REVIEW: BUBBLING @ THE HEN & CHICKENS THEATRE
📍 The Hen & Chickens Theatre, 109 St Paul's Road, London, N1 2NA
🗓 Tuesday 22nd August 2023
AN ABSTRACT PIECE OF ART
On Tuesday I was invited to the Hen & Chickens Theatre to watch Bubbling from Bodies For Rent Theatre Company which was being performed as part of the Camden Fringe Festival.
I have to say, even a couple days later, that this production has left me completely perplexed! I have honestly struggled to put my feelings into words, let alone work out a star rating! This is because although I found the acting in this piece impressively strong, I didn’t really understand what was going on!
I don’t usually like to know too much about a new piece of theatre before I see it, although on this occasion I did read the blurb beforehand so I had a basic understanding that the play was about migrants in the UK and their feelings of being isolated and trapped. I felt that this wasn’t made abundantly clear in the play, although it did make sense, but had I not known that I don’t think I would have guessed that that’s what it was about.
As I entered the performance space there was the sound of dripping water and the three performers were already in situ. The sounds and subdued lighting actually made for a really weird atmosphere that is hard to explain, but I did enjoy it as a creative choice. It let the audience know that what they were about to witness was not a light-hearted comedy but something deeper.
There are three characters, all of which seem to have no name. I believe this is because each one is more of a representation of real peoples stories rather than being a defined character. The play begins with the two female characters. One of them is constantly questioning the other and is almost like an inquisitive toddler with her incessant questioning! At times their interactions were comical, but mostly they were more philosophical. Questions such as “What is happening?”, “How do you define reality?” and “Who is not suffering in this life?” questioned the morality of the human race.
The male character enters from the audience and it seems he is completely disconnected from the female characters. Although he watches them and has non-verbal interactions with them, it is as if he is performing a monologue to the audience which happens sporadically between the conversations between the females! At times it seems he does direct his speech towards them, but they don’t respond to him.
As I said earlier, the strength of the acting on display was really impressive. It’s just that the piece didn’t resonate with me. I found myself constantly lost throughout and I have so many questions that were unanswered. If I had not read up about the piece before I saw it I probably would have been even more confused!
The piece is quite short and is interesting enough that although lost, I was engaged throughout. I feel it could maybe do with an additional 5 or 10 minutes added to round it off and just explain to the audience a little more what is going on.
I enjoyed some of the creative choices such as the lighting (I do love a good bit of technical theatre!) and the black costumes and lack of a set means there are no distractions. I didn’t understand the concept of the only prop which was a clear perspex box. That went completely over my head!
So all in all it’s a very mixed review. I didn’t love it, but at the same time I didn’t hate it! I feel it has the makings of a being a very good show but just needs something more. I know theatre its subjective, but leaving the theatre with no real idea of what just happened is not a good thing!
As usual, this is just my personal view and I always encourage you to make up your own minds. Smaller theatre companies like this only thrive with support and I would be intrigued to see further works from them. Bubbling has now finished this run of shows but follow @bodiesforrenttheatre on Instagram for news of upcoming performances.
All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest and free from influence.
My ticket for this performance of Bubbling was gifted by Bodies For Rent Theatre Company who invited me to watch the show in exchange for my honest review. The fact that my ticket was gifted played no part in the star rating given or the content of my review.
Timotheus Widmer; Lorraine Yu; Siyu Chen
Writers / Directors - Belle Bao and Jiazheng Li; Assistant Director - Yuqi Wang; Stage Manager - Shawn Lu; Graphic Designer - Anna Mercado
RUNNING TIME (approx):
50 minutes with no interval