Review of Food by Steve Rodgers at Finborough Theatre

Emma Playfair, Lily Newbury-Freeman Credit The Other Richard
Emma Playfair, Lily Newbury-Freeman Credit The Other Richard

Set in a takeaway off an Australian highway, Food explores the tumultuous relationship between sisters Elma (Emma Playfair) and Nancy (Lily Newbury-Freeman). With unresolved tension from their youth played out in the claustrophobic takeaway kitchen, their antipathy comes to a head with the arrival of traveller Hakan (Scott Karim).

Beautifully designed and executed, Food is a thoroughly enjoyable insight into a complex family, in a very specific context. Cressida Brown has directed a subtle and enjoyable production, where the stage design by Hannah Wolfe responds fluidly to the movement-driven sequences directed by Ita O’Brien. All three actors are wonderful to watch, as there are three largely flawless performances on offer here.

The sisters have a compelling dynamic, though there are moments where the emotional tone is over heightened, detracting from its veracity. Regardless, Steve Rodgers’ play is both specific and detailed enough to resonate with its specific context, and transcendent enough to speak to a very essential set of human concerns, across cultures and time.

While many of the references and neologisms appealed to me specifically as an Australian, I was equally compelled by the universally understandable difficulties these characters faced, as young women growing up in difficult circumstances. Dark themes are given expression in a largely minimalist space, including eating disorders, filial duty, abuse, rape and abandonment. These are tough issues to tackle, yet they are treated with intelligence and empathy.

Manipulation, affection and love are played out in problematic proportion. The need for symmetry in the opening and closing scenes does slightly undermine the emotional journey played out, however, there is very little to otherwise criticise in this tightly written and executed play.

In all, Food is a wrenching and turbulent production, cleanly executed. Leaving you with plenty left to ruminate over, I can only encourage anyone looking for a thought-provoking night out to support this production at the Finsborough Theatre.

4 Stars

Review by Christina Carè Calgaro

The premiere production outside Australia
by Steve Rodgers.
Directed by Cressida Brown.
Lighting by Richard Williamson. Sound by Jon McLeod. Movement Direction by Ita O’Brien.
Presented by NewPlay Productions in association with Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre.
Cast: Scott Karim. Lily Newbury-Freeman. Emma Playfair.

“‘Member when you were smart? Year six, start of high school, you know, fractions, Pythagoras’s thing, all that? One day, just like that, ya got dumb, made yourself dumb, like that was more attractive.
In its first production outside Australia, acclaimed Australian drama Food opens at the Finborough Theatre for a four week limited season on Tuesday, 20 June 2017 (Press Nights: Thursday, 22 June and Friday 23 June 2017 at 7.30pm).

Nancy left, choosing chaos, freedom and sex. Elma stayed behind and cooked.
Now Nancy is back.
On a stretch of Australian highway, sisters Elma and Nancy run their family takeaway joint – their days heavy with deep frying and memories. While they quietly wage war with their past and dream of a brighter future, a young life-loving Turkish traveller arrives, bringing a charm and sensuality that turns their world upside down.

Tuesday, 20 June – Saturday, 15 July 2017

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