Reviewed by Luke Billingham & Flossie Waite
The Knotted Project & Hawk Dance Theatre
Reviewed at Half Moon Theatre
Touring until 18th November 2018
For ages 3-8
They’re tricky things, feelings, but perhaps never more so than when you’re young. The Chit Chat Chalk Show is a sensitive, interactive, well-crafted exploration of emotions – how they make up who we are, how we can embrace and regulate them – complete with dance, audience participation, and – of course – chalk drawing.
Since Kiko moved, nothing’s felt right – the colour has drained out of her world and there’s only emptiness where emotions should be. Luckily, a group of friends from Kiko’s new neighbourhood are on hand to help: an optimistic chorus, their function is reminiscent of the personified emotions in Pixar’s Inside Out, or the characters in The Beano’s The Numskulls.
The audience are immersed in the action, sitting around the performance space and amongst the set. Everything is created from jigsaw-shaped tiles that slot together – starting with the walls Kiko’s built around herself – so that the set is built up, taken apart, re-made and, excitingly, coloured in before our eyes.
The show takes us through the emotions, and their corresponding colours, one by one, expressing each of them through movement, language and sound: anger is red, it feels like being stuck in the car, and it sounds like lots of children stamping their feet; jealousy is green, its moves are sneaky and snatchy, and it sounds like a scratchy witch’s voice mixed with squelchy, slurpy noises. Where words fail, chalk succeeds: Kiko communicates her feelings by drawing them, scribbling her rage in red and drawing blue rainclouds when she feels sad.
The young audience are invited to get involved in the quest to help Kiko identify and harness her feelings: they draw their favourite things when Kiko is learning about love, and rush to help lift the weight of her sadness. Genuine audience participation is cleverly woven into the show, rather than simply offered as a Stay and Play session at the end, though their enthusiasm means its sometimes difficult to usher everyone back to their seats.
It’s through exploring and expressing a range of emotions that Kiko can feel like herself again, and this is the clear, central message of the play – conveying and communicating feelings is a significant part of healthy relationships and a healthy life. This is made explicit in a direct message to the audience at the end of the show: “If you can’t talk about it, you can always chalk about it!” The success of The Chit Chat Chalk Show, however, is that by this stage in the performance, a verbal conclusion feels unnecessary: the point has already been made powerfully, subtly, and compellingly.
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