EDINBURGH FESTIVAL '98: Theatre: Food, laborious food is hard to swallow
GARGANTUA THE UNDERBELLY CENTRAL LIBRARY
Thursday 13 August 1998
The company must have patted itself on the back for having secured an architectural underbelly in which to conduct its ambitious exploration of bodily functions.
Among the copious literary quotes in the programme - a sprinkling of Claude Levi-Strauss, a dash of Brillat-Savarin - the deviser of the show, Ben Harrison, acknowledges the influence of Rabelais's novels Gargantua and Pantagruel (1532-1534), with their insatiable giants, for whom there is no punishment for indulgence.
One of the best dramatic dishes served up during the course of this 90- minute promenade is the tale of Gargantua's unnatural birth (via an ear) and piggy childhood. But elsewhere the emphasis is on capturing the spirit of the guilt-free guzzle, as a means of countering Scotland's "stern Calvinist inheritance".
The starter, in which three clowns in grey tunics suggest a miserable clockwork office existence through perfectly executed mime, is promising, with more than a flavour of Alice in Wonderland. With the arrival of the weekend, they leap to their feet and head off through the dank, but not malodorous, passageways into an imaginary restaurant where an Italian chef is cooking up an invisible meal.
It is at this point that a whiff of slightly nauseating self-indulgence begins to permeate proceedings: with an extended sequence of foodie talk (gobbledegook exclamations such as "Ex-boyfriend?" "Focaccia!"), polished off by some lavishly detailed sexual intercourse between a couple sitting at a table (an oyster is "swollen, palpably indecent").
You might think that this carefully planned walkabout to strains of violin and piano would get the audience stuck in more than the average piece of dramatic spoonfeeding, but the experience is rather like watching a TV cookery programme, and having to endure other people's simulated groans of pleasure.
The decor is beautiful - the giant watermelon couches, or the fruit-strewn altar. The four actors (Melanie Bradley, Iona Carbarns, Tony Delicata and Alan McPherson) are energetic, engaging even - but have to get their mouths round a half-baked script. Too many experiences of food (Granny's onion soup, John Wayne Bobbit's blood sausage, samosas that a boyfriend never came back to eat) end up spoiling this candlelit evening.
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days
Oscar voter speaks outfilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The black and blue dress: Makers considering a white and gold version
- 2 Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
- 3 What color is The Dress, white and gold or blue and black? An eyewitness gives a definitive answer
- 4 The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
- 5 Fearne Cotton quits Radio 1 after ten years for 'family and new adventures'
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Aqsa Mahmood branded a 'disgrace' by her parents after claims she recruited three UK girls flying to Middle East