Pros: It’s gripping, brilliantly acted, and extremely original.
Cons: You probably couldn’t bring your parents.
The central premise of Matthew Kyne Baskott’s Consumables is simple: Leonard (Timothy Harker), a mild-mannered middle-aged man, has invited Blaize (Michael Hanratty), a much younger online acquaintance, to his neat little flat for a somewhat unconventional date. The audience are invited along with him, and for 45 minutes they’re treated to an unblinking view of a hilarious, horrifying, and frankly quite exciting meet-up between two strangers with some surprising mutual interests.
Consumables enjoyed a brief run at the King’s Head in August 2017, but at VAULT Festival it’s found a perfect new home. The snapping of Leonard’s latex gloves mixes nicely with the rumbling trains running literally metres overhead, with the dim, compact venue adding a distinct feeling of voyeurism among the audience.
The play packs a serious punch within its short running time, and the sharp writing is mirrored by three perfectly executed performances from Harker, Hanratty, and Susan Aderin (playing Mrs Joseph, Leonard’s neighbour). When Leonard barks “You’re gonna feel this!” at a naked Blaize in the play’s early stages, the three actors make sure that the audience do too. You’d be forgiven for having the urge to look away during certain sections; but the production is pretty mesmerising, so you’re unlikely to risk it. There are a few times when the dialogue and action elicit a quickening of the heart and an intake of breath.
One of Consumables’ great strengths lies in its ability to consistently generate humour, tension and pathos, often simultaneously. Without wishing to give anything away, there are some particularly strong moments of visual comedy involving masks, a mouth gag, and a PVC apron. Additionally, Mrs Joseph’s intrusive, hilarious and disastrously timed interruptions punctuate the play, although they don’t solely provide moments of comedy. Louis Paxton’s skilful direction brings out the many nuances of Kyne Baskott’s script, and so what is already a seriously funny production becomes an affecting one.
The brief nature of this surprising production works to its advantage, and while there’s no reason it couldn’t be extended, doing so might lessen its potency. The play’s brevity reflects the shortness of its run at VAULT, which has now ended, but Consumables definitely has the legs to go elsewhere, and deserves to.
Author: Louis Paxton
Director: Matthew Kyne Baskott
Producer: Jason Bradbury
Booking until: Consumables’ run at VAULT Festival has now ended.