Playbill Pick: Chicken at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe | Playbill

Playbill Goes Fringe Playbill Pick: Chicken at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

This show where a woman plays a chicken who thinks he's an Irishman is unlike anything you've ever seen.


The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world, with nearly 3,500 shows. This year, Playbill is in Edinburgh for the entire month in August for the festival and we’re taking you with us. Follow along as we cover every single aspect of the Fringe, aka our real-life Brigadoon!

As part of our Edinburgh Fringe coverage, Playbill is seeing a whole lotta shows—and we're sharing which ones you absolutely must see if you're only at the Fringe for a short amount of time. Consider these Playbill Picks a friendly, opinionated guide as you try to choose a show at the festival.

Hildegard Ryan and Eva O'Connor’s Chicken had me in its talons from the moment I walked into Summerhall’s Former Women’s Locker Room. It must have been the undeniable first notes of Philip Glass’ “String Quartet No. 3, ‘Mishima’” that played softly as we settled into our seats. It then repeated and repeated, violin strings lulling me into a state of blissful melancholy. As a huge sucker for Glass’ music, the choice struck me tenderly. This is a piece of music for a bittersweet, arresting epic of heartache, awakening, disappointment, and fantasy. This is an intricate composition for an equally complex tragic hero: a chicken.

The chicken in question, masterfully portrayed by O’Connor, is a proud Kerry-born Irishman who boasts he is “the most famous cock in Hollywood.” Having left Ireland for the glitz and glam of Hollywood, our protagonist finds himself in the throes of a ketamine addiction, repressing his most “chickenish” qualities, and torn between the intoxicating pull of movie stardom and the opportunity to oppose the grim fate faced by all chickenkind.

Bedecked in gold fringe, sequins, and deep blue and gold-brushed feathers (designed by Bryony Rumble), O’Connor flaps, jerks, and stares intently, impressively remaining half-crouched for the entirety of the performance. As much as Chicken is a marvel of storytelling, it is also a breathtaking show of physical endurance. Anyone who has ever done a curtsey lunge will be stunned. The physicality of Chicken also creates a sense of uneasiness towards the being before you, turning and turning in circles, head snapping about. In the audience, you feel vulnerable to sudden pecks as O’Connor draws close. I was transfixed by, yet wary of, every movement (designed by Sarah Blanc).

Where Chicken really soars is where the fantastical—with references to Michael Fassbender as a “fairy godmother” and Martin McDonagh directing a live-action remake of Chicken Run—crows at the macabre real-world structures of oppression for men and beast alike. Our fowl protagonist wrestles with the reality of his species, more than once proclaiming he is not in fact a chicken, but a “proud Irishman.”

Chicken is partially a reckoning with human destruction, the violence we justify as necessary to creating sustenance. As crushing as it can be to think about these systems (the meat industry as just one example), this work doesn’t simply roast us for our ills. Chicken reminds us that while there is oppression of many forms, there is also liberation.

At the end of the performance, a man approach O’Connor, presenting her with a small, very bright white animal skull with twisted, brown horns simply mounted on a thin piece of plywood. He said the small mantle was an award, bestowing upon O’Connor the distinction that her work was unlike any he had ever seen. Ignoring the irony of the use of animal parts in this trophy, I agreed. Chicken is unlike anything any of us have ever seen.

Chicken will be performed at Summerhall in the Former Women’s Locker Room until August 27. For tickets, click here.

Today’s Most Popular News:

Blocking belongs
on the stage,
not on websites.

Our website is made possible by
displaying online advertisements to our visitors.

Please consider supporting us by
whitelisting with your ad blocker.
Thank you!