Review: May Contain Food, Shoreditch Town Hall

It’s a new twist on the meaning of ‘dinner theatre’.  It’s not so much that you are sat back, relaxed and enjoying a delicious three course meal while watching the action taking place in front of you. No, it’s far more immersive than that. As you enter the room each table is covered with different foods. Our table was covered in various forms of pasta and a couple of slices of bread but I couldn’t help but notice the table behind me which looked like it carried the contents of a student’s cupboard. As you take your seat, your ‘waiter’ brings you a ‘menu’ and a glass of water. As the show progressed I found myself regretting the burrito I had quickly scoffed before the show as the audience were treated to a ‘four course’ (well, perhaps ‘four bites’) meal.

The show is structured as a 90-minute dinner party and the actors perform a mixture of spoken word and contemporary dance accompanied only by some operatic a cappella singing. The idea of the show is to explore our relationship with food but as I was trying to feed a rice ball to my friend, it occurred to me that this show has the feel of someone who may have ingested some questionable substance, started hallucinating and got the munchies all at once.  At one point the four dancers perform an incredible routine where they each represent a different animal with their partner holding their various parts on a platter. The cast face a divide between vegetarians and omnivores and the politics behind the judgment both groups face. A mother runs around the room trying to get her kid to eat up their food; an angry woman savagely attacks a bunch of vegetables with a scary looking knife. The cast sing a song that thanks everyone involved in the preparation of the meal, be they the mother who does the cooking, the man who drives the lorry and even the E.U. subsidies.

The cast are so committed to their roles even if the slightly alarmed audience seems less sure especially when put on the spot to listen to their food or join in with chanting slogans during the vegetarian/omnivore debate.  Donna Lennard, our table’s server, stands out for her incredible voice and her slowly dwindling enthusiasm throughout the show (a deliberate choice). However, it’s Andrew Gardiner who is the most entertaining in this play. He believes in ‘Mindful Mouth’ and his aggressive passion for this provides a lot of laughs.

The show’s quirkiness is a massive appeal throughout the night as you can’t predict what might happen next. The exploration of this first world obsession with food is quite interesting especially in such a unique context but mostly it’s just a great night that will leave you somewhat hysterical.

May Contain Food played Shoreditch Town Hall on December 6. For more information click here.

Photo: Alicia Clarke