Monday, 26 June 2017

Review Food

A tale of sibling love and rivalry set in a Tasmanian chippy is a sizzling success for reviewer Peter Barker.

by Steve Rodgers

Deep Fried Emotions

Funny, dark and provocative Food by Australian Steve Rodgers fixes on women, sisterhood, growing up and sex with a firmly adult gaze. A gaze which also, of course, includes food. 

A three-hander, originally performed in Sydney in 2012, this is a skilfully-crafted one-act piece, a rite-of-passage play for two sisters in their twenties, a drama that's bleak yet finally filled with hope. 

Former wild child Nancy (Lily Newbury-Freeman)  has returned to the country town of her childhood. She and her stay-at-home sister Elma (Emma Playfair) cannot escape each other.

Still, Nancy spearheads a plan to transform their fish and chip takeaway on a Tasmanian outback highway into a sit-down eatery.

Into this world of food preparation, business expansion and sibling rivalry, yet also sisterly bonds, walks a charismatic Turkish backpacker, Hakan (Scott Karim).

Elma is quick to demonstrate to him  the fate of “bullshitters with wandering hands” utilizing a knife, named after a family matriarch.  However after he becomes hired hand, the sexual temperature within the kitchen soars.    

There are well-defined, detailed performances from Australian actors Newbury-Freeman as Nancy and Playfair as Elma. They manage to draw the audience viscerally into every tussle, even when raised voices and accents are at their loudest and broadest.

We warm equally to Karim's deliberately irritating but engaging performance - the testosterone-driven outsider both to the simmering sibling rivalry and to the Australian island.   

Structured over 90 minutes in the present and as a series of teenage childhood flashbacks, director Cressida Brown's traverse staging allows for intimacy and even for the performers to interact effortlessly with the audience.

While director Brown’s production is tight and quick moving, it still could have cut 10 minutes and lost nothing. Nevertheless, it remains constantly compelling.

Richard Williamson's highly effective lighting, Jon McLeod's sound and movement director Ita O'Brien's additions all evoke the sense of location and emotional intensity.

Hannah Wolfe cleverly keeps the design simple and fluid on an adaptable, multi-layered set with ladder and the heavy duty kitchen and catering props on wheels.

Food, both darkly raw and bright, has all the ingredients of a satisfying and thought-provoking drama.

It's a green light for a piece using food and sex to convey complex family ties alongside social and emotional challenges.

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