Chicken Palace @ The Theatre Royal Stratford East Review

Whether you’ve forgotten to prepare a sandwich for lunch, or are looking for a quick fix after school, or a long days work, there’s no doubt that a box of chicken and chips can offer a tasty yet affordable meal solution. An inner city staple, the Chicken and Chip Shop is more than just a fast food outlet, it also encapsulates a microcosm of metropolitan life.

Chicken Palace

Lynette Linton‘s latest work, Chicken Palace zones in on the very concept of the Chicken and Chip Shop being more than just a means to purchase a cheap and cheerful meal. The audience observe the everyday, as characters make their presence known. Chicken Palace‘s redeeming feature is the purpose built immersive set imagined and made possible by Design Consultant Ben Okumu and Scenic Artist, Sarah Jo Evans. White walls adorned with the establishment’s white, red and blue logo adds a hint of the Americana; an American franchise that has subtly become apart of British culture. The audience are drawn out of the comfort of being seated in a proscenium arched setting, and are brought into the front line of an experience, and for this, the creative team must be commended for. The metallic round tables and chairs further add to to the minimalism of the fast food establishment interior we have come to associate with fast food outlets, and lastly, the receiving of a box of chicken and chips as the usher checks tickets sprinkles an aromatic quality over the production.

As I eat my meal, I continually mention to a friend of mine that this is the most relaxed I have been made to feel in the lead up to a show beginning, considering that the layout suggests audience participation may play an integral part. The atmosphere is so, that both the cast and the audience are all on the same level, there isn’t a hierarchy. I wonder, however, whether a trick has been missed, and the owner of the business could have been the one handing out the food, allowing for a greater chance of audience interaction?

All characters make comical entrances, most noted is Urbain Hayo‘s low maintenance Stephen. His continual attempts to woo fast food assistant Jade fall flat, however the audience secretly root for him. Major Singh‘s flamboyant Adesh and Juliet Okotie‘s brazen Jade hilariously compliment one another, their levels of hierarchy within the establishment well and truly pushed aside as their friendship overpowers. Alexander Theo‘s Jamie comically embodies the new gentrified East Londoner, a young, middle class arty type who envisions a hippy-esque future whilst Nicola Maisie Taylor‘s sharply dressed Sophie constantly judges all around her. Driven by a superiority complex, she slowly alienates those that are around her with her thoughts.

Ray Sessay‘s withdrawn Kai appears anchored by a deep sorrow, an ex soldier, he lives day by day silently suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is a very important issue that is addressed, however its exploration is not thorough enough, and I’m therefore not left moved, even though I know I should be. This also applies to all of the other protagonists, themes such as challenging stereotypes, sexuality and political correctness are all brought up, however the presentation of these themes come across as being preached about rather than subtly being discovered.

Marcus Ellard and Lynette Linton direct a vivacious tale, an ambitious piece of theatre attempting to pinpoint many an issue, however the production needs refining. A modern twist on the classic ‘whodunnit’ genre, Chicken Palace is inventive, if you’re looking for an alternative dining experience, then this is a show for you! 3/5

Review written by Lucy Basaba.

Chicken Palace was shown at the Theatre Royal Stratford East from Wednesday 19th until Saturday 22nd August. For more information on Stratford East’s autumn season, visit here…

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