from this infertile ground emerges an Odd Couple-style comedy in which the men bond, like husband and wife, over the common pursuit of raising chickens, a labour of love that compensates for their lost love of labour.

Scott Kyle and Charlie Lawson give credible performances, but the show's pace lurches erratically, with strange moments of inaction between the comic banter, and a script that tends to ramble. As a result, the play is neither as funny nor as poignant as it aspires to be – even if its heart is in the right place.

Until tomorrow. Box office: 0141 429 0022.

© Mark Fisher 2010

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1 comment:

Ian said...

I saw the play on its first night and I agree entirely with the review. The play was rambling in places and I found that some of the script just did not work.