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Edinburgh Fringe 2010

Chow Mein

Strange Town Young Company

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Venue: Hill Street Theatre


Low Down

 Written and directed by Tim Primrose, this two-hander takes place in a kitchen and is an enjoyable look at routine and the small events that can make a big difference.



Beth Godfrey plays Susan and Steve McMahon plays Terry in this two-hander set in a kitchen. Susan arrives with a Chinese takeaway, but what is the mysterious extra dish that in the bag that isn’t on the bill?

This is a domestic tale about a relationship that has lost its sparkle, a life now lived directly out of a plastic container. The script is humorous and observes its content well, a relationship falling into the familiarity that breeds contempt. A place where the spirit of adventure has been lost. Indeed there are some very funny lines, the verbal tennis at times is top quality and there are some delicious moments of confrontation across the kitchen table.
The acting, though,  feels too wedded to the script. The actors need to step much freer of the lines. McMahon’s initial monologue is loaded with sharp comment but feels too recited. Overall the acting isn’t poor, but it could be stronger, there is a very impressive use of silence in the play and that’s where the visual comedy works best. Sometimes the acting is excellent, other times not so – it is the unevenness which lets it down.
So, the Chinese meal is awful and the relationship politics is delivered in a very watchable way. The sense of mutual irritation is well realised. But what the hell is that free dish that came with the order? Some kind of chow mein?
It’s a neat theatrical conceit. The small, unexpected, out of the ordinary event that can shift the whole system of life somewhere new. This is a humorous exploration of comfortable numbness, played out over a routine Chinese meal.
The actors work hard, the audience laugh and the play is never less than very watchable. It’s very good when it’s physical and motoring through the dialogue. It’s weaker during the moments where the fourth wall is down; in fact they are unnecessary to the piece, they interrupt it in a way that doesn’t serve either the flow or the dramatic strength of the dialogue. Also some of the visual set pieces (such as the climbing the fridge part) do not arise fluently out of the flow of the narrative, but feel too much like forced devices,
inserted clunkily by the writer. But that isn’t to say that the overall, well-plotted, witty script isn’t mostly a big  strength. It is.
Overall this is a piece of writing and theatre with development
potential. It is enjoyable, fresh and worth seeing, but currently the
synergy is lacking- the whole isn’t greater than the sum of its parts.
See for yourself. Go on, try the "Chow Mein" …


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