Review: Chicken Soup @ Crucible Theatre
Crucible Theatre Sheffield
21 February 2018
Set in a food bank/community soup kitchen, 5 women on 3 different days are seen running the food bank, talking, laughing or catching up on their lives. That’s chicken soup in a nutshell I guess but really its so much more than that. Whilst it never shows the miners strike what it does present is the context, the effects of it not just in the moment but years later and the women trying desperately to do something positive to support their families and the community. It’s this that makes this play great, in displaying the struggle and strength of communities and actively supporting and encouraging us to support food banks it is shown to be a crucial piece of theatre and all this made me really connect with it.
To begin with its a brilliant piece of writing as its manages to be funny but with moments of real sincerity, intensity and passion. In the way the characters have been written and directed they are made accessible and almost caricaturesque at points and they are also always relatably human. They have outbursts, work together and they laugh and in turn make us laugh and really enjoy their friendships. At the heart of it there is a lovely story of friendship, how these grow and how they support each other throughout the play. Maybe its this that inevitably makes the moments where they do breakdown or harsh truths are presented feel more devastating and maybe its this that makes the moments of raw passion and real hurt as a result of the events string a little more. I say sting because I feel like that’s an effective way to describe it, there’s a sharpness to it which almost makes you catch you breath, in one way you feel a sense of disbelief, in another hurt and upset and then you feel annoyed and angry that this was all allowed to happen. Essentially, the play successfully creates this intensity of emotions that make you understand there’s something fundamentally wrong with how these events were dealt with.
Having not grown up when the strikes were happening this show provided me with a new layer of understanding and exemplified just how heated this strike was. The imagery the characters use at times to describe those striking as ‘soldiers’ or claiming ‘its not just a strike anymore its a war’ demonstrated this sense of anger and grit over protecting the destruction of their industry. In retelling this story what is also shown is whilst times have moved on, we are still living with the effects and this questions whether society and the governments attitude has drastically changed or not. The latter seems more likely as Christine talks about how its not miners needing their support now its nurses coming in. Then, with the context of brexit underlying the second act, it again is questioned whether things have improved or even been addressed.
Nevertheless, the play more positively shows the strength of the community and how the shared experiences and determination of these women leads them to taking a vital role in supporting their families and this shines throughout. In the final scene of the play we really come to understand how much of an effect these events have had on Christine’s personal life as she describes feeling like time has flown past and nothings changed and she hasn’t achieved all the plans she thought she would. Her final shared moment with Josephine typifies the incredible drive and strength these women have shown throughout as she says she’s been strong for 30 years and just wants to be weak for one minute.
Ultimately, this play was just about everything I want from a piece of theatre – its well written, funny, has complex strong female characters and considers the context and how society changes throughout. Furthermore, this play is also socially engaging. Firstly, it does this by putting the community at the forefront of the conversation and heart of the play and showing its resilience. Moreover, it displays the importance of food banks both throughout the rehearsal process where they visited Fir Vale Food Bank and during the show itself by collecting donations. Ultimately, its this desire to not only be a great piece of theatre but to raise awareness and encourage people to donate to food banks and be more socially engaged themselves that makes this such an important piece of theatre. In doing all this, Chicken Soup therefore evokes strong feelings and passionate responses from the audience. For me, the impact of this play is clear and is one that will last, it made me feel passionate and appreciate the women, community and their strength, it made me question society and the way communities and those in need of help are treated and it made me realise I should be more socially aware and active in supporting things like Food Banks. All in all, there’s many reasons why I love theatre and why I want to eventually be creating theatre and pieces like Chicken Soup is one of them.