Butchered - Expial Atrocious.

Review of Butchered – Expial Atrocious – Vault Festival

At the Vault Festival, I found ‘The Pit’ theatre, where Butchered was performed, to be especially fitting for the dark world of a sausage maker that is shown. Throughout the performance of this two-person show, there are moments where feelings of confusion, disgust, and awe are found. It is truly a rememberable experience. I personally learned a lesson from this show: read content warnings! One warning, “loud/uncomfortable sound effects and music” is what I found myself most affected by. The sounds it references are borderline tortuous from a sensory standpoint. When the sound effects are not playing, the plot and characters of the show are enjoyable and strong.

Butchered - Expial Atrocious.
Butchered – Expial Atrocious.

In the play’s build-up, we meet Master Sausage (Ezre Holland) and his new apprentice (Nic Lawton). In the beginning, it’s difficult to understand what’s happening and the setting you are given. Later in the show, it’s obvious, but with such a limited set more explanation is needed to make sense of what is being viewed. There is an entertaining fast-paced dialogue between the characters, which makes it clear how different the two are and how Master Sausage isn’t really the master at all. The voice of Master Sausage’s greedy bosses is pre-recorded, and booming, and provides a possible commentary on how greed is the root of many real-life horrors today. This dialogue is well-written and a great vehicle for the plot of the show. Considering how the plot is moved along by the relationship, the dialogue being the intended speed of events is necessary and executed well.

The horror element of the show is mostly in the last 20 minutes of the hour-long run time. And it is truly outstanding. The sound effects were a continual source of discomfort for me throughout and were used frequently toward the end, but the performances of both Holland and Lawton were able to steer my focus away from that and were almost entrancing. Lawton, in particular, was able to perform with a great balance of delicacy and strength that was phenomenal. There was almost a dance-like movement being performed by both and the secrets of the sausage shop become clear, and you are left with a disturbing but impressive end.

Welcome to the kitchen where dreams come to die.

After working in a basement kitchen for as long as they can remember, Master Sausage only knows one thing. Eat, sleep, sausage, repeat. Trying to appease the greed of their faceless employers, the Top Steps, they work relentlessly and cannot imagine their life beyond the butchery.

But when a babbling, fresh-faced Apprentice arrives, a harsh reality is brought with them. With their daily routine disrupted, the Master is forced to look their life in the eye and climb into the belly of the beast. As tensions rise, sinister questions rear their heads. What does it mean to be happy? Is there more to life than this? What’s in those sausages anyway?

‘Sweeney Todd’ meets ‘The Trap Door’ in this blood-thirsty absurdist thriller about challenging tradition, surviving in a cut-throat world and doing what has to be done…

Sat 28th Jan – Sun 29th Jan 2023

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