Review: the hen comes out of the yard

Alice Mottram 29 April 2015

The Corpus Playroom does not shy away from experimental theatre, and this production of the hen comes out of the yard is just that. From Sun-mi Hwang’s novel, this play is a translation and adaptation by Min Ji Choi, who also directs. 

Despite its distant origin, this is a fable not unfamiliar. It tells the simple story of a hen who asks, "if I can’t lay an egg, what’s the point of my life?” There is more to this tale than feathers, however. Sprout, the plucky heroine, questions her role as a mother in society and her own freedoms, prompting the audience to do so too. 

Amy Malone’s central performance as Sprout is grounded. Maintaining both vulnerability and resilience throughout the performance, she is immediately gains audience sympathy. As surrogate mother to a duck, and outcast from both them and chickens alike, Sprout is forced to fend for herself and daughter on the peripheries of society. Malone’s performance of outward courage and inner fright is nuanced, captivating.

Opposite Malone’s hen is Hao Feng’s wild mallard. His first entrance is authoritative, holding a firm stance with arms flexed like wings in defence of Sprout. It is Hao Feng and Megan Dunne, the weasel, whose body language best communicates instinctive animalism. 

Whilst this play is highly allegorical, this production was uncertain of its position between the conceptual and the literal. The costumes are modern, suiting an allegorical reading on the position of the individual in society today. And yet, the characters wear feathers on their legs and Sprout’s bed bears resemblance to a nest. The inability to reconcile these two visions leaves the play feeling cold, its major flaw.

That said, there are thoughtfully directed scenes which resonate beyond the Playroom. The wild mallard Straggler enters after having been attacked offstage, dragging himself along the ground, covered in blood with clothes torn. Once strong, his demise is shocking. Similarly, the play closes on the weasel eyeing the exposed Sprout. It is a freeze-frame sure to provoke further questions about the value of life and the sacrifice a mother is wiling to make for her child.

6/10

the hen comes out of the yard plays at the Corpus Playroom at 9.30pm until this Saturday. Tickets can be bought here.