Chalk Farm (Edinburgh Fringe)
Award-winning playwrights Kieran Hurley and AJ Taudevin join forces with ThickSkin in this new play set during the 2011 London riots
A surprise – not least as it is part of the Made In Scotland season – because it's set near the titular London tube station and on the Chalcot Estate (which is more Swiss Cottage, really), during the August riots of 2011. We meet 14-year-old Jamie (Thomas Dennis) and his mother, Maggie (Julia Taudevin), and hear the tale of how Jamie, being a teenager, happens to get caught up in the rioting with his mates, and how his mother worries about him.
While Hurley and Taudevin's analysis of the situation is skilful, and their compassion for the characters palpable, this psychological acuity needs to be matched by a sense of geographical reality. This version of Chalk Farm feels sketched from news reports and Google Maps. Which is fine if you can pull it off, but here my old neighbourhood seems to have been newly re-assembled and populated from a box of ready-made social types.
Neil Bettles' production is high on production values – with impressive video projections onto five columns of white canvases (perhaps they're a little too pleased with this, as initial scenes are continually interrupted by staticky buzzing and insistent scratchy visuals) – but there's also an awful lot of *acting*. Specifically, emphatic monologue-acting. You know the weird little sub-genre, right? Effective, in that it's so animated you can't help but watch; but, at the same time, so ritualised as a form that you could almost be watching any monologue about any subject, any time in the last ten years.
However, for all this griping, Chalk Farm remains an importantly humane take on a vital subject. And for all that it might not have been to my specific taste, it is clearly a very well-made, committed, intelligent and sensitive production.
Chalk Farm continues at Underbelly, Cowgate until 25 August (not 13, 19)