Toy Plastic Chicken – Traverse Theatre

The intention behind this show’s narrative is clear, however it trails off down too many threads to maintain any sense of succinct storytelling. Nevertheless, the foundations for a genuinely interrogative piece on the state of British security are there.

Bored Emma and high-strung Ross are security agents at Edinburgh airport who toe the line between farcically incompetent and dangerously dismissive of morality. Their dynamic is established quickly and with good humour: Emma wants to be left alone, Ross is desperate for a promotion and will go to any extreme to cover up any mishaps that could damage his reputation. Therefore, when a woman’s eponymous toy plastic chicken sets off alarms at the bag check, she is swiftly ushered into an isolated room and forced to suffer intense questioning under suspicion of domestic terrorism.

From here, the tension ramps up quite effectively. The audience hold their breaths, watching Ross and Emma go to darker extremes to find any information they could manipulate and use against their wrongfully convicted captive, Rachel, in order to save their own skin. A disturbing childhood anecdote becomes reason to believe she is prone to violence, a student newspaper article from a decade ago suddenly proves Rachel is being radicalised by Islam, and in one painfully long scene she is forced to strip, while sobbing, to undergo a full body search.

It’s undeniably humiliating, and while it does effectively demonstrate how prejudice and selfishness makes people in power into monsters, it does not detract from being miserable to watch. Additionally, although the set is well designed, the constant back and forth between rooms makes the situation feel unnecessarily prolonged, with no real consequence.

The focus of the plot bounces between each character too quickly to give any of them proper identifiable personalities beyond Fed Up, Entitled, and Exploited. Backstories and additional themes, such as domestic violence and male entitlement, feel underdeveloped and surface level. Especially considering the time constraint of this performance it feels like squashing that extra pair of sandals into your luggage; it would be great if you could get them in there, but at the moment you just burst the zipper trying.

 

PHOTO: Play, Pie, Pint

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Zoe Robertson

Literature student at The University of Edinburgh - interested in new writing and voices.

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