Blue Hen ***

NLP Theatre may be on to something.  A quick glance at their website tells you that they are making ‘theatre for people who don’t do theatre’, and their choices of productions certainly show that.  They have had great success with their production of Singin’ I’m No a Billy He’s a Tim, a play about a Rangers supporter locked up during an Old Firm match with a Celtic fan.  And now there’s Blue Hen.

Written by Des Dillon, it is about two working class schemers in Coatbridge who drink, enjoy a good banter and just about manage to stay out of trouble.  Their latest idea is to in effect go green by growing their own vegetables and raise enough chickens to sell eggs for profit.  As is the case with most ‘get rich’ plans, the idea goes wrong when the coop becomes a nuisance and one of their newly purchased chickens decides to pick the rest off.

With its look at the effects of the economy and harsh life on schemes, there is ample material for a truly great play.  And indeed Blue Hen has some great moments and ideas.  However, Dillon’s script usually opts for funny dialogue and shenanigans over substance, resulting in a play that almost always takes the easy way and frequently feels hollow.

Charles Lawson and Scott Kyle actually work well, both with the material and each other.  It is easy to believe their friendship, and though neither is that sympathetic one still wants to root for both of them.  Each has fun playing bigger-than-life moments and mugging it up a bit for the audience.

It is easy to be overly critical about the Blue Hen.  The script is mostly a missed opportunity, the direction is competent but stale and the design is no better that what one would come to expect from a community theatre production.  However, it has its heart in the right place and wants so badly to please its target audience.  Going by audience reaction, it certainly achieves that desire far more than it doesn’t.  For that, Blue Hen is a palpable success for those looking for an off-colour production set in an environment frequently ignored by the arts.

Originally written for Onstage Scotland.

Touring until June, 2010.  For dates and information, check NLP Theatre’s website.

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