David Fa’auliuli Mamea’s one-woman play (very capably supported by puppeteered chicken) is a charming chamber production.
Still Life With Chickens offers a glimpse into the life of Mama, an ageing Samoan woman who fights off loneliness with a few simple strategies: talking to her deceased cat, warding off her nosy neighbour’s attempts at pumpkin-thieving and rebutting her husband’s incessant food-centric demands with wifely humour.
But Mama needs something more. She needs something to love, something alive and preferably something that won’t talk back to her. Enter Moa, a homeless chicken that, after narrowly missing the pot, finds a home in the heart of an old lady.
Mamea’s writing is lyrical and insightful and his portrayal of Mama is both familiar and touching. Goretti Chadwick is a wonderful comedian and her performance gives life to a strikingly familiar character, not necessarily for the details of her journey but for the empathy she arouses.
Her co-star, Moa, is masterfully puppeteered by Haanz Fa’avae-Jackson, a vocal expert whose dextrous abilities will, no doubt, take this supporting chicken to great heights.
The production values are excellent with John Parker’s rich and intimate design complementing Marcus McShane and Khalid Parkar’s respective light and sound aesthetics.
Fasitua Amosa’s direction is well-paced, nuanced and light, creating a perfect combination of humour and authenticity. If anything, the production runs a little short, the revelations coming just a tad too quick and leaving us wanting more – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
In the meantime, while we await Mamea’s next work, it might be a good idea to visit your mum – and maybe take some leftover chips for the birds, too.