This brand new drama from Sheffield locals Ray Castleton and Kieran Knowles packs a punch.
It’s always exciting when a piece of theatre completely challenges your worldview. Subtle and bitingly clever, Chicken Soup deals with inequality: between politicians and the people they serve; between men and their wives; and between the seen and unseen of society.
The play begins in Rotherham, 1984, five days after the infamous Battle of Orgreave. Josephine, Jen and Christine are waging a different kind of warfare: trying to keep their community afloat with donated beans and chicken soup. As the decades roll on, signified by the fantastically adaptable set designed by Sophia Simensky, they remain firmly on the breadline, eventually landing in a struggling community food bank on the eve of the 2016 Brexit vote.
Though its subject matter is unavoidably contentious for a Yorkshire audience (where the referendum result was almost a 50/50 split), the script is handled with effortless warmth, gently poking fun at both sides of the EU debate while treating them with empathy. Remmie Milner gives a particularly impressive performance as Jen’s daughter Katie, who makes the difficult transition from apathetic noughties teen (instantly recognisable to all twenty-somethings from her baggy cargo pants and brick-like flip phone) to a passionate young Remainer frustrated by her companions’ reverence for the past.
A slow opening following Josephine’s attempts to fix a flickering light gives way to witty and fast-paced dialogue. The all-female cast of talented actors keep a packed theatre fully engaged, avoiding all pretension and melodrama in favour of a quiet rage at the state of things.
From collecting audience donations towards a real Yorkshire food bank to the free chicken soup in the interval, we are constantly reminded just how real these stories are. This is essential viewing for anyone wanting to better understand the community they live in.
Photos by Mark Douet