Strange, surreal and fantastical, German playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig’s 75-minute theatrical work-out, translated by David Tushingham, is set in a Thai/Vietnamese/Chinese city restaurant where a young kitchen boy has agonising toothache and a pair of air stewardesses order up their favourites dishes.
The boy is played by a girl, the stewardesses by men. But these actors – Kathryn O'Reilly, David Beames and Jack Tarlton – also play many other roles, and describe the dishes on the menu, as do veteran Ann Firbank (an old neighbour, a young fiancée and an ant) and Adam Best (a coy waitress and a flirtatious cricket).
Ramin Gray’s fine production, his first as artistic director of touring company ATC, is a slice of poetic life separated in strands for inspection and played out as an exercise in simple theatrics, using odd speech devices (actors announce their own pauses and each others’ phrases), dressing up games, quick fire costume changes.
And they occupy a neutral stage area of paper white strips that are coloured in, like a child’s art book, with spilt beer and splattered blood.
Several narratives are interwoven: a marriage split, a rivalrous friendship between the wise old ant and the starving cricket, the stewardesses’ bland wander lust, and plain lust, the extraction of the tooth with a spanner. The hole in the mouth reveals a distant family. The tone becomes strangely epic and deeply satisfying.