Review: Chop, Dissolve, Burn at Alphabetti Theatre
Tonight I visited the Alphabetti Theatre to see Chop, Dissolve, Burn and this production epitomises why I love this theatre so much. It’s innovative, out there, even a little mad and yet through it all has an underlying yet stark truth about the perception, outlook, treatment and inequalities that exist and are experienced by those with visible and hidden disabilities.
This is displayed by our duo for the night, the crip Helen Fox as Rose and our blindee Steven George as Pete. I can only say this because as noted in our introductory voiceover, the humour within this play is subject to context. Whilst appropriate in this setting and only so within those friendship circles of whom live and experience it, for tonight we as an audience were invited to laugh along too.
Set just after the pandemic, we start in a living room that we never leave, as Pete sits on the sofa trying to keep his temperature under control which leads to a dropping of his trousers. The homeowner Rose (who is also Pete’s ex partner) enters. An introductory scene of bickering ensues and the realisation that Pete has a dead woman stored in his suitcase. We then learn of how it happened and through the night see how they come together for them to Chop, Dissolve, and Burn together.
This play brings a great deal of humour, often laughing at each others disabilities, taken in great geste by each other. However, it very subtly includes the stark truth of their experiences, and it is this for me that through all the laughs stick with me as an audience member.
From wanting to be independent, accepting codependency, and the insistence of those to forcing help on them. We learn of the different views and feelings that can’t be seen.
Radio station bulletins provide some shocking facts about the lack of support in identifying and supporting those with additional needs, treatment through the pandemic and statistics that are truly sad to hear. Other references also include disability awareness training that suddenly make us all experts and knowing how to address someone correctly without prejudice.
As with any classic production there’s a love story. These ex partners are each others true loves, understanding each other in ways only they can. I never thought planning the disposal of a dead body could be a way of finding common ground and exploring their connection again after 21 years, but it show fate is fate however it comes about .
Stevens character lives with a disability for all to see. Helens, one that can’t always be seen and so often, then not acknowledged. One receives unwanted help and the other no offer of help at all. This is the reality for some and gives a lovely contrast of both situations.
I absolutely loved the connection between Helen Fox and Steven George. Their chemistry was believable and the way they played off each other brilliant. I particularly enjoyed the moments of vulnerability each displayed to our ‘Sheila’ the dead body in the suitcase, both showing self reflection and an opening up on feelings where they are allowed emotionally vulnerable.
Also a mention to the BSL interpreter who while visible throughout was made to be part of the performance and not a side thought. Watching some of her emotions alone made me laugh.
Written by Lisette Auton & Richard Boggie, Produced by Gina Ruffin and Directed by Paul James, all together have created a fantastic piece where we witness a dark comedic production that allows you to laugh and enjoy the highs and lows of the situation while being reminded of the inequalities that exist. The only thing that was maybe slightly uncomfortable about tonight was the warm temperature in the venue.
- Review by Aaron Whittington
Images by Von Fox.
Showing until 8th July.
Time: 7:30pm plus 1:00pm Saturday matinees
Tickets: Pay What You Feel (20th – 24th June)
£15 – £3 (27th June – 8th July)
Access: All performances are relaxed and include in-built captioning and integrated audio description.
Option for Touch Tours on request 6.30pm and 12pm Sat Matinee (add this option to your ticket when booking or ring in advance on 0191 261 9125).
BSL every performance apart from Saturday 24th at 7:30pm, Saturday 1st July at 7:30pm and Saturday 8th July at 1pm.
All Saturday matinee performances will be ultra-relaxed.
Moment maps are provided for every show.