Chips on Shoulders

Wed 3rd – Sat 20th August 2011

Venue

Venue

reviews

Madeleine Stottor

at 15:17 on 17th Aug 2011

0agrees

0disagrees

Everyone loves chips (and I for one love being offered chips on my way into a play). Chips are up there with chocolate and biscuits as the ultimate comfort food. But in Ron’s house, comfort food is normal food. The smell of his mum’s delicious chips coats the house, as Ron and his mother have tried to eat their sadnesses away. But plates and plates of chips have contributed to Ron’s problems. He weighs seventeen stone and is bullied mercilessly. ‘Chips on Shoulders’ is an original work dealing with insecurity, self-confidence, and loss, performed by East Yorkshire’s Penguin Pie Productions. It is a bittersweet, moving play, with some strong acting performances that unfortunately doesn’t quite reach its full potential.

‘Chips on Shoulders’ makes the most of its performance space and limited props by using physical theatre, actors forming showers and tables, or becoming the physical embodiment of Ron’s early morning routine. The performers play one key role each but also narrate the story, slipping in and out of the main action. This technique works well, and is very useful in keeping up the story’s pace. Fergus Davison makes an endearing and convincing Ron. The moment where he tries to refuse a plate of chips really strikes a chord. His relationship with his mother (Frances Bean) was sweetly genuine; her crusade to his school to stop the bullying is well-acted. The stand-out performance comes, however, from an actor playing one of the smaller roles. Daniel De’siano-Plummer plays PE teacher Thistle but is noticeable even during his narration for his maturity and conviction. In contrast, Connor Hugh as bully Derek seems young and lacking in confidence. Narration describes him as the ‘ringmaster’ and says that he ‘addressed them with a bellow’. Hugh’s performance doesn’t match up with these comments, though, and where Derek should be cruel, he seems weak.

James Rennoldson’s script captures well teenage language, the insults and banter. The script is simply written and has many nicely comic elements. What confuses me, however, is that it feels for the most part as though it’s going to be a comedy, a coming-of-age story with a happy ending. But this isn’t what the audience ends up with. Instead we are left hanging at what might be a crucial plot turning point, with issues unresolved. Perhaps this is more true to life, where Ron’s problems would never be solved overnight, but it leaves one feeling like something is missing.

I admire ‘Chips on Shoulders’ for bringing to the stage issues like bullying, and for pointing out that everyone has insecurities, from ‘fat bastard’ Ron to cool girl Tamzin. That the play’s protagonist is a boy obsessed with his body image, rather than a girl, means that the show addresses issues often overlooked, and challenges stereotypes. The Penguin Pie cast is young and earnest, but while most of the acting is good, it isn’t all quite right. Ultimately, the problem with ‘Chips on Shoulders’ is a feeling of incompleteness. On its programme, it says the play ‘will leave you hungry to know more’, and it does; but unfortunately, not in a good way.

agree
disagree

Natalya Din-Kariuki

at 16:54 on 17th Aug 2011

0agrees

0disagrees

As I arrive at the Zoo Roxy to see Penguin Pie Productions' devised work "Chips on Shoulders", I (and the rest of the audience) am offered a thick, delicious chip complete with salt and vinegar. The smell of chips follows us into the theatre itself, and lingers throughout the performance, bringing us into a potato-fixated home. The piece centres on the life of Ron (Fergus Davison), a teenage boy plagued by his weight, school bullies and his mum's propensity to comfort eat. As the audience enter, Ron sits on a bicycle on stage, madly cycling and sweating from the exhaustion. Indeed, one of this production's strengths is its physicality - Ron's trousers, loose from recent weight loss, slide down his backside, and the rest of the cast spin him around to fully display his derrière to the audience. At a later point, he mimes being in the shower, throwing his underwear across the stage. This group are not shy about bodies. The set remains mostly uncluttered, the cast creating sets with their bodies and sounds - including swinging house doors, bicycles and showers. They additionally achieve feats such as dressing Ron as he lies down - such effective and creative physical movement is a delight to watch.

The cast are flexible and strong, playing several parts each with ease including school teachers, a receptionist and fit school girls. As Ron, Fergus Davison gives a poignant, entirely believable performance, as does Frances Bean in her role as his despondent mother. However, the five-person cast is talented and engaging.

The script is moving in the simplicity of its prose - set in the spaces of Ron's home and school, it charts grievances of the most personal kind. However, it unfortunately ends abruptly, without any conventional form of resolution which would have been cathartic for an audience so captivated by Ron's misery. This is a young theatre group brave enough to discuss important issues with no pretense. I leave finding the smell of chips a little bit nauseating - this production has clearly done its work.

agree
disagree

Audience Avg.

0 votes, 0 comments

Click here for more event information

cast involved

other events on

Version 0.3.7a