PPP: Toy Plastic Chicken

May 15, 2019 | By | 1 Reply More

★★☆☆☆    Curate’s egg

Traverse: Tue 14 – Sat 18 May 2019
Review by Thom Dibdin

First seen as a somewhat explosive work-in-progress at last year’s Hidden Door, Toy Plastic Chicken is the final production in this Spring’s A Play, A Pie and a Pint lunchtime theatre slot at the Traverse.

One year on, Uma Nada-Rajah’s play remains packed with ideas, but it still never quite demonstrates that it knows what it has to say with them. Its separate strands end up feeling under-explored, never quite cohering. And, although this has tightened up considerably, they still seem clichéd when they need to fly off into exaggerated invention.

David James Kirkwood, Neshla Caplan and Anna Russell-Martin. Pic: Leslie Black

That said, there’s still lots to enjoy. It’s always a pleasure to see Neshla Caplan on stage, here playing holidaymaker Rachel at Edinburgh airport, where the singing, strutting and egg-laying toy plastic chicken – which she bought on a whim and is taking with her to Istanbul – explodes into life just as she is going through security.

Anna Russell-Martin is also great value as security officer Emma, who would rather be anywhere than work on this dreary Sunday morning – let alone having to deal with the self-doubt of her colleague Ross (David James Kirkwood) who has just been overlooked for promotion in favour of their bullying colleague McKay.


To make matters worse, McKay has pulled a sickie – so they will have to cope on their own with the fall-out from their unintentional calling of a security code red. And work out what to do with both the clearly innocent Rachel and the curiously hilarious chicken.

The ensuing back and forward is handled with a real clarity by director Paul Brotherston, as Rachel is detained in one room, obviously in full view of security and revealing more and more about herself – but unable to see the revelations occuring next door about the two security officers’ work and personal relationships.

underlying issues

However it is not his finest hour in terms of bringing out the nuance and punch of the piece. The idea of Rachel going off alone to a strange place and putting herself in potentially dangerous situations somehow doesn’t contrast as it might with Emma’s real-life experience of danger and actual violence closer to home.

David James Kirkwood. Pic: Leslie Black

Moreover, the underlying issues of radicalisation and what constitutes behaviour worthy of being brought to the security force’s attention feels curiously unexplored. As do the parallels between Rachel’s situation and those of both Ross and Emma.

The technical and design aspects are excellently conceived, with solid sound design from Andy Cowan giving a good sense of place, while Johnathan Scott and Gemma Patchett provide smooth solutions to the problems of staging the piece.

The excellent performances, comic timing and creation of character from all three actors go a long way to make up for some of the lack of tension that Brotherston brings out between them. But this is ultimately a few nuggets short of the full meal deal.

Running time: 55 minutes (no interval)
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED
Tuesday 14 – Saturday 18 May 2019
Daily at 1pm; Also Fri eve at 7pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Neshla Caplan and David James Kirkwood in Toy Plastic Chicken. Pic: Leslie Black

ENDS

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  1. PPP for BBC Scotland : All Edinburgh Theatre.com | September 2, 2019

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