theSpace @ Symposium Hall – Annexe
A family of upper-class cannibals determined to disobey a national meat-ban? All is Pink in West Berkshire County certainly presents an intriguing premise, and Aireborne Theatre delivers, serving up lashings of the absurd and dystopian in this madcap production.
Matthew Dangerfield and Siobhan Ward nail their portrayal of lascivious and overbearing parents Michael and Denise Abbey. Dangerfield makes Mr Abbey perfectly revolting, a repulsive cocktail of tyranny and fragility that fizzes with energy. Ward’s Mrs Abbey is a slightly reluctant but powerful matriarch, perpetually frustrated with her erratic husband whilst quietly controlling the household. Their first few minutes on stage are explosive and hilarious, introducing the audience to the surreality and discomfort that is central to this production.
The plot really gets going when daughter Eve (Maisie Stalham) returns home with new boyfriend Rory McDonnell (Ben Greenwood) for Christmas Dinner. The expected awkwardness of introducing a new partner to your parents is ramped up to extreme levels by the ridiculous masculine posturing of Mr Abbey, who goes to great lengths to embarrass and test Rory in several infuriating rituals. Greenwood does a great job of capturing the young man’s intense discomfort, desperate to please his girlfriend’s parents but not quite sure how much of his dignity he’s willing to sacrifice. This impressive performance is also central to a fascinating twist that occurs towards the end of the play.
The visuals of the production match the intensity of its writing. Powerful lighting and realistic set-work transform the stage into a gory and lavish dining room. Props are also put to great use: a shocking climax involving a wine bottle is both violent and spectacular.
As the dinner progresses, the more cannibalistic elements of the plot are revealed, and the meat of this play is in Eve and Rory’s reactions. Through their disgust and temptation, Harry Daisley’s writing explores the addictive power dynamics that underpin the aristocratic upper class. The script also dips into the ethics of veganism, with the authoritarian meat ban sounding like a conservative delusion from Mr Abbey’s nightmares.
The hilarious script and the enthusiasm of the cast stop this production from ever dragging, and it never becomes bogged down in these heavy themes. However, it would have been nice if the writing took the time to unpack some of the issues it raises a bit more. The ethics of veganism and its relationship to class and UK politics were left largely unexplored and felt more like a convenient plot device. The breakneck pace of the script also caused some of the play’s jokes to lose their dynamism as the show went on.
On the whole, though, All is Pink in West Berkshire County is thought-provoking and enjoyable. This impressive production is a wild ride from beginning to end.
Written by: Harry Daisley
Produced by: Aireborne Theatre
All is Pink in West Berkshire County plays at thespaceuk for EdFringe 2023 until 26 August. Further information and bookings can be found here.