Archive for August 20th, 2015


Down and Out in Paris and London
Inspired by both George Orwell’s pre-fame work –when he was struggling penniless writer Arthur Eric Blair- and Polly Toynbee’s research work looking into poverty in the modern age Down and Out in Paris and London succeeds in drawing comparisons between two different ages which despite location and the introduction of the welfare state shows that very little has really changed.
The tale begins with Orwell very much down and out in Paris during the 1920’s when things were so bad for him that he had to sell his clothes to survive. At one point prison seems to be a viable option as it would at least mean a roof over his head, a bed and regular meals. Work in a kitchen restaurant saved him and not only put food in his stomach and money in his pocket but also a little colour and flavour into his life.
Interspersed with his tale is journalist Polly Toynbee’s social experiment on living beneath the breadline. In a week when the DWP has issued a leaflet claiming sanctions are a fluffy commodity which those who have fallen foul of actually think are a good thing have been found to be fake her experiences with the benefits system is more relevant than ever. Shunted around from pillar to post then forced into low paid work with long hours with any self-esteem systematically eroded as she finds herself becoming more and more invisible even to people she once knew and engaged with.
More than anything Toynbee’s tale is a damning indictment of how our society denigrates and degrades those that are the most vulnerable and while there may have been no support system to cushion the likes of Orwell in the 1920’s at least in low paid jobs he was able to command some respect from his peers ,if no-one else, as well as seeing it is a way out of poverty as opposed to a trap.
Executed at breakneck speed and jumping between the two different tales with consummate ease Down and Out in Paris and London is a great show which treats very serious issues with humour and respect.
Down and Out in Paris and London is on at Pleasance Courtyard until August 31st at 6,30pm daily


This new play by Molly Davies is an intriguing offering which is at times eerie and thought-provoking. Set in a near dystopian future where a young girl returns to her rural beginnings from London at a time when the political structure of the whole country is in disorder and separation is a key theme. Unable to find any other employment she finds herself working at a chicken processing plant where the daily grind is perpetuated even more with conversations with her co-workers about such issues as climate change and feudalism
. The tale told in contemporary modern tones at times lapses into more traditional motifs with folk songs and eerie witches. However the witch in question is actually the teenage daughter of a couple who have actually made a life for themselves in this environment much to her disdain. Analogies are made between the chickens on a conveyor belt merely living their lives out until they are ready to be consumed by the human population and how they compare with humans. A joke is made about how some are happy if they are allowed out into the wild at certain points of the day. Much like humans. Over population and a housing crisis are also explored giving it a contemporaneous and relevant feel.
Making great use of the venue- the pop up Roundabout at Summerhall- and an extremely strong cast who treat the material with the respect it deserves Chicken is a
worthwhile addition to this year’s Fringe although it is not always easy to follow what is going on. This however does not detract from its worth as it is always compelling to watch even in its densest moments.
Chicken is at Summerhall until August 30th (not 25th)