DISCLAIMER, possibly - I can't tell from the website when they're letting the press in, but apparently this was only the second performance so I think it's safe to go on the assumption that this is a review of a preview.
I can't say that Fresh Meat
jumped out at me as sounding promising, but it was written by a member of the OUT website, who messaged people on the site to publicise it. Since, if I ever get The Control Room
(a) finished and (b) staged, I'm sure I'll also be begging OUTers to come and see it, I thought it was only fair to do unto others etc etc, and booked a ticket. A black comedy loosely inspired by the story, a few years ago, of the German cannibal who found a willing victim on the internet, Dylan Costello's play starts with Lenny, a 22-year-old gay man who wants to die but can't bring himself to commit suicide. The answer seems to come in the form of Alex and Theo, a couple who want to kill him and eat him.
I'm sure it's worse to be on stage in these situations but it's still not nice to be in an audience for a comedy when it's met with stony silence. You can tell where the jokes are, a lot of the time you can tell they should
be funny, but the laughs don't come. Being in the front row I felt like I should be trying to look encouraging as the cast are likeable enough and put the effort in, and I'm not just saying that because Cerith Flinn, who plays Lenny, is a bit gorgeous
and has a very brief
He spends slightly longer giving us a rear view, which is also pleasing. And during one of the backside scenes you can see the a spotlight shining through his foreskin through his legs. Aw, see that mental imagery there, that was almost poetic, if poetic meant "disturbing and very wrong." Now where was I?
Some of the problems are endemic to the script, especially the characterisation - all the characters, especially John Shortell's Oscar, have entire personality transplants every time the story requires it. Lenny's death wish supposedly stems from feeling unloved ever since he was abandoned as a baby, but when not directly discussing this he has an unbridled optimism and lust for life that's even commented on in the dialogue. I can see that Costello's using the humans-as-meat idea as a metaphor for shallowness in gay life, but his timing in bringing some of these ideas to the fore is often haphazard. And then there's niggling little stuff, like the fact that Lenny and Theo bond over a shared love for Lady Gaga, which is treated as if it's an amazing concidence. Two gays, loving the Gaga? What are the odds? I thought if it had
to be a gay icon that they had in common it could at least be someone who isn't quite so ubiquitous at the moment.
Some of the character stuff would probably not be so much of a problem if the production had the air of the surreal it's surely aiming for, and I wonder if having Manolis Emmanouel both direct and
play Theo was overstretching him, as the pacing is very off. Luckily this is only the second performance so I'm sure the performances will tighten up, and there are some issues that could be dealt with (at the moment scene changes involve the actors waiting for ages on stage while the lights go down, then leaving, instead of going straight to the next scene which would stop things from flagging so often.) And one major issue is the sound - no sound designer is listed in the programme and it does indeed sound as if the effects were thrown together at the last minute. The cueing is very off as well but again more performances might sort this out.
I don't know why but I'm kinda willing this to get better; maybe it's because the cast seemed to have talent even if it wasn't being shown to its best effect. Some of the problems are too basic to be helped but at the very least if the pacing can be sped up from the word go, they'll get some of those missing laughs.Fresh Meat
by Dylan Costello is booking until the 4th of July at the Courtyard Theatre, Hoxton.