Jack Studio Theatre -until 14 March 2020
Reviewed by Claire Roderick
Corey Bovell’s story of a summer of change in Lewisham is a fast paced and heartfelt joy.
It’s 2009, and the long summer holidays as Corey waits for his A level results begin as a carefree routine of hanging around the local Morley’s chicken shop with his mates. They play the slots, pinch each other’s chips, rapping and on the lookout for girls. When Corey meets Jodie outside the chicken shop, his expectations and fear of change are challenged as they begin to talk honestly about the future and what is holding him back.
Bovell’s writing and performance are sharp, accessible and witty, creating recognisable characters and situations that had the young audience giggling and nodding along. This is a story about real lives and real issues that have a huge impact on our borough. The impact of gentrification, axing of youth and community services, stigmatising and labelling of black youth as gang members, and knife crime are all part of Corey’s life and worries, and Bovell voices the teenager’s concerns and fear with righteous frustration and anger. From Corey’s hardworking Pops, with his mantra “Go Work or go uni” to his mate Shaun, excluded from school instead of helped, written off by the system and idolising his uncle after the death of his father, these are men we all know, and Bovell weaves them into his story skilfully and naturally. The final tragedy is signposted early on as Shaun confronts and humiliated the person who stitched on his uncle, but the innocence and youth of Corey’s character allows his sweeping away of this ominous incident as everyday life continues, and the audience gets carried away on his excitement as well.
Director Kwame Asiedu ensures Bovell’s verbal and physical dynamism lead the audience through Corey’s world with clarity, with some good use of voiceovers and audience interaction, and the sobering ending effortlessly reminds us of the untold and unfulfilled promise lost with every death.
Chicken Burger n Chips has so much to say to so many people, a story that needs to be heard told with passion, intelligence, wit and a lot of love for Lewisham Borough.