The Big Bite-Size Soirée (Menu 1)
White Room Theatre @ Bakehouse Theatre – Main Stage
3:30pm, Sun 18 Mar 2012
And so I came to the final menu of The Big Bite-Size Soirée, preceded by another chat with Nick Brice (director of all the Bites). He’s an utterly lovely chap, and the frank discussions we had were very much appreciated – I’m always interested in the expectations & realities of Fringe artists from overseas.
Menu 1 kicks off with The Rehearsal, which sees Him waiting at a café, rehearsing potential conversations with His ex. Sean Williams is brilliant in this role, full of bluff and swagger, before She cooly arrives – and his game-plan turns to shit. A hackneyed theme, maybe, but bloody good fun nonetheless. Keeping Annabelle felt somewhat reminiscent of another Bite, Nice People… though I’m not quite sure why. Kidnappers have nabbed the wrong girl and, in being snubbed as worthless by one of the kidnappers, the kidnappee takes offence… and, through twisting dialogue, the tables are soon turned. This one was also a lot of fun.
But then the tone of the Menu takes a decidedly darker turn: Stolen has Lisa Beresford playing a kleptomaniac, who intimates that she’d been molested by a priest and subsequently had his child… but that the child was taken away from her because she was “too simple”. The piece wraps up as she steals (another?) baby… and I’m left slightly astonished. It’s a powerful piece of theatre that seems completely at odds with the mood of most of the other Bites.
Taste of Heaven starts off equally serious in tone, with Williams returning as a soldier in Afghanistan. An initially serious secretive mission takes a turn for the worse/comedic, leading to a horseback escape in which the kamikaze, out-of-control horse conspires to make him appear to be a hero. It’s a rollicking ride, but there’s a serious edge to it.
The final Bite for this Menu – for this Fringe – unfortunately felt like the most awkward of the lot; in Match Point, two women playing tennis against each other, watched by the umpire and the ball-boy. It suffers from the same detached lack of convincing physicality that plagued Menu 3’s Thin Air, with the timing of the tennis strokes having to compensate for the extensive vocalisation of the character’s thoughts; having said that, Beresford’s ageing journeywoman snipes are glorious, whilst the young Russian up-and-comer (Alice Robinson) is entitled by her talent. Williams’ thoughts (as the ball-boy) don’t really work, but when the umpire (Andy Hutchison) speaks at the end of the point, it’s ultra-existential… and bloody hilarious.
The variation in tone across these five Bites makes this my favourite Menu of the lot… but I must admit that it was quite a different experience – and a real treat – to be able to return time and time again to see the same cast serve up different theatrical morsels. Out of the fifteen short plays on offer, less than a handful were duds; and the cast and direction was consistently great throughout. Bravo, White Room!