Tuesday, November 29

Manipulate: Eat Me – The Studio, Edinburgh

It’s difficult to describe ‘Eat Me’, as one may assume it is a play centralizing around cannibalism but not in a way in which one may expect.

Eat Me follows the tale of three nameless characters described as ‘The Man’ (Ian Cameron), ‘Prey’ (Claire Eliza Willoughby) and ‘Predator’ (Isy Sharman), who come together in a very strange turn of events. Upon getting assistance from her creepy, stalker-ish neighbour, after falling over on the way home, Prey encloses that she wishes to be eaten. With not a single hint of surprise or hesitation The Man gets to work in making her dream come true. Together they explore the dark web until they come across Predator and set up a date in which Prey can become indeed food. 

The production is very sound heavy with a good chunk of the dialogue being prerecorded and the characters taking over from those recordings almost seamlessly creating a very pleasant soundscape.

From reading the show’s blurb one may hope to be kept on the edge of one’s seat, for a plot filled with suspense and horror but unfortunately that could not be further from the truth. There is no horror other than the idea of devouring human flesh, in fact the most unsettling part of the whole plot is simply The Man and his creepy behaviour such as making copies of both Prey and Predator’s keys. The plot does not veer off in an attempt to trick its audience nor does it allow any real development into its characters. The character of Prey is even the one to voluntarily title themselves that, with Predator being a lovely woman who simply enjoys eating people rather than a heartless monster as one would expect.

I had hoped earlier on in the play that when Prey had said they wanted to be Eaten that they had really meant sexually with the old man having misunderstood and so starting this cannibal affair but alas she simply meant she wanted to be eaten. No twist. No joke.

All three actors remain onstage at all times, even beginning in a freeze frame as the audience enter the auditorium. Whilst this may have been a conscious decision to allow for Christine Devaney’s choreography it often become distracting and you would regularly be watching the one character that wasn’t in the scene, for example Sharman spends the first 25 minutes of the show crawling around the stage or rolling on the floor. Aside from the story line itself the majority of the show is heavily choreographed in such a way that only a group of secondary school drama students would be able to successfully pick apart. Whilst some of the physical theatre can be deciphered easily, such as Prey’s journey into the dark web, the average viewer would not be able to pick apart a good lot of the movement within this piece without having to watch it multiple times.

The set itself is however very aesthetically pleasing with a use of mirrors and various lights to create different shadows and distort our view of the characters onstage.  The actors themselves are also terrific with Willoughby’s monologue about the apple being a personal favourite.

Overall, the production has potential, with a good scatter of humour, a fun story and a very strong cast however it’s just missing some suspense or a good twist. The amount of stylized movement is too heavy and should maybe be simplified for its viewers if the production is to re-emerge in the future.

Manipulate: Eat Me concludes at The Studio, Edinburgh tonight (31st January) at 8pm, https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/manipulate-22-eat-me

Reviewer: Beth Eltringham

Reviewed: 30th January 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★