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Billy Chickens is a Psychopath Superstar (Henham Park, Latitude Festival)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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The 2012 Latitude Festival has kicked off in style, despite inclement weather. Still to come theatre-wise are offerings from, among others, LookLeftLookRight’s (Not Just Another Musical), Kate Tempest’s Brand New A, Theatre AdInfinitum’s acclaimed Translunar Paradise, the National Theatre’s re-imagining of Alice in Wonderland (Alice By Heart), Clean Break’s gritty Dream Pill and Alexandra Spencer-Jones' new production of Anthony BurgessA Clockwork Orange.

Proceedings kicked off on Thursday evening with Brad Birch’s Billy Chickens is a Psychopath Superstar from Theatre503.

Billy Chickens isn’t one of life’s endearing characters. Misogynist, competitive eater, boxer, now he’s finally found his niche in life as a famous double-murderer. Recently released from prison, he‘s now the darling of both media and public. In saying that it’s impossible not to feel a touch of sympathy for Billy.

His has been a chaotic childhood, surrounded by a mother with loose morals and a violent, distant father, wetting himself in class regularly due to his stammer and taunted by any number of school bullies – not least of whom is the grating Tommy Weasles (Paul Stocker).

Simon Rhodes is magnificent as Billy, all swagger and neo-fascist bigotry. Despite a few first night technical issues with a mic pack, Rhodes carried on regardless and brought Billy’s story to life with a gruff yet beautiful eloquence.

Lisa Cagnacci’s slick direction excels and her 10-person cast is clearly in expert hands. Actors slip into multiple characters with ease and, without reflecting on their palpable personal skills, a great part of this has to be credited to Cagnacci’s mastery of her art.

Billy Chickens is a Psychopath Superstar obviously has a life beyond Latitude. According to producer Flavia Fraser-Cannon, the company has no plans as yet to tour the show but theatre of this quality deserves to have a wider audience outside the festival circuit.


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