Review: Chalk Farm at The Edinburgh Fringe

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Its almost been 2 weeks since I’ve been back from the Fringe and I’m still catching up. But…better late than never.

Here’s a review of Chalk Farm (Underbelly)

Its Day Three (for me) at the fringe so I decide to watch 3 shows…back to back!

A mother and son relive their very different experiences of the 2011 London riots in Chalk Farm; set in a tower block council estate overlooking a judgemental neighbourhood of doo-gooders.

Plugged as a play ‘about’ the London riots, my expectation to experience something new came to a halt as the play continued its journey down a road exploring the relationship between a mother and her adolescent son growing up in a society of peer pressure, vulnerability and status. An interesting topic but not original – unfortunately I didn’t learn anything new. Even though the characters were well rounded and developed, the choice to tell this story through these characters were far too obvious…which in turn became predictable.

Unfortunately the cheap laughs from the middle classes in the audience, who felt obliged and compelled in recognition of understanding impoverished working class conditions and their decision and understanding of taking part, created an awkward, unsettling, cringeworthy atmosphere. And from those audience members who may have had first hand experience of the riots…silence.

A great in depth exploration and non bias representation of the riots was illustrated beautifully in ‘Mottled Lines’ by Archie Maddox. A monologue style play performed by four very different characters, presenting four very different perspectives – it was fresh and raw but more importantly…I learnt something new.

The first time I saw a piece by ‘ThickSkin’ was in 2009 with their debut performance of ‘Blackout’ which received critical acclaim – perhaps due to its edgy and very unique portrayal of a 15 year olds memory of a murder he was accused of committing. The 5 strong cast opened its doors for a different social interpretation on the protagonists (and other teenagers alike) identity. Using slick multimedia in an inventive way, it allowed us to become voyeurs in this child’s upbringing.

Whereas Chalk Farm’s set was stylised in a simple layout of aesthetically pleasing blank television screens, but this urbanised concept, meant for devised purposes, did nothing for me emotionally  Are they just following a trend to attract a younger audience?

One concept I did enjoy was the mothers attempt to convince others that her only child did not participate in the riots, something I don’t think the mother herself believed which was a good an interesting portrayal of contradiction and self delusion-something human beings are great at.

One thought on “Review: Chalk Farm at The Edinburgh Fringe

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