REVIEW: Blowin’ in the Wind, Chickenshed Theatre (Online)

This 2017 production ties a huge variety of civil rights history seamlessly, concentrating on specific communities that have really struggled over the years – including the present day.

It is heartbreaking to think that people from a variety of communities are still having to face prejudice and racism that many of us will never experience. This is captured powerfully in this piece inspired by two key events of 1963 – the release of Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind, and Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream speech’ in Washington D.C.

Performed by a passionate and engaging cast of young people, this 2017 production seamlessly combines music and history to offer an engaging and thought provoking insight into some of history’s darkest moments. This is so vivid from early on in the performance as the horrific story of the murder of Hattie Carroll is explained not only through a live performance of Bob Dylan’s ‘The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll’ but also through some haunting choreography. Every story featured show the slow progress in the journey to stamp out prejudice and racism to replace it with equality.

Conceived and directed by Lou Stein, Blowin’ in the Wind is at all times confrontational and challenging, but there are also glimmers of hope to be found throughout from the new generations who want to change the world.

But it is also the fact that this musical piece of drama also highlights the idea that perhaps in order to move forward we need to fully understand the history behind the ongoing struggle for equality, enhanced further by the quality of the music selected. In particular, songs such as ‘Toy Soldier’ and ‘Blood on the Streets’ are just two examples of just how powerful music can be in helping to enhance the message that is been expressed powerfully through Christine Niering’s choreography.

The cast are all extremely impressive, capturing the spirit and message of what Blowin’ in the Wind is conveying in an immensely energetic and passionate way. I can only imagine what it would have been like to see it live on stage.

However, some of the power is undermined by the way in which it has been captured on film. The sound can be slightly off and difficult to make out in places and the lighting probably doesn’t look as effective as it would live – this of course is no one’s fault but it would be lovely to see it captured in its full glory.

Overall, this is a powerful and educational piece of theatre that should be brought back to the stage once again as its message is even more important than ever given everything that has happened in recent weeks. Personally, I feel more enlightened and will be educating myself more about the history covered in Blowin’ in the Wind.

By Emma Clarendon

Blowin’ in the Wind is available to watch through the Chicken Shed Theatre’s Youtube channel now.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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