May Contain Food review at the Place, London – ‘a yummy night’

The cast of May Contain Food at The Place, London. Photo: Alicia Clarke
The cast of May Contain Food at The Place, London. Photo: Alicia Clarke
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It brings a whole new meaning to the term: ‘supper theatre’. Seated at tables covered in fake food, we are regaled with the customary spiel from the ‘waiters’ and ‘waitresses’ bustling around the floor, bending and beaming in oleaginous greeting. Accompanied by operatic acapella singing, the performers move into the centre and sometimes to the edges of the space, notably when a woman glorifying meat in song leaves a trail of blood against a tiled wall. Over four ‘courses’ which are delivered to the tables, the multi-disciplined cast delivers shards of text, songs and movement that dissect and examine our relationship with food. The response can range from arousal to disgust, depending on your appetite and attitude.

As interactive theatre it is well orchestrated and just stops short of total immersion. Just about every aspect of the business of eating is conveyed from the gastropornographic diva to the aggressive vegetarian.

Sensuality is everywhere but slips into something darker as the cast lose some of their clothes and various parts of their bodies are presented on platters – a foot, a hand, even a head. The constant gyrations resemble a restaurant at full blast while all of our senses are assailed – a ginger pudding cooked on stage trails a delicious aroma, rice balls studded with sesame are given to us which we are encouraged to feed to our neighbour, the singing provides a living soundtrack. Violence erupts as a woman with a cleaver slaughters a salad by hacking peppers and cucumbers into pieces. The pudding is put into the oven to the sound of a liturgical chant.

The devised quirkiness is calculated to provoke and promote self-interrogation even as it amuses and entertains. Food is shown to be a powerful weapon; it can be a power broker, a mode of torture, a controlling agent. The ludicrous extremes of the foodies are hilariously exposed by the food snob who describes a lemon as “the bastard love child of insecticide and corporate greed.” A yummy night.

Verdict
An investigation of our relationship with food that’s cooking with gas
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