The Food and Masculinity Double: May Contain Traces of Nuts (by Share House Theatre Company) & Immaculate Confection (by Josh Lyons), at Bedouin Brew, Rocklea (6 performances, 4th -15th May, 2017).
As with many double bills, there are some common themes across the two shows in The Food and Masculinity Double. On this occasion, less a focus on food and more about the fluctuating concepts of masculinity.
In May Contain Traces of Nuts we follow Evan (James Hammond) as he grapples with his relationship with Cass (Rebekah Schmidt), and just ‘what type of man’ he wants to be. Both Evan and his father have a number of failed relationships behind them. As his Dad (Brendan O’Leary) says of the women in his life, “they come and they go.” During the 37 minute performance, Evan learns that he needs to move away from what he perceives to be ‘advice’ from his friends, his father, and from macho role models. The production ends on a hopeful note that Cass and Evan may find a way forward, based on a relationship of mutual respect.
Hammond and Schmidt were excellent in their duet—and in their portrayal of the frustration, confusion, and uncertainty that runs hand-in-hand with many embryonic relationships. They are also both actors to watch in the future. The production had moments of great humour. For example, both Evan and Cass engage with their celebrity poster idols—brought to life as Dim Visel (humorously played by Johanna Lyon) and as Yonce (to much hilarity, as a result of the cameo by Brendan O’Leary). O’Leary is an engaging and compelling presence on stage, and I greatly enjoyed his portrayal of both Dad and of Yonce—although it is perhaps disappointing that the greatest laughs came when he sculled a bottle of water.
Share House Theatre Company is credited as producer and author of the piece (directed by Emma Black). Perhaps future developments of the work might include a writer/editor, and an additional actor for some of the female roles (which might lessen potential confusion between Cass and Sam—both played by Schmidt—and also allow Lyon to concentrate more on the Dim Visel cameo).
Immaculate Confection centres on Chris’s (Brodie Greenhalgh’s) participation in a psychology project. Gift cards are a sufficient incentive for Chris to participate in a 6-week experiment, which touches on issues of dependence and relationships. And which involves a watermelon. At 23, Chris is in a relationship with Louise (Emma Youngberry), and still living at home in a household that includes his Mum (Joyce, played by Emma Lamberton), step-father (Ken, played by Zach Finlayson), and brother (Grant, played by Peter Wood). During the experiment, Chris brings what soon becomes a “gendered” watermelon into the home—disturbing the equilibrium of the household, and unsettling his developing relationship with Louise.
Serious stuff? Sometimes. Greenhalgh was certainly up to the darker challenges of the role, with a compelling central performance as Chris. But there were also some fabulous and funny moments—mainly as a result of some great comedy performances by Greenhalgh and by Wood. For example, The Carpenters’ rendition of the Burt Bacharach and Hal David "(They Long to Be) Close to You" will never be the same again if you manage to buy a ticket and get to see Wood and Greenhalgh’s watermelon duet. And Wood was a great foil as Grant (with one of the best entrances I’ve seen for a while when he first came on stage), and also made the most of his ensemble role as a Psychologist.
Looking ahead, as the play develops, I feel that there could be some further work on the script, and the actors certainly deserved a curtain call. But congratulations to John Lyons for writing and directing an enjoyable 40 minute production—and for bringing some of the Nirvana Teen Spirit themes of the challenges of transitioning towards being an adult, to the stage. Or rather, to the garden centre coffee shop.
The Anywhere Festival draws audiences to new, non-theatre spaces. The Food and Masculinity Double is held in a great venue. By day, My Plants and Bedouin Coffee. And by night, during May 2017, Bedouin Coffee hosts two great Anywhere Festival events; not only The Food and Masculinity Double but also, on different evenings, Junkyard Wormhole (puppetry for more adult audiences). It’s great for theatre: coffee on hand, a flexible space (with good off-stage areas), excellent acoustics (the occasional passing lorry doesn’t really distract), excellent sight-lines, and comfortable seating. Oh, and a chance to see new and developing work at incredibly reasonable prices. What’s not to like? Share House Theatre Company focuses on performance art for and by young people. The double bill is certainly worth the price of the ticket for young and old.
Note: Rating MA15+, as the productions contain coarse language, sexual references, and adult themes. There are also limited (what I felt to be unnecessary) strobe lighting effects.
The Food and Masculinity Double: May Contain Traces of Nuts & Immaculate Confection is at Bedouin Brew, Rocklea, for just 6 performances (ending 15th May, 2017). Tickets available at the door or online: $20-$25 (plus $2.20 fee per transaction if purchased online). 90 minutes, including a 15 minute interval.
The reviewer attended The Food and Masculinity Double at Bedouin Brew on 4th May 2017, 7pm.