Man’s descent into sin captured in chicken coop

A Review of Coop
The Sunday Herald Review
By Kate Herbert

A DEMENTED old man living in a chicken coop with his son and daughter sounds like a bleak scenario, but Coop is both grim and comical.

The collaborative production, devised by the ensemble of Black Hole Theatre, incorporates actors, visual imagery and puppetry.

Coop focuses on mankind’s descent into sinfulness. The old man (puppeteer Rod Primrose) appears to be, or to believe that he is, God and his children (Conor Fox, Tamara Rewse) represent Adam and Eve. They live with a chicken in a rough humpy of old wood, canvas and hay bales. There is whimsy and humour, but the sense of menace is pervasive.

The old man is volatile and violent, unpredictable and merciless with his children.

The children cower or furtively ravish one another. The family plays intermittent games.

Father makes an egg disappear from an eggcup and the children make tiny fluffy chicks dance in a chorus line. Meanwhile, Beulah the live chook ambles around pecking.

One inspired moment is when a chicken carcass is made into an hilarious marionette. It wears tiny gumboots and its wings flap hopefully as it dances over the sleeping old man’s chest until, eventually, it flies.

Director Nancy Black allows the piece to develop an almost musical rhythm as the old man’s moods ebb and flow. There is little or no dialogue. The characters grunt and sigh, shout or groan expressively, making words redundant.

Coop is eccentric and unpredictable and it gives poultry a new and inventive role in theatre.