Thursday, 4 September 2014

Review: Chicken Shop at the Park Theatre

Chicken Shop
Park Theatre (Park90)
Reviewed on Wednesday 3rd September 2014 

The Park Theatre’s latest production is Anna Jordan’s coming-of-age tale Chicken Shop. The play tells the story of 16 year old Hendrix, a young boy living in Hounslow, who is bullied when the children at his school discover that his mother is a lesbian.

Hendrix, played by Jesse Rutherford, lives at home with his mother Hilary (Angela Bull) and her younger partner Katie (Millie Reeves). Hendrix is frustrated to constantly find his mother and Katie in compromising positions, leading to his intense dislike for his mother’s new partner. He is still very close to Meg, his mother’s former girlfriend whom he often refers to as his dad – which upsets and angers Katie. 

His classmates discovery that his mother is a lesbian, leads them to believe that Hendrix must be gay too. Frustrated and angry he visits a brothel situated above a fried chicken shop to prove to himself and everyone else that he is not gay. There he meets Luminita (Lucy Roslyn), a young woman from Moldova, brought to London to work for her Hungarian boss Leko, a chilling character played brilliantly by John Last. 

Finding that he is too nervous to go through with losing his virginity, Hendrix and Luminita spend their time together talking and he allows her to call her home in order to speak to her younger sister Claudia. Roslyn perfectly captures Luminita’s nervous and jittery state – she is locked in the room above the chicken shop, spending her days working, cleaning and sleeping. She is even starved of sunlight and her joyous expression when Hendrix opens the window to let some air in is heart-wrenching. Hendrix often returns to the brothel, even bringing apples and oranges for Luminita as he ‘doesn’t think she’s getting her five a day’. The friendship between them is real and heart-warming, with Hendrix even asking his mum for advice in order to help him get a friend out of trouble. 

The play perfectly captures the difference between those who have a choice and those who have their choices taken away from them, and seeing Luminita in such despair over her inability to break free from her current situation prompts Hendrix to stand up and make his own decisions without worrying about what his mother thinks is right. The Park90 set is well designed by Florence Hazard, with the brothel at the front and centre of the stage, framed either side by Hendrix’s bedroom and the family’s living room emphasising that problems such as those depicted in the play are often not far from our own front door. The scenes at Hendrix’s home are often funny, though sometimes feel stilted and awkward - it is at the brothel that Chicken Shop becomes disturbing and often uncomfortable. 

Jesse Rutherford is believable as a nervous young teenager trying to stand on his own two feet, with a fantastic John Last portraying Luminita’s abusive pimp who often threatens to find her younger sister Claudia were Luminita ever to leave him. Lucy Roslyn’s portrayal of a sex-trafficking victim is highly emotional and often hard to watch. Her desperation and loneliness is obvious and she clings to Hendrix like a lifeline as he wants to spend time talking to her and not just using her for sex. Anna Jordan’s script is deep and thought provoking and gives the audience the ability to delve deeper into the hidden world which is often a lot closer to home than we realise.

Reviewed by Laura Kate Jones

Chicken Shop runs at the Park Theatre until Sunday 28th September 2014
Please visit for further information and tickets.

Photo Credit: Kim Hardy 

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