Feature in Issue 16-1 | Spring 2004

Two very different shows with a shared interest in food. Dorothy Max Prior reports…

Plug and Play is an anarchic adult cabaret show, and Feast Your Eyes a theatre show for 4-7 year olds. But in their very different ways they are both wonderful celebrations of alchemy – cookery and chemistry transforming the mundane into the extraordinary before our very eyes. Both companies like to make a mess… and both shows feature disturbing but extremely funny explorations of cannibalism!

Akhe’s Plug and Play (seen at Komedia in January 2004) is described by the company as a ‘hooligan cabaret’. A red-skinned DJ in white curly wig pogos as he mixes toons whilst two overgrown schoolboys in Lederhosen and stripy socks boogie while they mix murky cocktails. Test tubes fizz and burble, glowing light bulbs are plunged into glasses of red liquid, and nails are hammered through heads into an ongoing painting created on the back wall of the stage. It’s like ‘Just William on acid. Then things get really weird, as sandwiches are made using surrogate body parts - bread sliced from the chest, mayonnaise squirted from the toe of a shoe and yes, you’ve guessed - trousers yanked down to reveal a dangling, thick, pink salami sliced before our eyes. These sandwiches are fed to us at the end of the show, washed down with vodka.

Although very different to theatre shows like White Cabin, Plug and Play is a characteristic Akhe experience in its exploration of the power of the elemental, its celebration of lo-tech (a lovely big old TV monitor sports a toilet-roll aerial) and its delight in mess and mayhem. In the rather refined atmosphere upstairs at Komedia, the performance felt a little too safe – I would have liked to have seen them getting down and dirty in the smoky basement bar with the Friday night drinkers and hecklers. But the audience came into their own for the vegetable-throwing grand finale…

A good few vegetables are also trashed in Fevered Sleep’s Feast Your Eyes (seen at the Croydon Clocktower in February 2004), which turns its young audience into royal guests at a banquet. What the invited kings and queens don’t yet know is that they are on the menu – a plan hatched by the horrible, gross, ugly (capitalist) Queen Victoria Sponge to appease the terrible child-eating giant, who, having eaten all available children, is now left to the desperate measure of devouring adults. The guests are seated along the sides of a long table which serves as the stage for the story-within-the-story of a greedy princess: forest scenes are created with broccoli trees and cabbage hills, strawberries become sleeping children trodden on and devoured with terrible red-juice-squirting relish and real apples gathered from the trees (children providing the swaying branches with their arms) are chewed and spat out by two downtrodden little mice who are not allowed even a bite to eat by the princess because ‘It’s my food, all mine!’ The table turns into an under-lit shadow screen filled with fish as the princess ransacks the rivers, leaving no food source whatsoever for the poor people outside the castle walls. Even the cow has all her milk taken (David Harradine makes a very fine cow, his rubber-glove udder filled to bursting).

Feast Your Eyes brings together storytelling, physical action, simple but effective object animation and music provided by a ‘chef’ playing glasses, bottles, pots and pans to create a sensurround theatre experience which breaks down the fourth wall in an extremely original and effective way. The parable of uneven distribution of wealth is upfront, but the polemic is not over-egged. Like all good fairy tales there’s a moral for you to find – or you can just enjoy the soul-feeding pictures that act out before your eyes.

Referenced Artists

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Issue 16-1
p. 22