Hear Me Raw, Soho Theatre

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by guest critic Gregory Forrest

Hear Me Raw was perhaps the poshest theatrical experience I have ever had (and that really is saying something). It was a glowing auditorium of bad hair, good genes, and plastic prosecco, followed by a swarm of supportive mums murmuring ‘Oh, isn’t she brave’.

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The Nassim Plays, Bush Theatre

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An actor stands on stage. They are handed a script they have never read before. A frank look at suicide, choice and learned behaviour unfolds after a menagerie of animal impressions.

An actor stands on stage. They are handed a script they have never read before. An hour of hilarious and revealing Mad Libs ensues.

An actor stands on stage. They are handed a script they have never read before. It’s a recipe that the actor must prepare whilst reflecting on the cultural importance and ritual of food.

An actor stands on stage. On the screen behind them, a script is projected they have never read before. Then there’s a live feed, a language lesson and a tender reflection on the meaning of home.

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Hamlet Fool, Lion & Unicorn Theatre

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A lesson: always read press releases in full. Why? Because you might turn up to a show and discover it’s performed in Russian (when you don’t speak Russian). At least in this instance knowing the source material for Hamlet Fool, a one-woman street performance style retelling Shakespeare’s classic, provides a base knowledge.

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Day Three at Buzzcut Festival

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One of the durational works on Saturday afternoon is the six-hour Silent Dinner, where a group of D/deaf and hearing performers prepare a large meal without communicating in their native languages. There isn’t the rush of a professional kitchen, and sunlight streaming through the windows and lighting the rich colours of fresh ingredients is stunning in it’s peaceful simplicity. Watching them is a meditative exercise as they move around the rows of tables, silently and slowly preparing food that they will then eat together. It would be easy to sit with them all day as they take pleasure from the communal experience of cooking and eating.

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Ionesco/Dinner at the Smiths’, Latvian House

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By guest critic Archie Whyld

On arriving at the front door of Latvian House I am by a very smart, besuited Italian butler who refuses to let me in and won’t really give me a clear reason as to why. Had the performance begun? He suggests I get a drink at the bar in the basement but won’t allow me to take the most obvious and direct route to said bar; instead I use the tradesman’s outdoor, wrought iron steps entrance. The bar seems to be in Riga, Latvia, what with all its eastern Europe chic. I stand at the bar waiting to order. No one comes. Meanwhile Latvian drinkers enjoy interesting looking beers, chat in hushed tones and completely ignore me. I stand, thirsty, with multi-coloured disco ball lights streaking across my face. Is this all part of the performance? Or am I in a dream?

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Feature: Silent Snacks

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Rejoice! If you are the sort of theatregoer who has signed the Theatre Charter, and is regularly outraged by the appalling behaviour from other audience members who may not have the same high standard of culture or upbringing as yourself, you will adore Today Tix’ latest initiative, Silent Snacks. No longer will you have to endure the incessant rustling of sweet wrappers, the crunch of crisps, the post-coke burps, the mobile phone lights, the whispers, the fidgeting, the breathing, the poor and the young wreaking utter havoc on your evening of cultural consumption in the proper Victorian fashion (I say, what did those Elizabethans know about theatre!). The selection of sophisticated, upper-middle class, white people snacks come delivered in red cloth pouches so at no point in the consumption process will they make a sound that could offend surrounding ears. They also contain enough elite ingredients to satisfy Whole Food shoppers, and are bland enough to not offend Home Counties and Middle England palates.

Available through the Today Tix app, savvy audience members can pre-order this etiquette cure-all that enables guilt free theatre snacking. It’s only too big of a shame that these snacks cannot be forced onto all audience members that dare to eat during a performance, especially the group of urban teenagers who never attended the theatre before.

First on offer are Quiet Pop(corn) bites. A base of ground popcorn and dates creates a truffle-y texture, but with the dates and coconut blossom nectar, they are more sweet than savoury. They don’t particularly taste of popcorn, but neither does any other flavour dominate. They lack a satisfying crunch, but are indeed silent. The crushed popcorn does tend to get in between the teeth, so there is potential for some discomfort until you are able to pick out the offending particles in private – we can’t have teeth picking in the stalls, obviously!

The flawless, leading lady of Silent Snacks are the Muffled Truffles: rich, dark chocolate indulgence. Instead of popcorn, smooth cocoa powder is blended with chewy dates. They are not one for commoners who prefer sweet, milk chocolate and are more substantial than conventional truffles due to the presence of the dates.Very classy and adult, like theatre audiences should be.

Silent Slices are dainty, soft slices of dried pear. Chewy and subtle, these tiny nibbles have no added ingredients and pear is such a delicate flavour that drying greatly diminishes it. Apple with a sprinkle of cinnamon would have a stronger taste, but the pear is less offensive to those with delicate constitutions and aversion to anything stronger than the blandest of foods.

These snacks would not be complete without a suitably refined beverage. The Anti-Gas Lime and Mint drink is a questionably lurid green concoction of grapefruit, lime, mint and water. Oral and anal gas expulsion is banished, as is the risk of noise in opening the container. A branded silicon cup is a smart vehicle through which to show off your culinary choices, despite terrible mouth feel and the bitter flavour of the drink.

Silent Snacks are available for a limited time only though Today Tix, so we can only hope that the entire theatregoing populace uses the app to procure their theatre tickets and sees the error of their noisily munching ways. Though we will mourn their eventual disappearance, we can hope their legacy lives on by serving to return theatre to it’s rightful, middle class audiences.

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The Gastronomical Comedy, Cockpit Theatre

whatthehell_pressNew writing based on classical literature, with the audience being served Italian food as part of the performance, sounds like a cracking way to spend an evening. The Gastronomical Comedy tells Dante’s story as he tries to be an actor in London but ends up working in his wife’s uncle’s restaurant, The Inferno, to pay the bills. It’s a timeless story of artistic struggle meant to parallel Dante Alighieri’s journey through hell, though the connection between the two stories was tenuous at best as the modern day Dante didn’t encounter particularly difficult opposition to his dreams. Despite good performances, it’s a concept that is good in principle but feels very much like a work-in-progress in need of quite a lot of script development before being a completed piece of theatre.

Paolo Serra’s script co-written with Jud Charlton and Gian Sessarego is quick and choppy, too brief to allow the story to unfold at a realistic pace but neither is it episodic. Dante quickly gets a role in a profit-share show, he easily finds a day job, and his wife gives him a bit of grief but nothing major. The play runs at just over an hour, but this is too short for the time frame covered and character journeys contained in it. Dante is the active hero of the story rather than Alighieri’s passive observer and some comedy and magic opens the evening, which although fun, doesn’t contribute to Dante’s story. As for the food, there was plenty of it served by an onstage waiter-magician to select ticket holders who got several courses of food at onstage tables. Some other audience members received samples of pesto pasta from Dante’s frantic on-stage kitchen, but the rest were unlucky. Disappointing, as it smelled fantastic.

The performances are good though. Sessarego is the optimistic but poor Dante who left his wife in Italy to pursue an acting career. Two additional performers, Jud Charlton and Louise Lee, play several other characters in Dante’s life. These people are extremely heightened, which could clash with Sessarego’s naturalism but effectively draws attention to his foreignness. Charlton’s fringe theatre director who casts Dante in an adaptation of The Divine Comedy is particularly good, as is Lee as Dante’s wife Patricia who the audience mostly sees through projected skype calls.

Set was a chair and a metal trolley for the kitchen, not helping the incomplete feel of the production. There are some well-designed projections and music in Dante’s restaurant, The Inferno, which helped combat the sparseness of the script. The performances also help alleviate the lack of substance, but for The Gastronomical Comedy to really push boundaries of genre and create a food/theatre performance event, the script needs to follow through with several courses rather than try to get by with a predictable starter and a side salad.


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