Throughout the pandemic, north London youth theatre group Chickenshed have posted a number of recordings of their ‘Spring Shows’. The latest addition is Globaleyes which was premiered as far back as 2002, though this version comes from 2013 when it was updated and reimagined. Like many of the group’s other shows this tackles issues which are important in the world today and does so from a political standpoint which is never alienating or preachy; the audience is left to make up its own mind.
In this instance the overarching theme is of the global community/family and how our decisions and choices have ripple effects that resonate round the globe. More specifically it tackles subjects such as climate change, pollution, conflict, dispossession and poverty – any or all of which would make for a full-scale show on its own. However, I was glad of this comprehensive approach; last time I watched a Chickenshed show (Waiting For The Ship To Sail) my main concern was that it was too repetitive and kept hammering home the same points in too mechanical a fashion. Not so here, though, as the changes of mood and the shifts in tone make for much stronger audience engagement.
As ever, the most mind-boggling aspect of a Chickenshed show is the sheer number and diversity of young people who are involved. The stage is literally packed with talent and various set pieces enthral and amaze. One of the high spots comes early in the first half as the cast enact the Tube journey from hell (as part of a section about population growth) which resembles a Doré engraving set in one of the circles of Dante’s Inferno. Contrast this with a piece called “Parasites” in which two pairs of performers bound together in opposing vertical plains, quietly tumble and weave their way around the stage like creatures from another world – this latter would not have looked out of place in a Cirque du Soleil show. One of my favourite sections was an increasingly frenzied piece about garment manufacture in developing nations. This is presented as a frantic tango while illuminated signage relays facts about the rates of pay different people would receive for making clothing around the world. This is done in descending order and starts with the USA on £13 per hour. The numbers gradually decrease to the point where they become ludicrous and yet still they keep going down – Bangladeshi workers apparently get the princely sum of 8 pence per hour!
To emphasise the global nature of the piece there are well chosen spoken quotations from the likes of Mandela, Gandhi, King, Lennon and other proponents of a change in global attitudes. The musical score also reflects diversity with strong undercurrents of African, Indian and South American rhythms. The choreography is sure footed, and the young performers show complete commitment and spot on timing in making everything work so well. The effect is actually of something free flowing and spontaneous, but it is almost certain that this is completely down to very careful rehearsal and staging. It is no small wonder that three overall directors led by Christine Niering and any number of other creative leaders are shown in the final credits.
One final big moment is worthy of mention. Act Two starts with a section showing how conflict arises out of something small and yet gathers momentum as it progresses. Then after an engaging episode of what amounts to shadow play the lights come back up and there are the cast – in face masks! Although this has nothing to do with our current situation (as stated, the piece was recorded in 2013), it brings things bang up to date with a jolt. It is a completely timely reminder that alas, not much has changed in the last seven years and many of the concerns which the show highlights are still relevant. Unfortunately, it is now the case that there is something more which unites us globally – but not in a good way.
Globaleyes is available via Chickenshed’s You Tube channel – click here
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