Wednesday, 17 February 2016

The War on Food - Fringe World 2016 (16 February 2016)

I have a confession to make. I don’t really know what Kale is. Some speak of it in the hushed tones of a convert; others with the contempt of a disbeliever. It’s not even a word I had heard of until recently. Apparently it’s a mystical foodstuff of some description that seems to attract an awful lot of attention at Fringe World. That includes here where it is one of the catalysts for the funkiest farrago of fresh food frolics seen this side of a spud busting Potato Board protest.

Yes, food fans, the world’s produce is in the grip of a monolithic corporation known only as Coleworths. Farming has been made illegal as has the time-honoured vegie patch in the backyard. You want to squeeze a lemon or gnaw on some precious kale then it’s off to a Big C store. Where the food is fresh, the service fresher, and the prices are jacked up to ridiculous amounts. Something has to give.

Like any good revolution there needs to be a band of intrepid visionaries who dare question the status quo and bring the tyrants to their knees. Either that or some kids in silly wigs tired of drinking the same crappy cab sav from scrawny, overpriced grapes.

Our heroes who audaciously take on the might of the Coleworths super-supermarket chain are Sage (Raj Joseph), Basil (Giuseppe Rotondella) and Rosemary (Morgan Owen) while avoiding the scrutiny of a Big C uber-executive played by Chloe Evangelisti. Sage is recently fired, Basil even more recently promoted as a result, while Rosemary is a farmer who can’t catch a break as the bad guys poison any illegally grown crops.

What follows is a whacky heist style caper of increasingly implausible proportions where our “fresh food fugitives” (try saying that fast three times) turn the tables by breaking into Coleworths stores and poisoning their overpriced, undersized produce. It’s a propaganda battle for hearts and stomachs where the Big C even has its own news channel.  

The show is not particularly subtle in its digs at big corporations, commercialism, duopolies, the media, advertising and possibly the sex appeal of lemons; however, it is presented and acted in an over-the top manner that befits the material.

The use of a quite startling array of wigs helps enhance the sense of mayhem as the four actors play up to absurdity of it all. Evangelisti gets to present several iterations of the over-zealous corporate middle manager with exaggerated accents, abrupt physical movement, and an almost Inspector Clouseau-like air of feigned competence. Rotondella gives his ‘inside man’ a naivety and genuine reluctance at the first sign of resistance whilst also dealing with the most unruly mop of fake hair featured in a Perth production in some time.

Owen plays her salt-of-the-poisoned-earth farmer with plenty of spunk while Joseph provides the passion as nominal leader of this merry band who will not go quietly into the night shift. All of them study at WAAPA and seem to relish inhabiting such outlandish characters and the freedom that writer-director Zoe Hollyoak allows them.

It’s also an interesting if somewhat warm venue with chairs lined up on either side of a long, narrow space with doors for rapid entrances and exits at each end. There was a nice effect replicating lifts with the mandatory cheesy muzak but otherwise this was simply staged with the audience close to the action. Indeed there were moments of brief interaction that added to the surreal nature of proceedings.

It’s all very zany with a slapstick style of humour that makes it a light and tasty Fringe World dish the likes of which The Big C would promote the hell out of.

The War on Food by The Cutting Room Floor is on at Paper Mountain, upstairs at 267 William Street until 20 February.  

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