Food at Finborough Theatre
Dishing out themes of love, sensuality and lustrous craving, Steve Roger’s Food is a dynamic play, made powerful by the talented cast that carries it. The show, transferring to London from the Australian stage, boasts bite-sized moments of both tragedy and comedy, in an entertaining production that leaves you craving more.
Directed by Cressida Brown and presented by NewPlay Productions, the performance centres on two sisters working in a takeaway joint on a highway at the edge of an Australian country town – the kind of place we’re told truckers pull into for a short pit stop and a Chiko Roll. Having grown up here together, Nancy (Lily Newbury-Freeman) vanished at the age of 15, chasing freedom after a turbulent youth, and returned where our story begins 17 years later. Elma (Emma Playfair) was left to look after their dying mother and resentfully runs the family business alone. When they decide to turn it into a proper restaurant and hire the mysterious traveller Hakan (Scott Karim) to help, the sisters are forced to dissect the complexities of their relationship and address their haunting past.
It is these powerful memories that fuel the play, and lead to scenes both playful and intense. We witness, through some beautifully choreographed sequences, the history of the two sisters and their differing attitudes to life – to food, to sex, and to friendship. On the outset, it’s a typical sisterhood laced with squabbles and youthful jealousy, but we see them fall apart after a series of tragic experiences, culminating in Nancy’s horrific sexual abuse at the age of just 14.
These dark themes are neatly touched upon, but at times feel lazily stereotypical. Hakan, perhaps the most loveable character, feels underdeveloped and more of a plot device to deepen the sister’s backstory than fulfil his own storyline: a free-spirited foreign man in contrast with our damaged yet driven female leads (“An unfamiliar scenario, having female bosses”). He becomes a short-lived object of intrigue and desire to the two women. Scenes of sexual abuse and female insecurity are uncomfortable to watch at times, as the play makes a wonky statement on gender bias in today’s society.
The performances though, are very strong indeed. Emma Playfair and Lily Newbury-Freeman capture the turbulent nature of the sisters’ relationship convincingly, while Karim adds a goofy comic relief amidst the darker moments. And their sequences are made even more dynamic thanks to the smart staging and interactivity of the show. The audience smell the lingering wafts of frying bacon and are given freshly baked bread as the action resolves and the complexities of life circle neatly back to the reassuring comfort of food. It’s perhaps a tenuous link, but it works wonderfully in the intimate and scruffily atmospheric nature of the Finborough.
Photos: The Other Richard
Food is at Finborough Theatre from 20th June until 15th July 2017. For further information and to book tickets visit here.