REVIEW: Billy Parva (Hen & Chickens)

Billy Parva living legend, except he is more of a leg-end. Oddbod Theatre’s first showing of their premier production at the Camden Fringe is a one-hander starring Michael Mulqueen in a self-written monologue about a larger-than-life-itself character trapped in a reverie of his own invention. Or is he? Is he a mechanic working in the garage he bought from his dad in a bravado will ill-gotten gains or did he just inherit it? Is that boiler suit workclothes … or is Billy P in prison?

Billy is a balls out first person storyteller. And has he got some stories. Is his sack of valentines too heavy to lift to a desk? Did he really fight 40 men and come out alive, did he really work with Prince Andrew and if so, why does Prince Andrew sound like a right laugh and not a paedo? An army vet with an encyclopaedic life to relive in story, are Billy Parva’s stories really a wish-list of how he would things to be? Is he inventing all the things that are lacking; a decent relationship with his dad, his partner, his career, his life?

The writing is sharp, with wit and flair. Billy is a funny storyteller. The character is charming, where the risk is that he could come across as a wanker. The writing provides empathy and emotional connection even though his stories are patently inventions.

The show is as full on as Billy would seem to be. A lot is packed in with breakneck pace. Robert Adams’ direction males excellent use of the intimate space but could do with a breather here and there, if not just for the performer, and some further lighting cues to underline tone and allow for steady pacing.

In short, a cracking simple play. A first class start for a work in progress and a must see when it returns for some more performances in the West End later in the year. Billy is a one to watch, but so is Michael McQueen, as both a writer and a performer. Welcome to the party Oddbod.


Reviewed by Ruby Blue