The Chef Show review at Dukes, Lancaster – ‘cooking and comedy’
You’ve heard of fusion cuisine? Well, for its first production Ragged Edge has created fusion theatre, partly inspired by a Bangladeshi saying that, roughly translated, means food brings people together. Touring one-nighters at northern village halls and community centres, this new audience-friendly play combines two actors with a different local chef each time who cooks a dish live on stage as part of the action. But when chef’s chopped onions hit the pan, it’s not just the aromatics spreading instant togetherness.
There’s a whiff of authenticity about Nick Ahad’s script, which draws on his own Bangladeshi family heritage in the “Indian” restaurant trade to develop a good-humoured story hinging on an intergenerational father-son clash, with dad clinging to notions like “cooking is an act of love” while his bright boy sees their rural balti house’s future in business terms.
It’s a sort of Bangla-Brit Steptoe and Son set-up, with a nod towards Jim Cartwright’s Two, featuring an engaging mix of characters and clientele all expertly played by Rohit Gokani and Kamal Kaan, who switch roles in the blink of an eye, while the guest chef gets involved by chatting about his work.
The comedy in Stefan Escreet’s slick production compliments not-so-funny cultural issues, especially the immigrant experience of prejudice and the still-powerful pull of family ties in Bangladesh. But the show could easily afford to embrace less obvious ones, such as why these restaurants mostly remain all-male preserves. As a result, like chef’s freshly cooked bhuna, this delicious theatrical fusion is neither mild nor spicy but medium.