Consumables, VAULT Festival

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by guest critic Gregory Forrest

A young drug-addicted porn star is looking for someone to kill and eat him. A clean-freak older man is looking for a good, tasty fantasy. So what happens to the carving knife? It’s a strong set up, and when cannibalistic fetishism is first introduced to Consumables – effectively delayed in Matthew Kyne Baskott’s’s script – the topic undoubtedly sticks in your throat.

However, Consumables is undercooked. I wonder whether the play’s subject matter would be better dissected if its construction – writing, design, and direction in particular – were more willing to experiment with non-realism. This is an extreme scenario, which is not to doubt its truthfulness, but to recognise that such truth is condensed and intensified here for theatrical effect – and also to acknowledge that theatre is the foundation of sexual fantasy. Applying realist logic to an ‘absurd’ scenario might then sound like the clever thing to do; it reveals how brittle that label of ‘absurd’ really is.

Yet Consumables never really achieves this. As a piece of theatre it struggles to expose
the staginess of sexuality because it gets tangled up in its own stage pretence. Consumables tries to hide its theatrical form. It should instead be celebrating it.
This is frustrating because there is a really interesting story to be told here. And what is told is certainly told with heart. Suggestions of a trans-generational loneliness in the queer community add to the play’s narrative of help and self-care.

Michael Hanratty delivers a strong performance as Blaize, the porn star who always refers to himself in the third person: a rather over-literal nod to his self-detatchment. Meanwhile Timothy Harker is charming as the neurotic and subtly angry Leonard. Susan Aderin, on the other hand, struggles as nosy neighbour Mrs Joseph, in part because the role is severely underwritten.

It needs seasoning. It needs re-carving. It needs further research and development. Despite its charm, Consumables is far too bland.

Consumables runs through 18 February.

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