Pros: A blisteringly grotesque but equally funny production.
Cons: The opening scene doesn’t do service to the rest of the show.
There’s a certain stateliness about the Battersea Arts Centre. I’m not sure whether it comes from the beautiful foyer or the knowledge that they are helping to promote the work of so many independent and talented theatre makers. Either way Feast, in its own little, subversive way goes quite some distance to completely demolishing that stateliness – and it’s all the more glorious for it.
The sensorial experience of Feast starts from the minute you walk into the small, intimate space that this show is currently residing in. The soil which covers the stage gives the room an earthy, natural smell, more in line with a vegetable patch than a theatre. Once the show begins fragile-looking bodies, covered in bandages, begin to emerge and grow for this earthy beginning. In a sequence very reminiscent of Danny Boyle’s birth of Frankenstein’s monster, we discover our players.
And play is exactly what they do. This show is knowingly funny and childish. It takes that precept that you shouldn’t play with your food and throws it out the window – and then it throws a pineapple and a raw chicken out after it, just for the fun of it. The opening scene sees showers of milk and cereal, and throughout the production there are innocent moments of physical comedy. In these the cast attempt to go some way to considering how we interact with food, and whether this interaction has changed over time. Where it becomes more interesting is when this play slips from the playful into the grotesque, a movement which happens with startling frequency. So much of what we are exposed to is about the fascinating relationship we have with food, especially the erotic nature of consumption.
Structured in three parts, each section of the show takes on the name of one of the meals of the day. ‘Breakfast’, perhaps the weakest part, sees the emergence of our players and their first, desperate interaction with food as they eagerly munch down on cereal. ‘Lunch’ is a much more elaborate affair, complete with a banquet of food, intricate outfits and equally complicated practices and ceremonies surrounding consumption. Easily the funniest section of the show, ‘Lunch’ begins in a very lightheaded fashion – although the basting and subsequent roasting of one cast member foreshadows the darkness to come.
The final section, much of which is projected onto the back of the stage through a small hand-held camera, sees the performers scrub down each other’s dirt-covered bodies before purging themselves of all they have consumed during the show. Melons are mutilated by phallic vegetables, raw chicken is held against bare skin and breasts formed of lemons are covered in thick creamy sauce. This is grotesque theatre at its finest: completely unwatchable, yet somehow entirely gripping.
So what does it all mean? To be honest, I’m not sure how much it really matters. There are clearly themes running through of consumption and gluttony and the changing relationship humanity has with food, but equally if you just want to see three performers face down in plates of food, you’ll enjoy this show.
Devised By: Mine Cerci, Sacho Plaige, George Ramsay and Jennifer Swingler
Director: Mine Cerci
Producer: Helen Goodman
Box Office: 020 7223 2223
Booking Link: https://www.bac.org.uk/content/40494/whats_on/whats_on/shows/feast
Booking Until: 6 February 2016