In the summer of 2011 the London riots shook the UK. This piece focuses on a boy and his mother who are affected by those riots, specifically the ones that occurred around their home in Chalk Farm.
An eerie atmosphere is set up as the audience walk in. Screens show static and pulsating music plays whilst the two actors stare out at the audience. This has an unnerving effect, putting the audience on edge and setting the tone perfectly for the rest of the piece.
There are only two actors but both give superb performances, showing a huge range of emotions and making the audience consider how they would act in the same circumstances. They mainly speak directly to the audience, trying to get them to understand the reasons behind their actions which, in their opinion, are the ‘right thing to do’. We see through the eyes of Jamie, a small child who wants to protect the city like a ‘bat angel’ but then grows up and becomes disillusioned with his life on a Chalk Farm estate. We see him grow further away from his mother and eventually fall into anarchy, but not for the reasons you may think.
As the riots only occurred recently, ‘Chalk Farm’ is current and effective, striking a chord with those of us who watched the chaos unfold from our television screens. It hones in on public opinion during that time; calling the rioters ‘swine’ ‘chavs’ and other names, and challenges your way of thinking. It’s an intelligent piece, which tests the audience’s morality as well as being serious in its depiction of harrowing consequences.
‘Chalk Farm’ is a hard-hitting piece of drama that is thoroughly enjoyable, yet thought provoking, and begs the question; what would you do in that situation?
‘Chalk Farm’ is showing throughout August at Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh Festival.
Reviewed by Bethan Hastelow.