Chicken Burger N Chips is a coming-of-age story as old as time. Or at least, as old as Corey Bovell’s Borough.
It’s 2009. Summer holidays are here. Whilst waiting for his A-level exam results, Corey dreams of nothing but to hang around with his friends while ordering as much Morley’s as possible. That is until Jodie comes along and makes Corey realise the changes that are happening within his beloved Lewisham Borough. Making Corey, for the first time, think about what path his future takes.
What I really loved about this tongue-in-cheek look at what it means to grow up in the “Ends” from one young man’s perspective, was the “fly on the wall” way we got to look at so many delicious interwoven aspects of “black culture“. The way lyricism, music and rap is almost a spiritual outlet of expression, the way this group literally “ride or die” together.
There was masterful storytelling on display from Corey Bovell in this one-man show. It is a hard thing to hold an audience’s attention for over an hour. But there was intelligence in the way Bovell and his Director Kwame Asiedu, paced out the changing scenes and plot points. If I will lay a critique, it was in the fact that during some scenes there was a tendency for the energy to slightly dip from time to time, but overall it was well sewn together to keep bringing us back into the belly of the movement.
Now. Let’s talk story. Because with a one-man show, this is the main and pivotal aspect. There is no one else on stage to save you. There is no level of lighting that can distract. You live and die by the tightness and eloquence of the penned word. Now, I am torn between asking why I had to sit through another story about “coming up in the hood ” versus applauding the beautiful behind-the-scenes look at what the media love to label “gang culture” and the ability to see for myself the incorrectness of this label. The reason, is, as most of my readers will know by now, my aversion for the monolithic story.
However, the way Chicken Burger n Chips depicts it – this is just a group of young men, friends and brothers, connected by their home turfs and shared histories, who strive to be loyal to one another, even when life takes them on different paths. If you replaced these young men of colour with white, blonde teenage girls, it would just be “the girls” or “the squad”. Labelling them a gang is truly misrepresentation and I for one was really glad to have been offered a view into the depth of this social injustice. However, this was a truth I was only able to really grasp at the end of this production, due to the way a newspaper article in the story depicted a pivotal event. During the play, I’ll admit I was quite lost as to when the actual story was going to start and personally, it wasn’t till the 3rd act of I started to get the point. For the most part, I just wondered if we were going to be in Morley’s forever, relatively aimlessly being introduced to many characters and personalities seeking to score free meals and glorifying the greasy crunchiness that is a chicken burger.
Overall, I felt like Chicken Burger n Chips had strong legs to stand on. There is something original and necessary being told to us here. My issue was the gestation period from walking to running really needed some steroids added so that we got from toddler to adult much quicker. Bovell’s piece needs to be careful not to fall into being labelled “another hood story” and I feel he would circumvent this simply by getting to the crux and truth of his points quicker.
Chicken Burger n Chips ran at the Brockley Jack Theatre until Saturday the 14th March. Find out more here.