If you need to restore your faith in what Fringe theatre has to offer, look no further than Eva O’Connor’s Chicken, showing in the Former Women’s Locker room at Summerhall — a subterranean space that makes us all feel a bit like chickens in a coop, as Chicken’s protagonist points out. This protagonist, in fact, is a chicken named after the great Irish liberator Daniel O’Connell, whose complex life story is revealed over the course of this extraordinary one-woman show.
A hidden gem at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe
Daniel O’Connell (the chicken, not the man) is a self-made rooster, starting out life as a chick in Ireland and moving to the United States to chase his dream as a Hollywood star, getting his ‘big bird break’. O’Connor enters cast in a stark white light, her stunning costume is revealed in all its glorious plumage, showing off the designer’s attention to detail in its complex structure. The magnificence of this costume combined with O’Connor’s unfaltering posture is shockingly similar to that of a real chicken, preparing us for a disturbing encounter with the animal.
This one woman show is totally unprecedented, neither falling into the realm of performance art nor resisting the genre’s intensity. Encircled by the audience, O’Connor holds absolute attention for a full hour of monologue, never letting go of her character and the conviction with which she plays the animal.
Beyond the show’s hilarious exposition of Hollywood from a chicken’s perspective, O’Connor’s speech literally blurs the bounds between the animal and human, seriously asking us to reconsider our relationship to the animals we eat every day. Yet the sublime fluency of Chicken’s script never attempts to instruct us on what we should or shouldn’t be eating.
Although we might leave the room feeling that we have a new relationship to chickens, O’Connor’s performance is primarily stunning in her acting, revealing a rare talent for movement and speech. Her range of emotion is met with an equal measure of dexterity in accents and characters. And Chicken’s script also touches on important ideas about Irish identity, without becoming weighed down with any particular rhetoric.
At the show I went to see, the audience felt tangibly enthralled by O’Connor’s charisma, discussing the faultless script as they left. For a production with a relatively obscure blurb and lack of social media presence, this feels like a hidden gem at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. But don’t be slow — word is spreading, and ‘the world’s most famous cock’ is selling out every night.