Chickenshed review: RISE Festival

February 8, 2024

‘Ride or Die’ © Chickenshed Theatre

Shakira Dyer enjoys sensory performances with evocative sights, sounds and smells

Chickenshed came alive with the RISE 2023 Festival, an explosion of creativity by 12 talented young artists, sharing inspiring stories of the underworld, rape crime, gang grooming and drug trafficking through a series of powerful short dramas.

The ‘Ride or Die’ performance explores gang culture in the heart of London exploiting vulnerable teenagers.

We follow a young man, dropping out of college and looking for a job, and his teenage sister who is groomed into county lines, transporting drugs from inner city London to outer-London areas. The sister risks entrapment for drug trafficking to protect her brother who’s at risk of being recruited.

‘When They Ran’ is a love story and revenge murder plot set in 1950s London and Trenchtown, Jamaica.

Daryl falls in love with Abigail in Jamaica but then becomes a soldier and is sent away to serve in the Cold War. Arriving in London from Jamaica, Abigail works as a waitress. After a night out, she is sexually assaulted by her employer.

RISE is created to showcase the creativity of the young artists, and it certainly achieved this

In the future, their great-grandchildren find out that Daryl is responsible for murder, when he exacts revenge by taking the life of the man who abused Abigail. The couple are labelled ‘killers’.

‘Demise’s Query’ is a macabre story, with three performers becoming devil-like. A devil character shows up when someone is about to attempt a death-defying feat.

Flamboyant, with a leopard-spotted cape and blood make-up, the demonic figure does not cause the deaths, but doesn’t want to prevent the person from risking their life either, delighted at the prospect of being joined by them in the underworld.

© Chickenshed Theatre

Audience participation is encouraged, in a parallel, fragrant journey, where we are given envelopes, finding scented pieces of paper inside: a lemony smell for the stunt woman’s perfume, an orangey smell for the boxer’s aftershave, and a message at the end about living life to the fullest, even in the face of death.

It felt like such an important programme to allow us to create theatre we’re passionate about

RISE is created to showcase the creativity of the young artists, and it certainly achieved this, transporting the audience into the festival world. Parts of the performances were fun, at other times thought-provoking.

Beth Fox, the programme manager of RISE 2023, thanked the funders from Foyle Foundation and Cockayne. She said, “The programme had 12 weeks of creative development, with sessions involving industry professionals from all areas of the creative arts industry.”

The young participants in RISE 2023 gave opinions on creating the performance.

“It felt like such an important programme to allow us to create theatre we’re passionate about – it was an amazing experience!” said Shiloh Maersk.

“Rise was the perfect way to get our idea up on its feet,” said Bethany Hamlin.

“It was great to see everyone shine,” said Demar Lambert.

Chickenshed’s RISE Festival is now over but you can find out more about this inclusive theatre company’s amazing work at their website.

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