Chicken, Traverse Theatre, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Eva O'Connor in Chicken - picture by Hildegard Ryan
Show details
Sunday's Child
Hildegard Ryan (Co-Writer/Director), Eva O’Connor (Co-Writer), Marianne Nightingale (Lighting Designer), Bryony Rumble (Costume Designer)
Eva O’Connor (Don Murphy)
Running time

With the accolade of winning the Filipa Bragança award for best Female identifying solo performer at the Edinburgh Fringe 2023, as well as a sell out run with glowing reviews, Eva O’Connor returns with her quirky solo show. 

A stalwart of the Fringe, with previous works including My Name is Saoirse and Mustard, which won a Fringe First, O’Connor’s penchant for exploring serious issues through something seemingly absurd comes to the fore in Chicken

This one-bird play takes the simple rags-to-riches tale outline and offers it from the perspective of Don Murphy, a Kerry cock who works his way from obscurity in rural Ireland to the dizzying heights of fame in America, developing his craft, celebrity connections and a raging ketamine addiction on the journey.

Co-written with long-term collaborator Hildegard Ryan, who also directs, O’Connor is in her element as she arrives into the centre of the space, honing in on members of the audience with intent, her wide eyes connecting as she meticulously pecks and flaps the wings of her costume; a beautifully striking creation by Bryony Rumble assembled from re-worked fabrics. 

Bouffon quickly cracks with a quip from our cock that there’ll be none of that profound performance art, followed by a welcoming story of pecking your way up in the world but not dealing with your trauma - as we explore politics, gender, sexuality, addiction, appropriation and oppressive power structures, from the brutality of the global meat industry to the dominance of media.

Under the influential eye of Irish adoptive parents who instil the history of The Influencer Daniel O'Connell into our cock sure yet fundamentally flawed character - echoing imposter syndrome and inherited politics equally - Don confronts hard truths with a light comedic touch as we traverse the absurd, grotesque and taboo, yet under the laughter in some starkly touching moments it’s suggested we can only turn a blind eye or flee from a truth that’s too overwhelming to accept. We numb the pain but the inescapable remains. 

Chicken is an engrossing hour which truly flies by with O’Connor’s charisma hooking in a grateful, receptive audience who are utterly charmed by this rooster and a wonderfully cultivated commentary on working from nothing, fame, perversion, humanity, vices, loves and losses.

Chicken is at The Traverse on Saturday 20 April, with limited availability (at time of writing).

© Lindsay Corr, April 2024