Camden Fringe Festival 2017: The Existence Formula at Hen & Chickens Theatre
The Camden Fringe Festival continues to bring exciting new work in town, providing entertainment for every taste. Among the many performances taking place in the borough (and slowly stretching beyond the Camden area), the cosy pub theatre Hen & Chickens presents an amusing piece critiquing modern life. Fun and brimming with ideas, The Existence Formula compresses life in a mocking summary where the superficial details that people tend to focus on in their day-to-day life appear even more ridiculous when wedged tightly in between the advent of birth and the sudden arrival of death.
Written by Sarah Nodges and directed by PJ Stanley, the three-actor piece is made up of short episodes and monologues that ultimately reveal a connection between characters and contemplate the theme of life as a chaotic purgatory. Nicola, Graham and Suzie have very different backgrounds and each is preoccupied with a different set of worries, but their destinies overlap when they find themselves in the same place, for the same reason. Common behaviours, obsessions, and equally questionable priorities ultimately unite the three, in spite of outward differences.
Aside from these characters’ testimonies, there is also a discourse on life and rebirth made amusing due to its being delivered by two unborn twins. They observe (and judge) their heavily pregnant mother, and lament the imminent loss of otherworldly wisdom and knowledge that they can only enjoy in the intervals between death and birth. In another sketch, the repetitiveness of working life and obsessive instagramming are turned into a dizzying merry-go-round where inauthenticity reigns.
The set is bare but props abound, occupying either side of the performance space. Costume changes are performed openly, in Brechtian fashion, but transitions from one scene to another aren’t always smooth or speedy. While the production is bumpy at times and the dialogues occasionally border on predictability when it comes to their treatment of weighty topics, there are some genuinely pleasurable moments. One gets the idea of life as a gift that is often mishandled by humans, and in that sense the overall message is delivered effectively. Inevitably, existential questions are left largely unwrapped due to the short running time, but there is enough food for thought and enthusiasm from the cast to make this a warming piece that could well be developed into a strong social commentary.
The Existence Formula is at Hen & Chickens Theatre from 13th until 16th August 2017. For further information or to book visit here.
For further information about Camden Fringe Festival 2017 visit the website here.