At the centre of the Roundabout tent, a minimal and effective installation by Paines Plough’s production to gather the many pilgrims of the Fringe in a circle, a culinary drama unfolds that uses the metaphor of food to investigate themes such as identity, emotional dependence and cultural appropriation. Although playwright Chris Bush’s new play sins by an excess of verbiage, the pièce takes flight thanks to the naturalness and communicative energy of the two lead actresses. An encounter-clash between the insecure and fragile chef Lori, played by Eleanor Sutton, and the grumpy and recalcitrant Bex (Melissa Lowe) at the two extremes of two kitchen trolleys that clash, drift apart and grow closer as their relationship progresses.
Of romance, affection or passion there is very little, relegated mainly to a few moments. In a continuous time jump that, at least at the beginning, disorients the audience, what unfolds is the drama of two identities torn apart by desires and shame, ambitions and weaknesses that make them as different and incompatible as ever. Lori and Bex constantly attract and reject each other around the two trolleys of an essential and minimalist kitchen, result of Katie Posner’s direction. It is the table, the food, the different culinary habits that tell of two opposite worlds that collide, meet at the table, or would like to meet, only to reject each other again.
Because at the centre, portrayed without polemic or rancour, is the drama of a toxic relationship where the fragile Lori, belonging to an upper class blinded by privilege and the desire for luxury and sophistication, tries in every way to ‘optimise’ her girlfriend, to make her better, to change her, to incorporate her into her world, into her way of feeling, of thinking, crushing her under the weight of an inadequacy that Bex did not know she had.
The love affair, however, is nothing more than a pretext for a deeper reflection on the concept of class privilege, cultural appropriation, shame and dependence. Through the final monologue of Bex’s character, in fact, Bush investigates what it means to be ashamed of one’s origins, to change for love to the point of losing oneself, to have to hold one’s breath in the presence of the beloved.
In fact, the catalyst for the plot is a loss, the loss of a loved one, Bex’s mother, and the loss of oneself, of those cultural roots that are so despised and disowned, suffocated by a dominant culture that prides itself on the right to be ‘better’. And it is here that Bex’s final monologue proves to be so powerful, in her acknowledging herself victorious and defeated at the same time, in finally claiming the legitimacy of her own origins, traditions and values, and in acknowledging, at the same time, her own impotence, her inability to speak out and stand up for herself.
With this multi-layered verbal drama made powerful by the use of metaphors that are by no means obvious and by strong, natural acting, Bush teaches us that very little is needed, like a kitchen cart, to tell stories that are still so powerful.
Playing until 28th August, further details and tickets can be found HERE.
Reviewer: Anna Chiari
Reviewed: 14th August 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★