THEATRE

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Food For Thought, Soho Theatre Co, London W1 (0171-420 0022) from Wed

Do you want to know why Masterchef will never make its way into the nation's heart? Language. Loyd Grossman can witter on forever in his New England vowels about the judges cogitating, but it lacks the great dramatic one-liner common to nearly every other cookery programme: "Here's one I prepared earlier." Where would celebrity chefs be without this, the greatest get-out (of the oven) clause of our time?

Make no mistake, food is a highly dramatic subject. The kitchen has far more theatrical possibilities than the drawing room. Stephen Daldry had one of his greatest hits choreographing (sorry, directing) Arnold Wesker's The Kitchen at the Royal Court on Mark Thompson's fully functioning, done-in-stainless-steel set. Before writing the lyrics for Funny Girl, Bob Merrill served his apprenticeship writing popular novelty songs including "If I Knew You Were Coming I'd Have Baked a Cake", which in turn became the title of a play by Paul Doust. Even Lionel Bart discovered the joys of "Food, Glorious Food" when it came to adapting Dickens. In the 1970s, audiences at Eduardo di Filippo's Saturday, Sunday, Monday fairly swooned while watching an entire Italian meal being cooked on stage, and last month Delia Smith made her stage debut in Beach Blanket Babylon, or rather an actor played her in the largest hat you've ever seen assembled from the entire contents of a supermarket trolley topped off with a giant Sainsbury's Reward card.

Quite whether so lofty a personage will grace the Food for Thought season at Soho Theatre Company (STC) remains to be seen. Before closing their newly-acquired five-storey building to create a new theatre and writers' centre, the company is presenting a showcase production of six specially commissioned 15-minute pieces on a single evening. It's like baking bread. You sit there and watch new talent rise... and if you don't like one, you know you can relax because there'll be another one in a few minutes. This is the cream, drawn from 129 playwrights from STC's advanced stage workshops who were invited to contribute ideas about food whether it be E-coli or Terence Conran. Twenty-four were commissioned, and the six chosen range from an over-zealous mother feeding up her son, to comedy cannibalism. STC has created a risk-free way of tasting the new. Six for the price of one? As all good food shoppers will tell you, it's a bargain.

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