Boiled Cabbage [FringeTIX]
Spotlight Theatre Company @ Jah’z Lounge
2:00pm, Thu 5 Mar 2009
Spotlight’s last play, Scapegoat!, set an early standard for theatre in the 2008 Fringe; though it was not without its flaws, it proved to be both satisfyingly solid and topical in content – not to mention providing me with my first big thrill of ff2008 when Tony printed out my post and plastered the door at Jah’z with it… criticism and all.
Fair made me grin, that did :)
I’ve bumped into Tony a fair few times so far this year; he’s a busy bugger, doing lighting all over the place as well as writing / directing Boiled Cabbage – which, he warned me, was a “bit different” to Scapegoat!… in that it’s a comedy.
About World War II.
Now, I’m getting old enough to be a little sensitive about my age, but I’m not old enough to be able to directly identify with the themes presented in Boiled Cabbage – so I was grateful for the overarching historical narrative. And it’s presented in a linear, though elastic and self-referential manner: from the opening lines (“What time is it, Dad? / It’s 1939 – Germany has invaded Poland, so it’s the start of World War II”), it’s clear that we’re on a rapid-fire ride through the War, driven by the ever-changing news in Dad’s newspaper.
Jo Webb is ace as the schoolgirl Janet, before generationally shifting to a farm-hand, mechanic, sexually liberated nurse (with both black and white American fathers for her twins), then leaving family behind for the liberation of France. Sahil Choujar’s John is used as a recognisable timeline, loudly announcing the battle he was leaving for (or returning from) whenever he entered / left the stage.
But the whole production is carried by Geoffrey Dawes and Maxine Grubel, as Dad and Mum, respectively. Their combined comic timing is delightful, their keenly deadpan delivery spot-on. The ridiculous nature of their dialogue is hugely entertaining: Dad’s perpetually hindsight-loaded soliloquies, delivered with wonderful out-of-place eloquence, can’t help but raise a smile; Mum’s “it’s all for the best, and couldn’t possibly be any better” acts as scene punctuation.
In fact, that’s a neat idea; there’s many repeated signatures throughout the show (Mum’s signoffs, John’s battle references, the continued appearance of Vera Lynn, the progression of Janet’s independence) that create an element of comfortable familiarity with Boiled Cabbage… it’s like watching a subversive british sitcom. So when Mum – after sustaining the family through the War on the eponymous foodstuff – eventually leaves home (inspired by Daughter’s independence, no doubt), it’s a bit of a surprise; but Dad’s reaction (picking up the Cold War edition of his cherished newspaper) caps it off perfectly.