Queer as Folk’s Craig gets his feathers ruffled
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You’d think a play called Chicken with Queer as Folk actor Craig Kelly would be a cue for a lot of obvious cock jokes, but alas no, we don’t get gratuitous nudity or many laughs in this play.
This is a gritty drama by American Playwright Mike Batistick, depicting the desperation of people trying to salvage their ‘American Dream’ in a crummy New York apartment, at the cost of all around them.
Kelly plays Wendell, a junk food addicted husband who doesn’t seem to be able to muster the strength to stand up to anyone, despite a baby on the way and being bled dry by everyone in his life. Even his loser best friend Floyd (George Georgiou), who has been crashing on his sofa for three months, takes advantage. He refuses to contribute or leave the cramped apartment after finding out his wife Rosalind (Amy Tez) has been cheating on him. Meanwhile Wendell’s heavily pregnant alcoholic wife Lina (Loose Women’s Lisa Maxwell) has also given up caring and so turns to the booze and cigarettes for solace.
The only hope Wendell has is a Cockerel given to him by his gangster and hustler pal, Geronimo (Daniel Yabut), which could earn him thousands of dollars, but only if it can win a cockfight. Even that however is hindered by the fact the thing is sick and needs a serum that only Floyd’s father, Felix (Andy Lucas) knows the recipe for. But getting that means actually having to face the reality of their life and the man that is blamed for its current state.
Although this play has the cast and premise to really make a statement on the desperately living, it falls short of the mark. Energy was lack lustre and the pace was uneven, it was especially unaided by the awful and often seemingly unnecessary scene changes on a single set. At one point the darkness went on so long that I thought it must be the interval.
Notable performances are turned in however. Lisa Maxwell who handles the despondent and desperate role of Lina with real honesty, sadness and a flawless accent. Lucas as the Stroke affected father Felix, delivers a stellar performance, showing a man that is broken and shamed by the choices he made in life.
Overall Batistick has created a play with interesting characters in a tragic setting, some scenes are wonderfully played out, for example one where the wives face off and ultimately accept the state of play. Also there is an unexpected take on the reaction of Floyds sons sexuality which I found to be very well crafted.
Despite efforts by the cast to make the piece work the staging does not support the momentum and therefore I struggled to give it more than 2 out of 5.
Chicken runs at the Trafalgar Studio 2, London, until 21 July. More info can be found here.
Words: Ralph Bogard