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Print Version

Capital E National Arts Festival
The Magic Chicken
By Theatre Beating
Presented by Time Out Theatre

at Soundings - Te Papa, Wellington
From 11 Mar 2013 to 16 Mar 2013
[50 mins]

Reviewed by John Smythe, 13 Mar 2013

The question that always arises with a slapstick clowning show is, is it about something more that showing off slapstick clowning skills? The answer regarding The Magic Chicken is a resounding “Yes, there's more!” 

Given I see it on the same day the petition opposing asset sales is delivered to parliament, it seems obvious that it is about the foolishness of selling off good income-earning assets for short-term gain.

The titular chicken, which happens by this restaurant on yet another quiet day, lays golden eggs in good-old folk-tale fashion. But when a customer turns up, and Chicken is there on the menu and that's what he chooses, what are the Chefs supposed to do?

If Toot (Barnie Duncan) is the short order chef then Collins (Trygve Wakenshaw) takes on the tall orders. But the charming Chicken (a hand puppet animated by black-clad Jonny Brugh, whose presence is quickly forgotten) prefers taking food from Toot, possibly because Collins was reckless with the first-laid egg.

Panic and mayhem ensue when Evil Eric (Mark Clare) arrives and despite being distracted with a fine wine and the pizza option, it's chicken he wants. The full range of human emotions is traversed as mishaps, chases, disasters, miraculous saves and victories are played out – sometimes in splendid slo-mo – with meticulously timed brilliance.  

A live cartoon soundtrack, composed by Andrew McMillan, is provided by John Bell and Jeff Henderson. And it all plays out on Brad Knewstubb's splendid storybook set with multiple doors – including two into the ever-consuming oven. 

This, by the way, is the third Capital E National Arts Festival show to spray its young audience with water, much to their boisterous pleasure. Was it a thematic prerequisite, I wonder, or is it some sort of harmonic – or rather aquatic – convergence?

Unlike The Man The Sea Saw, there is no need to coax applause and cheering from this audience. Their appreciation is genuine, loud, excited and heart-felt.

The Magic Chicken is playing two schools shows per day during the week and there is just one chance for the wider public to see it: Saturday 16 March, 11.45am.

Treat yourselves. 
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 Lexie Matheson
 Gail Tresidder