Writers: Devised by the cast; scripted by Rochi Rampal
Music: Sheema Mukherjee
Directors: Steve Johnstone and Frances Land
Reviewer: Selwyn Knight
The Public Reviews Rating:
Birmingham Rep’s ongoing peregrination during its redevelopment to be part of the new Library of Birmingham continues. For Eat! in association with Black Country Touring, it descends upon the Roundhouse, to perform in a small courtyard and four caravans.
Over the last year, a team of ten researchers has scoured Birmingham and the Black Country, interviewing locals about their experiences of food. These stories have been moulded by the cast to form an evening of entertainment, not for, but of, the community. It was with a sense of some trepidation that my companion and I picked our way over cobbles and under arches to find our way into the courtyard with a makeshift stage under an arch surrounded by four caravans. In each caravan, about a dozen audience members are taken on journeys relating to food. These are punctuated by musical interludes back in the courtyard with the cast, who also sing, dance and play instruments, and a community choir.
After each interlude, we are led by our guides to the next caravan on our journeys. These are touring caravans and hardly roomy, but the set designs from a team led by Purvin mean that we fit comfortably. In such tight spaces, it is quite impossible not to interact with the performers, so audience members have cast members seated on their laps, find themselves used as characters in stories, or even help prepare salads.
The first I visited is a veritable Aladdin’s Cave, doubling as a food bank, allotment shed and dark forest. It includes stories of how food and the kindness of others enabled two misfits to go on a journey through dark times and out the other side. Vimal Korpal and Katerina Demetraki tell their stories through fairy tales, although the real world has a habit of butting in as locals, down on their luck, call to receive donations of food. In another van, food and its use in celebrations is itself celebrated as we hear of the six weddings of Nia Davies’ character, all to husbands from countries with different culinary traditions, told with an unmistakeable zest for life. Even here, though, a dark period of the past is waiting to bubble to the surface. In a third, beatboxer Sharanjit Bansil and Alice Castillo present a surreal selection of stories and music. My favourite, however, is the tale of war, famine and ethnic cleansing told with quiet dignity and power by Graeme Rose. This is engaging, thought-provoking and genuinely moving.
As promised, an evening with plenty of food for thought tonight, well worth the effort to see.
Runs until 27 October 2012
Picture: Robert Day
Eat! - Birmingham Rep @ the Roundhouse,
Tags: Alice Castillo, Birmingham, Birmingham REP, Black Country Touring, Eat!, Frances Land, Graeme Rose, Katerina Demetraki, Nia Davies, Purvin, Rochi Rampal, Sharanjit Bansil, Sheema Mukherjee, Steve Johnstone, The Roundhouse, Vimal Korpal