Celebrity chefs seem to appear on almost every TV channel at the moment, so this nifty little play, Food, is very timely. Imaginary Body took this piece to the Edinburgh Fringe last year and I can see why. As a starter it works and is suited to the hustle and bustle of the festival.
Chef Frank Byrne is climbing his way to the top at full pelt. He goes from a cramped kitchen to a three-star Michelin winner with his restaurant, the aptly named Boiling Pot. His family hardly knows him and his addiction to success sees him slowly lose his grip on reality.
Writers Joel Horwood and Christopher Heimann have created a nice little production that incorporates high-drama, biting comedy, and clever movement to replicate the cooking.
At a tight 65 minutes, Food does not outstay its welcome. In fact it's the complete opposite as you do feel slightly short-changed. This tale of a man on the edge is so underwritten that there is not much for the lead actor to work with and everything seems to happen so fast. James Staddon is okay as Frank but he fails to exert the scary mentality of Gordon Ramsay.
Ann Yee's syncronised cooking scenes are a delight to watch as they highlight how a kitchen should run like clockwork very effectively. Jon Foster and Graham O'Mara provide the play with the meat it needs as cooks Tom and George. They crackle in many scenes in the claustrophobia of a busy kitchen with their frantic “Yes chef” replies.
In terms of narrative there are a few interesting arcs: Frank being replaced by sexier chefs, in terms of their food rather than their looks, and his need to be liked even when nasty.
This chef is clearly based on Ramsay but he lacks the fangs that this mastermind bares. Partly this is due to the writing but also because Staddon fails to explore his inner demons. He always looks fed up when he should be as red-hot as a boiling lobster.
The protagonist says at one point, “The battle’s never won". You will be inclined to agree because as a light lunch this play works but with a bit more dressing it could be so much more substantial.