The Chicken Trial

Was it animal cruelty to bring 6 chickens to a rowdy nightclub, and is that the wrong question? The Chicken Trial is a “documentary fantasy” recounting the trial of Makode Linde, an art student who brought chickens to an animal-themed club night. She claims the animals were cared for, and that it was all part of a performance, but who is the telling the truth, and why does it matter?

a trial about a guy who may or may not have seriously messed up some chickens

The play describes itself as a “political comedy” that “develops … into an absurd meeting of the real and artificial.” I’d have to argue that it starts that way, with the characters wearing giant cardboard faces and doing (of course) the iconic Chicken Dance, but it also does naturalism quite well; the dialogue contains all the um’s, ah’s and repetition one finds in normal speech. This could have seemed sloppy, but instead was carried admirably by the four actors. The defendant (played by Eunice Olumide) is certainly the central character, talking to the audience directly on a number of occasions, but I was most impressed by Eliza Langland, who gave each of her three characters a grounded distinctiveness.

To suit its style, naturalistic lighting quickly turned into a nightclub atmosphere and back again, aided by costume changes and inventive sound design. Really, every technical element was well done - though there are insistent problems regarding the play’s theme.

To Makode Linde, or at least his character, the trial has nothing to do with chickens at all. He claims that the reason he is being judged is because society’s narrow definition of art has no room for his ideas. He argues that a West End (or even Edinburgh Festival Fringe) performance would face no such backlash, nor do the farmers that confine millions of chickens in enclosed, stressful spaces on a regular basis. However, the connection is too weak to balance the weight of a performance on. Despite the digressions, I never stopped watching a trial about a guy who may or may not have seriously messed up some chickens.

So maybe the argument against Linde was weak; maybe society has a limited idea of what counts as art and that should be challenged. But the trial represented in the play doesn’t reach the vital relevance of other political pieces, such as Laramie Project, which definitely stood for something much more important. The resulting production, despite the quality of the team, lacks the quality to make an audience shut up and pay attention. 

Reviews by Bennett Bonci

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The Blurb

Can art be put to trial? Yes, says the Swedish law system that in 2008 prosecuted art student Makode Linde for having brought a hat full of chickens to an animal-themed event at a nightclub. The Chicken Trial is a fantasy documentary based on the court case that followed. This political comedy directed by Fredrik Lundqvist also strikes a serious note. As witnesses struggle to recreate the night's events, and actors to make head or tail of the rights of animals in the arts, the trial develops into an absurd meeting of the real and the artificial.