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Feast, Battersea Arts Theatre – Review

Pros: Thought-provoking interrogation of humanity with unremittingly bleak and repulsive imagery.

Cons: Difficult sight-lines, hard to see some episodes if you aren’t sitting in the front row. Music and sound could have been used more effectively throughout.

Pros: Thought-provoking interrogation of humanity with unremittingly bleak and repulsive imagery. Cons: Difficult sight-lines, hard to see some episodes if you aren’t sitting in the front row. Music and sound could have been used more effectively throughout. Mess, disgust and gluttony; Feast was a smorgasbord of carnal and carnivorous horrors that left me unable to look at a melon the same way again. On entering the beautiful Battersea Arts Centre, with its grand staircase and glass mosaic floors, a ringing bell beckoned; the feast was about to begin.  The performance space was a high ceilinged yet intimate room, the stage a…

Summary

Rating

Excellent

A stirring and gutsy show that captures the dirtiest truths about human nature.

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Mess, disgust and gluttony; Feast was a smorgasbord of carnal and carnivorous horrors that left me unable to look at a melon the same way again.

On entering the beautiful Battersea Arts Centre, with its grand staircase and glass mosaic floors, a ringing bell beckoned; the feast was about to begin.  The performance space was a high ceilinged yet intimate room, the stage a pile of earth. Amidst this setting sat three figures barely clothed in bandages. With their faces initially obscured by translucent paper masks, these figure writhed as a watering can filled with milk was emptied over them.

Whilst the first tableau was aesthetically fascinating, this short opening sequence was perhaps the play’s least engrossing.  There was a certain lack of intimacy with the audience and as most of it occurred at floor level it was quite hard to see if you were not in the front row. But the rest? Raw brilliance. It screamed at you in silence ‘Look this is humanity, this disgusting mess, this is humanity!’ Cramming this message down your throat relentlessly, for the remaining 60 minutes, until you were filled, surfeited and choked with revulsion.

The following scene was breakfast and I watched the actors writhe pitifully as they attempted to lift themselves from the dirt. The audience laughed, perhaps at the absurd comedy of the actors’ movements, or perhaps out of discomfort at the horror of the struggle they were witnessing. This play was about evolution, but this scene looked as much like fresh bipedal creatures struggling to take their first steps in a new life as it did like starved and dying human figures, with barely the energy to stand. Once up, cereal poured from the sky into bowls placed on the actors’ heads. They then gorged themselves from each other’s skulls in a clear and clever illusion to the grooming rituals of apes. The actors, now filthy, ate rabidly before collapsing in a climactic state of satiation. Sex, food and disgust simmered intimately throughout the production, creating an enthralling yet repulsive concoction.

Lunch, the next rung on the evolutionary ladder, was the pretence of politeness, a debauched charade of etiquette and manners. Underneath the ruff like collars, white aprons and painted marionette faces were naked filthy humans filled with just as much greed as their simian, breakfasting counter parts. This scene cannibalistically culminated with the drawing of lots and the loser being oiled up to roast. Squealing, a lemon was shoved in his mouth and a cherry tomato inserted into his bottom with horrifying delicacy. A lustful and disturbing cabaret followed as raw meat slapped bare thighs.

Dinner – the final scene. Intelligent props and effects were used – TV dinner trays, cameras, night-lights and projections, to create a bleak sense of technological alienation. A bare breasted woman filmed herself, in selfie-taking facsimile, clutching a small plucked bird carcass to her chest. In the following series of short films there was a theme of disturbing food-based erotica. Lemon breasts and melon vaginas were covered with creamy fluid and penetrated with cucumbers in cold, stark and brutal projections on the back wall.

There was one final filmic voyage to this evolutionary journey of a production – an intimate exploration of the human digestive system. Mouth through to colon. This video, accompanied by a stomping Chicago blues rhythm, was the only instance where the sound effects and backing music actually caught my attention. Slightly disappointing perhaps, for a play without words.

Ultimately however, this play was a fantastic, thought provoking horror show that confronted the audience with bare faced, bottomed and breasted truths about the human condition. It was bleak, it was disgusting and it was highly enjoyable. I’d recommend to anybody with the ability to smile at the absurdity of life’s grimness, or anybody who is fascinated by the filthy and indulgent elements of the human psyche.

Director: Mine Cerci
Created by: Clout Theatre
Designer: Naomi Kuyck Cohen
Producer: Helen Goodman
Sound Design: Steven Martin
Booking Info: This production is no longer showing at BAC. Please see http://www.clout-theatre.com/projects/feast/

About Rhiannon Lawson

Rhiannon Lawson
Civil Servant. Having studied drama at A level and been in numerous “Am Dram” companies, Rhiannon realised she was never going to be any good on stage and decided to stick to watching (and judging) others. After studying law at university, doing a dissertation on canoeists’ rights to water and going into a civil service job which sounds beyond depressing, she now fills her spare time with things that, hopefully, ensure she’s got interesting things to talk about. She spends countless hours netball playing, baking and playing board games – all of them . She enjoys all theatre with few preferences except a slight dislike to Greek Tragedies. She unashamedly loves musicals, fancy dress and Michael Buble!