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100% Chance of Rain review at Chickenshed, London – ‘ambitious and affecting piece exploring mental health’

The cast of 100% Chance of Rain at Chickenshed. Photo: Daniel Beacock
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Nobody could accuse Chickenshed of lacking ambition or shying away from difficult, complex issues. And 100% Chance of Rain is a perfect example of the inclusive north London theatre’s shoot-for-the-moon approach.

It focuses on mental health and emotional well-being, with seven ‘chapters’ each looking at specific areas, including self-harm, the impact of stigmas around single parents, suicide and the emotional after-effects of moving out of the parental home.

All this is performed through a combination of songs, sketches and interpretive dance by a vast cast of Chickenshed’s young performers.

In just one of many highly affecting scenes, dancers flood the stage, each carrying a pair of shoes they lay out while numbers in the hundreds and thousands are read out pertaining to separate age groups, from children to those over 90. As the shoes remain on the stage, a projection reveals that these are the recorded numbers of people who killed themselves in 2017.

Lou Stein’s production is a sensitively handled examination of what is of course extremely tough, often harrowing, subject matter. The vignettes are interlinked by the figure of Liz Abulafia (Belinda McGuirk), a fictitious arts therapist who, with her head band, loose cardie and beady necklace, is almost a caricature of how one imagines Jacob Rees-Mogg pictures Guardian readers.

Like Abulafia, who seeks to explore how creativity can benefit mental health, the production is both well-intentioned and earnest. It could have benefited with a tighter focus; the broad scope leaves little space for detail. But this is a subject that evades easy answers, which Chickenshed commendably acknowledges in this committed and laudable endeavour.

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Ambitious, impressively marshalled and performed exploration of mental health and emotional well-being