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Chicken Soup review at Crucible Studio, Sheffield – ‘warmth, wit and quiet anger’

Judy Flynn, Samantha Power and Simone Saunders in Chicken Soup at Crucible Studio, Sheffield. Photo: Mark Douet Judy Flynn, Samantha Power and Simone Saunders in Chicken Soup at Crucible Studio, Sheffield. Photo: Mark Douet
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Although the music on the radio may change over the years, the song remains very much the same. That’s the message to take away from Kieran Knowles and Ray Castleton’s play, set in a soup kitchen in Rotherham and spanning a 30 year period.

Josephine, Christine and Jennifer have been feeding striking miners since just after the Battle of Orgreave in 1984 – in 2016, they’re still there, but now they’re operating a food bank.

Though politics forms the backdrop to Chicken Soup, this is no polemic. Knowles and Castleton are interested in the women’s stories and friendships, and their play is as warm and nourishing as a cup of the titular dish. These are characters you can believe in and root for; there’s a touch of Alan Bennett in the affectionate way they are sketched.

The talented all-female ensemble capture the in-jokes, bickering and sense of solidarity that exists between this group of women. Samantha Power is impressive as Christine, still coping with the mental scars inflicted by the miners’ strike, while Judy Flynn, Simone Saunders and, in a small but pivotal role, Jo Hartley all put in affectingly understated performances. Sophia Simensky’s meticulously designed set is almost a character in itself, subtly updating the period details as years pass and time moves on.

Although Chicken Soup is a very funny and uplifting piece of writing, it’s fuelled by a quiet anger at the inequalities in our society. It’s this anger that drives the piece – and lingers in the memory.

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A warm, witty and quietly angry look at the lives of a group of soup kitchen volunteers, over a 30-year period