Why has (nearly) every review of this show been served up with a big mug of haterade? Seriously, it wasn't that bad. It wasn't the pre-digested airline food of Boeing Boeing. It wasn't even the stinky belch that was Scarlett O'Hara at the Crimson Parrot. So it was kind of undercooked and the ingredients didn't gel, but everyone's acting like someone served them a fart sandwich and called it Lean Cuisine.
Some pros: I thought the dancers did a great job of acting. Carlee Mellow was especially surprising - she was one of the dancers who suffered in the spoken word section of Axeman Lullaby, and in Appetite she created a credible, sympathetic character.
Contrary to everyone else I thought Sally Seltmann's music was effective, even if it was a bit heavy-handed. And I'm pretty sure it would have made a difference if she had been able to play live, as planned.
Some cons: the scenario itself was pedestrian (I'd say bourgeois but calling anything bourgeois is itself pretty bourgeois). I don't care about people having middle-class crises at dinner parties, mainly because I don't get invited to dinner parties and have to have my emotional meltdowns in normal places like public transport and theatre foyers.
And most of all: was that a real suckling pig on stage? Were they real lobsters? I seriously want to know. I've seen a lot of dead animals in theatres in the past few years (not a metaphor) and I think people slamming the aesthetic shortcomings of a show like Appetite are asking the right question about the wrong thing. As Coetzee puts it: "is this truly the best that human beings are capable of?" He's not talking about theatre.
SAMUEL BECKETT: ENDGAME 1958-2008
THAT NIGHT FOLLOWS DAY
'you tell us stories about kids with stupid parents.
Kids with parents that don't understand
Kids with parents who can't see magic,
or kids with parents who don't know that certain relatives are creatures in disguise'
Adults were laughing during this show, which really unnerved me. 16 Flemish kids in a fake school gym were yelling at the audience: "You feed us", "You bathe us", "You whisper when you think we can’t hear". The entire performance follows this accusative format - you do this, you do that. We care about children. So we tell them lies. We hand them our prejudices and fears and hopes.
Adults were laughing during this show because the spoken text - projected on a blackboard in English translation - was pretty funny. It wasn't so funny if you actually watched the performers, who were angry, made constant direct eye contact with audience members and delivered their lines with overpowering passion. I later heard that the script had been written without much input from the actors since, you know, kids would have just come up with stuff about rainbows and playstations or something. This is second-hand info but it's pretty disappointing if true, and defeats the whole point of the piece.
My sister interviewed one of the performers (Ineke) for her documentary Eleven and was told that her (the actor's) favourite part was the one dealing with all the bad stuff.
'That Grandad can't stop drinking
That Aunt Ellie has a big mouth
That Grant is a tearaway
That Joan has dyed hair
That Frankie wears a wig
That Jennie has a terrible cancer
That Jamie does not wash
That Rosie looks ridiculous in that dress
That John is making a total fool of himself over Tina and that everyone knows it, and that everyone is talking about it.
Philip Larkin - This Be The Verse
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.
Then again. Kids aren’t empty vessels who suck up the lies they’re told. They know, sometimes. Sometimes not. Either way, I suppose the real reason I related to this show so much is that it tapped into something a lot of people feel – we are lied to, and misrepresented, and given ridiculously conflicting messages. Maybe this show isn’t about age at all. Or maybe adulthood is about accepting this situation. I still say 'grown-up' instead of 'adult' which suggests I probably haven't grown up at all.