Sunday, July 3

Spells for a Broken Heart – Hen & Chickens Theatre

What is the worse way that someone can break up with you?  If you are involved in the dating scene this is a thorny issue and one that is tackled by ‘On the Common Theatre Company’.  After graduating from The BRIT School in 2019, the company have been working on writing and devising plays that feel fresh and exciting.  This play is their take on modern dating with all its joys and heartbreaks.

As we walk into the theatre, we are handed a very cute little booklet that accompanies the show which includes the recipes for spells that help to mend a broken heart.  This is a lovely touch and something that is frequently overlooked, that clever marketing can help to keep the image of your play in your audience’s mind, even when they have left the theatre.

The play revolves around our central character Rose (Olivia Randall) who has been in a relationship with Myles (Youssef Ariyah) for some time, but he has decided to call it a day.  Unfortunately, he decides to do this via snapchat and to add insult to injury, his cartoon icon delivers the message!  As their mutual friends decide to take his side, Rose is left to deal with her heartbreak alone, apart from her brother’s girlfriend Ocean (Abby Witchalls) whose hippy view on life leads her to recommend using magik (not magic), to help to mend her broken heart.

The stage is set for an exploration into magik as Ocean advises Rose on the potion making process.   A writing bureau on wheels is used as a ‘white witch style’ cocktail making cabinet, which involves Rose taking a crash course in mixology to make sure she gets the recipe right.  Not all recipes are drinks, Ocean also makes cakes and there is also a little chanting to the stars to help to capture the light from their glistening glare and to hold it in a pocket mirror. 

A lot of thought has gone in to writing this play, I don’t know if the recipes are invented or whether they have been taken from another source, but they sounded real enough to me.  There are multiple roles played by the ensemble cast as Rose dates other guys, trying to find ‘the one’.  This is where I feel the play needs more work.  The performances sometimes felt is little messy and needed stronger direction.  It almost felt as though the performers were falling over each other and didn’t always know their position on stage which could signal that more rehearsal is needed. 

With more development in the area of performance, this play has enormous potential.  The attention to detail in the writing (Witchalls and Randall) and the set design ideas by Jodie Yates, shows that they have a solid grounding to build upon, but it feels not quite finished.

This is a play full of ideas and is fun to watch, with some good music choices to make the play feel very upbeat.  I am sure that we will see ‘On the Common Theatre Company’ use their energy and enthusiasm to continue to produce innovative and interesting theatre.

To see this play at The Hen & Chickens Theatre go to The play runs until the 19th August.

Reviewer: Caroline Worswick

Reviewed: 17th August 2021

North West End Rating: ★★★