This is a Chair

More written about than performed, this is a rare chance to see a version of Caryl Churchill’s 1997 play, This is a Chair.

A timely focus on the attention deficit issue

The play is famously oblique, consisting of eight independent scenes, each with a title card referring to an important political issue or event. However, the action of each scene has nothing to do with its title… or does it?

Described as being ‘brought up to date’, this production highlights how the demands, and self-centredness, of our domestic lives push the world’s great events to the periphery of our attention.

Scene titles have been changed from the original text. Some of the changes seem a bit pointless: Genetic Engineering becomes Designer Babies. Other changes are more significant - The Northern Ireland Peace Process becomes Meghan and The Press - or pointedly contemporary - The Impact of Capitalism on the Former Soviet Union becomes Russia’s Illegal Invasion of Ukraine.

Each scene is followed by a pop music dance interlude, and the use of a soundtrack is significant. The audience is treated to a refrain of the insanely jaunty tune, Popcorn, which on each repeat becomes more sinister and jarring.

The final scene (Russia’s Illegal Invasion of Ukraine), has no words in the text of the play, but is here soundtracked by a Putin speech, followed by real news broadcasts of the invasion and the ongoing war. Through all this, the actors stand silent, listening to their iPods.

The acting is variable, though it gets better as the scenes progress. Some options of interpretation have been lost, like the sinister slant of some of the dialogue. However, a specific focus on the ‘attention deficit/ attention distraction’ issue is timely: something we all face and a problem that will only get worse.

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Reviews by Mark Harding

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The Blurb

The world is in an even more precarious place than it was when this play was originally written. Caryl Churchill's 1999 masterpiece is brought up to date in a new staging for 2023. This is a Chair, or is it? Churchill's revolutionary play blurs the lines and asks us if we should take everything or anything at face value.

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