With production values that exceed those of many fringe shows, this examination of our primal need to “feed and be fed” is an alluring proposition theatrically. Yet it manages to fall short on the thematic level since it doesn’t bore down below the surface of the issues it presents. On first arrival, the set for the production is elegant and modern- its clean lines are a suitable backdrop for the cast to explore this witty and engaging script. However, the benefits that the stage provides can also represent the shortcomings of the play. Its sleek, spare design reflects a script that never fully grapples with the issues at hand.
However, this should not discredit what is an often sparkling production which still hints at the weight of talent the Traverse theatre continues to support, not least through its progressive Open Submission system for new writing. This tale aims to highlight how we all need nourishment of a spiritual or literal kind throughout society and across the age spectrum. To try and unite these themes the three couples examined here are connected tangentially- and a little improbably- in a grey and uncaring urban environment. With slick choreography and a precise soundtrack the play rotates through the three strands, displaying how they deal with their interrelated struggles. Tackling themes of post-natal depression, adolescent identity issues and food poverty in the elderly, this play still manages to retain a number of lighter moments. These lighter moments come mostly from the adolescent couple, Steph and Ash, who have a smart snappy dialogue that feels honest. When their lives become tragically entangled with that of the new parents, it is a believable arc that perhaps loses its emotive power from being too predictable. Another arresting story is that of the older couple cowering from a world they live in, but no longer understand and which doesn’t care for them enough to ensure that they can remain fed and comfortable. Stepping in at short notice, particular mention must go to Tam Dean Burn who brilliantly embodies a proud yet fearful man railing against the system that hurts him and his ailing wife. Again, while the trajectory of their story is emotional, it is also predictable- the potential is choked by an insistence on pacily interwoven storylines.
The most poignant moments in this performance are not provided the space that they need to breathe, ultimately dampening the impact of the issues that it seeks to present. While this is a skilful performance, its insistence on tackling so many issues leads to congestion that sadly detracts from the whole. This is a shame since the issues that we are confronted with are important and there is much to admire in the ambition of this play’s scope. In future, this first time writer will be able to build on his obviously astute analysis of contemporary society to create more insightful commentary as part of emotive and intelligent theatre.
Image courtesy of liz west