0 Love It
Save it

Chalk Farm review

Underbelly Cowgate

Tommy Ga-Ken Wan
'Chalk Farm' at Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2013

Kieran Hurley and AJ Taudeven’s ‘Chalk Farm’ has been talked up as a play ‘about’ the 2011 London riots. In fact, while the riots are the backdrop, it’s really a tender study of the complicated relationship between a single parent and her son. In it, we see Jamie grow from wide-eyed little mummy’s boy to a foul-mouthed 14-year-old, whose teenage penchant for mischief threatens to break mum Maggie’s heart after he gets involved in the looting of a Chalk Farm Sainsbury’s at the riots’ apex.

Consisting of a series of interlocking monologues cradled by dreamy electronic music and grainy, CCTV-style projections, the abiding tone is one of intense warmth. Hurley and Taudevin don’t shy away from the fact some of Jamie’s actions are inexcusable, but they’re at pains to point out that his behaviour can partly be explained by the fact that, well, he’s a teenager.

In a great performance from Thomas Dennis, Jamie never ceases to be the little boy who loves his mum more than anything else – he just becomes other, murkier things as well. And Julia Taudevin is similarly good as ballsy working class single mum Maggie, whose sense of social marginalisation is exacerbated by the harsh punitive measures taken against the rioters. If there is a political message, it’s a plea for a more compassionate, forgiving society, to not give in to the creeping demonization of Britain’s poor.

For all its considerable qualities, ‘Chalk Farm’ suffers from some rather gaping structural flaws: the monologue-based structure feels contrived in places, and there’s an emotional final twist to the story that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Still, it has a beautiful heart, and that counts for an awful lot.

The latest Edinburgh Fringe theatre reviews

Pioneer review

It's probably written down somewhere in an old dusty book of Edinburgh Fringe Rules that staging a big-scale sci-fi thriller with a complex set is Not Advisable. Science-focussed theatre company Curious Directive have clearly ignored all the rules.

Read the review

Read more

Little on the Inside review

How do you escape the same four walls, when they're all you have to look at for the next 20 years? Alice Birch’s two hander play ‘Little on the Inside’ has the answer: with your imagination.

Read the review

Read more

Early Doors review

Pint after breakfast anyone? Noon may sound a little early to be drinking, but you’d feel out of place if you didn’t join in with the regulars during this play staged in a small Edinburgh boozer.

Read the review

Read more

Nothing review

Struggling to find work, bored, angry and obsessed with technology and sex: a bunch of today’s Generation Y speak to us in this series of monologues.

Read the review

Read more
Show more