Veganism seems to be a topic which is frequently joked about, with the stereotype of the militant and preachy vegan dominating most conversations about a lifestyle free of animal products. Although DiceBox’s first production, Plucked, has not marketed itself as ‘vegan theatre’, primarily focusing on the story of its mute protagonist, the troubled 12 year old Rudy, veganism is nevertheless the most powerful element of its off-kilter and provocative story.
Becky Dawson’s Rudy is full of fear and wonder, bombarded by her family and the outside world and struggling to make an impact without a voice. Her performance is complimented wonderfully by her family; her brother Charlie is portrayed as petulant in some moments and eerily menacing in others by William Lempriere-Johnston, whilst Nureen Kirefu brings wonderfully understated desperation to Suzanne, the long-suffering mother. Thomas Gunning brings surprising warmth to Stanley, the father who owns a livestock farm, who could easily have become a one-note villain in less capable hands. Andy, played by Guilhelm Kirby, plays off Kirefu’s Suzanne well and shares a standout scene with Rudy where he teaches her to embrace the power of art and music in an incredibly touching moment of joy.
Plucked otherwise plays out in a rather bleak world of dying dreams and corrupted morals, trapping its characters within a claustrophobic reality. Anastasia Bunce’s plot is dark, twisting and unconventional, and her direction mirrors this; the ensemble (Ciara Bone, Sonia Beard, Lucy McKelvey, Heidi Abbott) work particularly well in making Rudy’s experience seem like a hellish nightmare, backed by Laura Novak’s fierce lighting work. While I personally struggle with overly abstract theatre, Plucked is undeniably well-choreographed and produces a visceral experience, particularly when the actors break character and scream truths at the audience. Oliver Rose’s score is fantastic, providing ambience and threat in equal measure, and the play even sneaks in an amusing reference to his band ‘The Allergens’.
However, this is not a perfect production. I found the dialogue a little predictable at points and even jarring when characters used double negatives and “ain’t” in a way that seemed unnatural. The ending is horrifically morbid in a way that I found more confusing than moving, which was especially disappointing for me after the strong character work found throughout the play, but it’s darkness might have been to some people’s tastes. Yet I feel that it is important, however, to remember that Plucked is a play entirely put on by students without the help of any societies and, needless to say, it is an incredible feat to have made a piece of independent theatre which is so effective and professional.
You are warned on the programme that DiceBox aims to create controversial theatre but they want their audiences to keep an open mind, and as a meat-eater I certainly had to do that. This isn’t a soft conversation about veganism, it is an eye-opening and brutal depiction of the realities of farming and the fast food industry, interwoven with a genuinely moving and intriguing story. DiceBox is currently fundraising to take Plucked to the Edinburgh Fringe, and if you can donate or see the show at the festival, I would urge you to. If there is one word to describe Plucked, it is unforgettable.